Human Motor Skills Boosted by Action Games

A recent study has reaffirmed the belief that playing videogames can improve a person’s motor skills. In particular titles like the Call of Duty series seem to imbue the player with the ability to quickly learn skills such as typing or riding a bicycle, ensuring that their general development improves at a more rapid pace than those who do not play the games.

In technical terms this means that the players are learning sensorimotor skills. In short sensorimotor skills are those that require the person to identify a pattern of co-ordination between their vision and motor movement before translating this pattern into an executable skill.

The study, which was carried out at the University of Toronto in Canada, set out with the aim of discovering what effect, if any, that long spells of gaming had on such skills. In the words of lead researcher Davood Gozli “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.”

The study involved 36 people, 18 of whom were non-gamers and 18 of whom were deemed to be ardent gamers. The non-gamers identified themselves as people who had little to no experience playing videogames over the last two years. Conversely the gamers were people who claimed to play First-Person Shooter games at least three times per week, with the average play session totaling a minimum of 2 hours.

With the groups established, the researchers tasked each individual with a simple test that was designed to test their reflexes and motor skills. In it the participant used a computer mouse to control a small green square, which they needed to keep centred in a larger white square that moved in rapid and irregular patterns. Perhaps unsurprisingly the gamers were found to be much more accurate when it came to keeping their green square in the correct position.

It could be argued that the gamers would have had a distinct advantage from the off in such a test, as the computer mouse based test is much more in keeping with the ‘tools’ that an average gamer is experienced in using. On the flip-side, it was likely this very experience that allowed gamers to prove their superior motor skills, which is something that the study highlights.

As Gozli explains “This is likely due to the gamers’ superior ability in learning a sensorimotor pattern, that is, their gaming experience enabled them to learn better than the non-gamers.”

The research appears to support previous evidence that videogames can increase the motor skills of the user. For example, some studies and news reports have claimed in the past that gamers make better surgeons precisely because of the development of such important skills. It is likely that the reflexive nature of action games, which require players to react quickly and accurately to unfolding situations, is what makes them superior trainers in regards to motor skills than other genres of games.

Their full study is available in the Human Movement Science journal.

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