Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sponsored by the video game industry

Should you be so inclined, please read the following piece on how video games can actually improve one's life rather than waste it. My comments are interspersed.


Real-Life Benefit of Video Games: Video Games May Improve Visual Skills, Researchers Say

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health
Dec. 22, 2009 -- Regular video game users learn to process information faster and more accurately when they’re playing in virtual worlds and in real-life situations, a new study says. [Is speed necessarily a benefit in and of itself? I guess it is when you need to jump out of the way of a bus, but it is not a prerequisite to thinking; in fact, speed can be a detriment to sound thinking/reasoning skills.]

Researchers say they found that avid players get faster in their games of choice, and also in unrelated laboratory tests of reaction time. [Which proves what?]

The study is published in the December issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science. [Ah, psychology, the slick pseudo-science that's too often used as an excuse for bad behavior. It has some utility but, like most labor unions, it's gone way beyond its purview.]

Matthew Dye, PhD now of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and formerly at the University of Rochester, and colleagues say they reviewed existing literature on video gaming and found some surprising insights. [Oh, do tell!]

For example, they say they found that contrary to conventional wisdom that avid gamers become less accurate as their speed of play increases [Less accurate in what, filling out a job application, taking a test?] players don’t lose accuracy and they get faster. [What a relief!]

They say this likely is a result of gamers’ improving visual cognition with repeated playing of games. [Undoubtedly.]

Playing video games enhances performance on mental rotation skills, visual and spatial memory, and tasks requiring divided attention, say the researchers, including Shawn Green, PhD, now a post-doctoral associate at the University of Minnesota, and Daphne Bavelier, PhD, in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at Rochester.

Other reported insights - that training with video games may serve to reduce gender differences in visual and spatial processing and thwart some of the cognitive declines that come with aging.

“In many everyday situations, speed is of the essence,” the authors write. “However, fast decisions typically mean more mistakes.” [Exactly! That's because fast decisions without the concomitant needed thought time to back them up often turn out to be wrong.]

After reviewing existing literature on gaming, they conclude that there is evidence that “the very act of playing action video games” increases speed of play and accuracy. [Let me get this straight: If you practice something, you'll get better at it? This is groundbreaking research!]

“Video gaming may ["May." Translation: "We're not sure, we're just hypothesizing. We need grant money for more research. We have to justify our existence somehow."] therefore provide an efficient training regimen to induce a general speeding of perceptual reaction times without decreases in accuracy of performance,” the authors say. [But "accuracy of performance" is not the same thing as accuracy of outcome. You can perform every step of a given task perfectly and still reach an incorrect conclusion. What a bunch of rot this all is.]

As the gamers got faster, they maintained their accuracy in lab testing of reaction times, the authors say.

Contemporary examples of games mentioned in the study include God of War, Halo, Unreal Tournament, Grand Theft Auto, and Call of Duty, all of which require “rapid processing of sensory information and prompt action, forcing players to [make] decisions and execute responses at a far greater pace than is typical in everyday life.” [That's because typical, everyday life rarely needs the fast reaction times a video game demands. What it could use is more well-reasoned thought.]

They say more studies of speed and accuracy on video games “will certainly be promising avenue of research” in the future [not to mention a way to stay (dubiously) employed.]


So, in essence, researchers found that video games actually make a person more perceptive of the physical things occurring immediately to and around him. Great. What about conceptual skills--higher order thinking--the only thing that makes humans really different from animals. (Animals perceive, humans conceive.) Something that improves one's ability to perceive and react is not bad, up to a certain point, but it merely allows one to function better at an animalistic level. I fail to see how video games can help a person take his now-improved perceptual skills and use them to enhance conceptual skills, such as seeing through the nonsense of both the Democrat and Republican parties.

Video games, like a lot of what we (mindlessly) do, are not the bane of human existence, but they don't really enhance it much either. They are a distraction at best, and an impediment to thought at worst, if only for the reason that they usurp time that could be better spent reading (deeply, not superficially), learning/doing, pondering, and reaching conclusions.

Take care.

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