Action-packed video games increase decision-making skills

By Sheryl Kay • Published: June 10th, 2011
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 shoot-em-up scenarios, such as 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” while others were trained in a slower-paced life strategies games called The 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 The Sims. Although the exact mechanism for this effect is not 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.

The researchers say these findings shouldn’t be carte blanche for gamers, as too much gaming still can produce other problematic behaviors, and takes time from other productive activities.

But as long as playing them doesn’t pose problems with work, school, family or friends, it’s OK to let the games begin.