Gamers do see more details in real life

By Sheryl Kay • Published: September 6th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Spot the zombie! Steer the car around the wreck! Don’t shoot the princess! These are the types of skills avid gamers pick up as they spend hours battling foes and building worlds. And it looks like all that focus is actually paying off, in at least one area … vision.

New research shows that video game aficionados actually spot more details about life around them than those who don’t play.

Researchers say it doesn’t have anything to do with improved visual acuity, but rather how gaming trains people’s eyes to work better with their brains.

Investigators recruited one 125 college students for the study, which was recently published in the journal Attention, Perception and Psychophysics. Some were avid gamers, while others had never played. Each was given the exact same visual sensory memory task. A circular arrangement of eight letters flashed on a screen for just a few seconds. When the letters vanished, participants were asked to identify the letter that had appeared in that specific spot.

Avid gamers far outperformed their non-gaming brethren in identifying the missing letter.

While earlier studies have shown that video game players do track better and see objects quicker, this trial was the first to show that gamers also identify objects more rapidly. The entire visual system sifts through all information the eyes are seeing, and data that isn’t used decays. Gamers dispense with unused details just about as quickly as everyone else, but it seems they may be starting with more information because they take in more data from the beginning. The researchers say the next phase of study would be to analyze MRI imagery to see where the brains of gamers have been trained to perform differently on visual tasks. One day, this research may help us all see the whole picture.