Action-packed video games boost decision-making skills

By Sheryl Kay • Published: December 9th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Here’s some news sure to make the kids smile. Research now shows continued use of action-packed video games might actually have some benefits for those who play.

It’s a phenomenon that effects millions of homes in America, with an estimated sixty-seven percent of the households containing at least one video-gamer. Past research often looked at behaviors of concern stemming from playing these shoot-em-up scenarios, like increased aggression in players.

This study, recently published in Current Biology, compared the performance of experienced gamers to non-gamers in decision-making skills. Researchers recruited a group of non-gaming volunteers and trained them for fifty hours, exposing some to only fast-paced action games like “Call of Duty.” Others were trained in a slower-paced life strategies games called Sims. Those two groups, and a group of experienced gamers, were then put to several visual and auditory tasks that tested decision-making abilities.

The findings indicated that that those trained with action games raised their performance level to that of the experienced gamers, and they were more capable and proficient than those playing with Sims. Although the exact mechanism for this effect isn’t known, researchers noted that people make choices based on probabilities that they continuously recalculate. The better someone is at collecting visual and auditory information, the faster a decision can be reached, in a video game, and in life.

But let that not be a carte blanche to gamers, the researchers concluded. Too much gaming still can produce other problematic behaviors, and will still take time from other productive activities.