Gaming, for Your Health

By Amanda Zurita March 23, 2012 Published in the April 2012 issue of Seattle Met

Photo: Courtesy the University of Rochester

YES, THEY KEEP you couch-bound and your muscles doughy, but new findings suggest that video games—particularly action-packed and often violent video games—might be good for you. Or at least good for your eyesight. Recent research from the University of Rochester—which helped inform research by University of Washington psychology professor Ione Fine—found that playing high-action games improves contrast sensitivity (the main factor in vision acuity), trains gamers to make quicker decisions, and widens their field of perception. Over the course of nine weeks, two groups of volunteers had the tough job of playing 50 hours of either fast-paced games (like kill-’em-all, first-person shooter Call of Duty 2) or slow-moving strategy games (Sims 2). Only the fast-paced group was found to have an improved ability to distinguish between shades of gray. And when later presented with decision-making tasks, they came to conclusions up to 25 percent faster and just as accurately as their slow-game playing peers. “People who play a lot of video games have more flexible control of attention and can monitor a wider range of space,” explains Fine. For example, playing action games, she says, can improve real-world driving skills.

Just don’t hit the streets a la Grand Theft Auto.

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