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"Games may sharpen the mind"


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Well, there you have it.

 

Although this doesn't explain some of our bretheren...

 

Hehe.

 

Here's another, longer version of the story:

 

http://newsobserver.com/24hour/technology/...p-6279702c.html

 

I'm excited about research like this. I've been reading up cognitive science and neuroscience, etc, for more than 10 years, and I've long wondered about the effects of gaming on the brain.

 

I think I even posted here, wondering about what Ikaruga must be doing to the brain's selective attention "curcuits", given that what you have to pay attention to is contingent on what color your ship is. The brain can't simply settle on 'avoid all X' because X changes, often many times a minute. Then of course are the patterns of shots, which present a puzzle that you need to 'decode' in the form of ship color changes and movements, in order to make your way through. As if that wasn't enough, they throw on top of this the 'chaining' rule, and the rule about how much power your weapons have against like-colored vs opposite-colored ships.

 

It would be fascinating to know what kinds of changes the brain undergoes in someone who learns how to play the game well. Since learning is, crudely put, taking tasks that require conscious attention and 'habituating' them so the strain on attention is lessened or, in some cases, removed entirely (think tying shoes). In general, this happens by shifting the task(s) from parts of the brain that are used for attention and thinking to parts that are unconscious (which is the vast majority of brain real-estate). Of course, few tasks are one-dimensional, so this offloading of tasks happens in many places in the brain, from muscle control, memory, visual attention, planning and forethought. Each of those has many subcategories as well.

 

I think video games present brain researchers with an incredibly rich opportunity. Partly because they can choose games that focus on specific skills and test spefiic faculties, and even moreso because the test participants (gamers) are so eager to be tested (play games).

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There was a brief article on NPR's all things considered yesterday regarding this, and it sounds like there will be a longer one this weekend on To The Best of Our Knowledge. They interviewed a couple of the researchers, was veryinteresting. Should be in the audio archives.

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i could have told you that. I have excellent hand/eye coordination all from playing video games

 

I think most people had the sense that this was the case, but it's always nice to see scientific confirmation, and of course the specifics of how it happens are usually quite interesting.

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The short article discusses the ability to track objects and visual comprehension, but I believe that there are other benefits not mentioned.

 

Specifically, I've noticed people who play or played strategy games (like Civ or WarCraft) are more likely to grasp certain concepts like resource management quicker than other people.

 

Example: If I give the example of a Suppression of Enemy Air Defense mission, a gamer is quicker to understand the limits imposed by the Air Force's specialization of this mission into a few platforms, as opposed to the Navy and Marine Corps's emphasis on multi-mission aircraft.

 

-j

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Specifically, I've noticed people who play or played strategy games (like Civ or WarCraft) are more likely to grasp certain concepts like resource management quicker than other people

 

Of course, they think a few ounces of tiberium from their Harvester will get them a sandwich at Subway, but they do grasp the concept quickly. ;)

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The short article discusses the ability to track objects and visual comprehension, but I believe that there are other benefits not mentioned.

 

Specifically, I've noticed people who play or played strategy games (like Civ or WarCraft) are more likely to grasp certain concepts like resource management quicker than other people

 

The main difficulty with such theories is that it presents a chicken/egg problem. Could it be that people who play strategy games like them because they already understand the concepts involved? It's hard to tease out the truth in this case because these are relatively high-level concepts, and so it's tough to analyze objectively.

 

It's easier for brain scientists to measure things that are quantifiable. Notice that they had two groups that played different kind of games, so that they could make sure it was the kind of game that made the difference, not just any video game.

 

It would be difficult to test people for concepts like resource allocation and obtain reliable results, compared to testing for something like reaction times. You may very well be right, it's just a more difficult thing to scientifically examine.

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Well Ed, I think the case of the matter may be that whether or not people are particularly apt at resource management etc, playing these games may help to hone those abilities to a higher level irregardless of whether you are inately attuned to that type of thinking.

 

I am not exactly a master tactician by any stretch, but I remember playing endless hours of Command & Conquer via modem and coming up with a few clever strategies. More to the point, constant play against a human being forces you to constantly shift tactics to find an effective means of assault and to cope with their own plans.

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Could it be that people who play strategy games like them because they already understand the concepts involved?

 

Certainly. But in my case, and the case of some people I've known over the years, we played strategy because we had them -- not because of any inherent ability or desire to play those games. At some point, early on, we were playing these games without thought to whether we liked the genre. Heck, in those days we didn't really think in terms of genre.

 

When I posted my earlier comment, I was specifically thinking of a conversation I had with an acquaintance who would not be considered a bright guy.

 

I was telling him about some kind of problem I learned about and he listened with glazed-over eyes. Then I said hey, it's like the problem in Civ when you can't blah blah blah.

 

I almost heard a click in his head when I said that. And I don't think it was a matter of a simply using a shared reference, as he asked a surprisingly pertinent question a minute later.

 

I don't doubt that a study on this subject would be difficult -- certainly more difficult than testing visual comprehension. My point was simply that I think there are big benefits not mentioned by the article or investigated by the study. Nevertheless, my hypothesis is testable and repeatable. Just not as easily as others!

 

-j

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  • 2 weeks later...

NPR's Todd Mundt did a very interesting interview with a professor who has been studying how video games can teach thinking skills. This, IMHO, is much more interesting to me than the original artical about games improving visual acuity/comprehension.

 

From the site: "Video games are often blamed as one of the main culprits that distracts children from their studies. However, professor James Paul Gee believes video games actually enhance a child's ability to learn and study more effectively. He talks with Todd about video games and why he thinks they teach our children to think."

 

You can listen to the interview in RealAudio here. The link is at the bottom of the program summary. The interview is towards the end of the show.

 

-j

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