Although some people might argue that video games are bad for you, studies have shown just the opposite: video games not only help players alleviate stress -- they can also bolster certain skills.
Now, a team at the University of Toronto suggests that playing action video games regularly helps gamers learn new sensorimotor skills, especially eye and hand coordination.
"We wanted to understand if chronic video game playing has an effect on sensorimotor control, that is, the coordinated function of vision and hand movement," says University of Toronto graduate student Davood Gozli.
Sensorimotor skills include tasks like riding a bicycle or typing, which rely on using what you see with your eyes and coordinating your muscles so that they operate accordingly. Although all people start as novices with such skills, with increased practice they become experts. Eventually, the skills involved become second nature and happen almost without thinking about them.
Think of learning how to ride a bike. Once you've learned, you get better, and eventually, you can ride a bike without consciously thinking about it at all. Thanks to this new study, you can probably learn to ride a bike faster if you play video games.
In their first experiment, researchers had 18 regular gamers (those who played action games at least three times a week for at least two hours each play session) and 18 non-gamers. Researchers set volunteers in front of a computer and told them to play a game using a computer mouse to track a small square on the screen in front of them that moved around in a complicated repeated pattern.
At first, neither of the two groups had an advantage over the other with this eye and hand coordination task. However, over time, the gamers improved faster, becoming better at the game than the non-gamers. This suggests that gamers have an advantage in learning patterns that require sensorimotor skills.
In their second experiment, researchers had both groups play the game again, but this time, the pattern didn't repeat but changed randomly. Both groups performed about the same this time, but the gamers learned the patterns better.
Good sensorimotor skills are important in technology, specifically for surgeons using new robotic surgery techniques that require extremely accurate control of those tools while using a computer interface. Perhaps doctors might want to spend their free time playing Call of Duty to enhance their learning for such tasks.