Some people spend hours with their eyes glued to their computer or TV screen and hands glued to the keyboard or controller in front of them—and others turn on their game console once every few days or weeks. In either regard, many believe that the effects of playing video games are nothing but harmful. While some concerns are certainly warranted, the truth is that playing video games can have positive effects on a player too.
A past study from the University of York found a link between video games and high levels of intelligence—more specifically, young people who performed well on a certain type of video game, multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs) such as League of Legends, also had high IQs. And now, another study, which also focuses on the game League of Legends, adds to this growing evidence that playing video games can be beneficial. This study “Rapid Improvement in Visual Selective Attention Related to Action Video Gaming Experience” shows that playing action video games increases performance on visual selective activities.
More specifically, researchers from the University of Arkansas discovered changes in brain activity and increased performance on tests that measured visual selective activity in subjects who spent just one hour playing League of Legends. Weiyi Ma, an assistant professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Arkansas, partnered up with researchers from the Key Laboratory for NeuroInformation of the Ministry of Education of China to observe these effects.
To reach these findings, the researchers recruited 29 participants, all of which were male students at the University of Electronic Science and Technology. Some of the students were expert gamers (such that they had at least two years of experience playing action video games and were ranked in the top seven% of League of Legends players), and the others were non-experts (in which they had less than half a year’s experience and were ranked in the lowest 11% of players). These subjects were given the simple task of playing League of Legends for a short period for initial assessment and then again for one hour.
Before and after they played the video game, the subjects’ visual selective attention—the ability to focus on relevant visual information and ignore irrelevant visual information—was analyzed. In order to do so, the researchers showed each individual a square in the center of a computer screen, followed by the flash of another square in a different area of the screen. It was the participant’s job to identify where the second square was in relation to the first square. Additionally, the researchers used an EEG to track brain activity relevant to attentiveness throughout the course of the experiment.
In the initial assessment, expert gamers displayed more brain activity associated with attention and scored better on the initial visual selective attention assessment than the non-experts. However, after the subjects played the video game for an hour, both experts and non-experts showed an improvement in visual selective attention. Furthermore, the non-experts showed changes in brain activity similar to those of the experts after the hour-long video game session.
Overall, these findings suggest that playing video games for a short period of time can alter brain activity and more importantly, improve one’s attention skills, according to the researchers. However, they also note that there’s a need for additional research to further explore these effects such as how long they last.
University of Arkansas (2018, February 17). One Hour of Video Gaming Can Increase the Brain’s Ability to Focus. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved February 17, 2018 from http://neurosciencenews.com/focus-video-gaming-8513/
Qiu, N., Ma, W., Fan, X., et al. (2018, February 13). Radical Improvement in Visual Selective Attention Related to Action Video Gaming Experience. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. Retrieved on February 20, 2018 from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2018.00047/full