Video Games

Are Video Games good for the Brain?

Video games have a reputation for being violent and debilitating. Yet recent studies show they improve cognitive abilities of different according to the type of game. The health risks are very limited and can easily be avoided.

Since the release of Pong in 1972, video games have continued to improve and diversify. Some are part of our cultural heritage, such as Space Invaders , Pac-Man or Tetris. With video games today, it is possible to embody in turn a sportsman, a psychoanalyst, a mother, a fighter pilot, a surgeon, a soldier … Their decorations can immerse ourselves in the contemporary scene , historical or mythical, in a metaphorical representation of the brain or delirious oneiric universe. They offer us to improve our English, to measure the age of our brain to learn to cook, to dance or to play the guitar … They are a playful rich growing practice increasingly to a customer base that is expanding.

Despite his huge success and the many opportunities it can offer, the video game has not always good image. Indeed, some games are often criticized for the violence that characterizes them, when the goal is to shoot everything that moves without complex and the carnage that results is very realistic boot. They are also often considered “mindless” and are known to lock some of their users in a conditioned addictive practice (press such a button in response to such stimulation). The teenager – because it is from him that it is most often – might finish at worst psychotic, violent at best, “disconnected” of society and its values, prime victim of seizures. However, video games – and IT in general – are now part of our daily lives and it becomes difficult for parents who wish to divert their children (in 2002, according to a Sofres poll, over 80% of older children between 8 and 14 years reported practicing multimedia games). Contrary to the opinion of people distrustful face of video games, the results of research conducted in recent years on this subject tend to show that the risks are low and limited, although present and therefore not negligible. But more surprisingly, it seems that video games are beneficial in that they improve certain cognitive abilities of their regular users.

Video games

Stimulant for the Brain

Since the recent discoveries on brain plasticity, we know that the environment can change the synaptic connections in the brain. Repeated exposure of the body to a given visual environment (eg a video game) may therefore affect more or less long term cognitive processes that specifically address this environment. In a study published in 2003 in the journal Nature , C. Shawn Green and Daphne Bavelier, the neuroscience department at the University of Rochester, not yet observe no such specific effects (1). They found instead that the practice of action video games modifies a variety of visual attentional capacity. The authors compared the performance of “players” regular face “non-players” in different tasks. The results show that visual attention fatigue players less quickly than non-players when they find a target, despite the steady increase in the difficulty of the task. Players also get to understand more objects in a single glance. Moreover, the spatial distribution of their visual attentional resources is more efficient, central vision device as they spot a better target regardless of its distance from the point they originally stared. Finally, they manage to quickly refocus their attention to the search for a new target after a first was detected. Everything suggests that regular video action games improves overall selective visual attention.

However, one might think that people just naturally have good visual attentional abilities are precisely the most likely to indulge in video games. To test this possibility, the authors also tested the effect of training in non-player or a game of action which is to play as a soldier ( Medal of Honor ) or the classic game Tetris . This essentially requires good visual-motor coordination, while the former also needs to focus its attention on many items at once (you must detect and track enemy eyes, aim, shoot, move, etc.). After only ten hours of play, the subjects trained with Medal of Honor(men and women) improved their overall visual performance significantly more than the subjects trained on Tetris . Thus, regularly play video games of action appears to be beneficial to the visual attentional processing, particularly flexibility and efficiency with which players extend their attention to the time and space. Very recently, SC Green and Bavelier D. (2)confirmed and expanded their previous results. The authors found that the players of action games specifically evaluate a greater number of objects than non-players, either in peripheral vision or central vision. It also appears that players perform better when it comes to simultaneously track multiple objects in time and space. In addition to these effects on the spatial and temporal components of visual attention, the practice of video games also appears to improve some characteristics of spatial working memory.

Video games

What about the Difference Man / Woman?

We saw earlier that the players Tetris are disadvantaged players to face action games in general tasks of visual attention. They can nevertheless take comfort since the practice of Tetris nevertheless improves mental rotation time and the time of spatial visualization. Indeed, if we are to make good scores TetrisMust quickly know where and how to place the new item that appears on the screen. For this, we must quickly visualize the general configuration in the presence and mentally to turn the new element to determine the most strategic place to position it. Business leaders who have seen the performance of their work down at the release of the game can be proud to have employees, certainly a little players with their tool, but now more efficient in spatial cognition! Play Tetris optimize as reflexes and well-being feeling among people aged between 69 and 90 years . There is no age to take advantage of gaming.

But what about the difference between men and women? Indeed, the popular belief is that women have poorer spatial skills than men (it seems that they can not not read a map …). How then they react to the practice of specifically requesting video games these skills? A recent study by Claudia Quaiser-Pohl, professor of psychology at the University of Trier, established with a population aged between 10 and 20 years old boys, who play more willingly to action games that girls have better performance at mental rotation tasks . However, it is unclear whether the “spatial disability” observed in girls is the cause or the consequence of a practice less regularly than boys to action games. Children 8 to 14 years, boys and girls, today mostly prefer playing action games. It should therefore test the spatial skills of this more homogeneous population in their tastes and video-play practices. Also, compare the performance in spatial cognition of men and women not players after training to action games could also provide some answers.

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All studies thus show that video games are far from debilitating. Regular use of the computer in general has a positive impact on the cognitive development of children and adolescents. It would improve, among others, fine motor skills, recognition of the alphabet and numbers, self-esteem, understanding general concepts related to the size, direction, position, time, quantity and classification . Children regularly using a computer (they are mostly for playing video games) would be better prepared to enter school. However, many parents are reluctant to let their children play because they fear the risk of epilepsy, addiction, withdrawal and, finally, incitement to violence.

The Reduced risk of Epilepsy


There has indeed been instances of seizures listed after intensive use of video games. The risk is therefore present, just as it is by simply watching television, but it is relatively rare and occurs mainly in some people predisposed to epilepsy, say “sensitive”. This risk can be greatly reduced by avoiding playing too long or when one is tired, preferably using a screen running at a frequency of 100 Hz (rather than 50 Hz), and by positioning one meter less screen rather than 50 cm. The use of handheld consoles also seems preferable. Regarding the phenomena of dependence and withdrawal, Benedict ferrule, Doctor of Psychology and Language Sciences, said: “The attractive power of video games resulting from the proximity effect between virtual reality and internal processes of psychic reality. They propose a kind of transitional space between reality and psychic reality in which the subject is bound to get involved. “This involvement does not inevitably leads to addictive drift, fortunately, and can even be therapeutic (when the game is used as communicative media). In fact, only a small minority will indulge compulsively video games. According to a Sofres survey conducted in 2004, players aged 15 and over play on average less than 25 minutes a day. And to those who think that the practice of video game makes solitaire, Patricia Greenfield, a psychology professor at the University of Los Angeles, and Jean Retschitzki, a psychology professor at the University of Friborg, responded that “the practice of these games seems rather have a significant social dimension. Indeed, they are a kind of common culture: children and adolescents exchange tricks to improve their performance, play networks, jointly develop strategies, organize competitions, etc. It is up to parents to try to integrate the insider circle.

A Bounded Violence

The last concern regarding incitement to violence. Like movies, video games are available in different genres. But some games offered (especially action games for the development of which the largest budgets are often allocated) can be very violent. In addition to violence, it is especially the immorality of some games that disturbs. For example, in GTA San Andreas , whose sales in France in 2004 represent 38 million (second best selling cultural products of the year behind the trilogy Star Wars on DVD), the player is enhanced if he can commit all sorts of crimes without being caught by the police .According to a recent article, Prolonged exposure to violent video games (like Carmageddon or Duke Nukem) Promote aggressive behavior induced desensitization to this violence in real life. However, many successful video games are fortunately not violent. As for the others, the majority does not value free violence, that would be an end in itself, but rather shows as the means to accomplish its mission, to triumph over evil (often fight monsters psychopathic tendency princesses kidnappers and who plot to destroy the world). But this violence-there is nothing new, because before the film, television or comics, it was already present in the novels and even fairy tales. Finally, there seems to be more action than violence anyway attracts children in games. The escalation of violence could be interrupted,

Anyway, video games have advantages. They can be beneficial at any age and in many areas of thought. We saw that they could improve the visual-motor coordination, selective visual attention, perceptual processing, as well as certain components of spatial cognition, such as mental rotation. Several studies have also shown that they can improve reflexes and lead to the development of a better strategy to deal with problem solving (analogue strategy, rather than a resolution by trial and error). Most games require a greater sense of observation and attention, parallel processing of several variables, a good memory, action planning, inductive reasoning to progress in the game, And so on. If one does not neglect its visual comfort and fatigue, which does not go too long in front of it and that is not abused violent games, why deprive yourself? Everyone can now enter without complex its handle and test the main contribution of this fruit technology: entertainment.

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