Heightened by Halo: First-Person Video Games Are Good for Your Vision

By Eliza Strickland | March 30, 2009 10:20 am

Unreal TournamentWho says shoot-‘em-up video games are a waste of time? A new study has found that playing action video games dramatically increases the players’ ability to detect subtle shades of gray. Says lead Daphne Bavelier: “Normally, improving contrast sensitivity means getting glasses or eye surgery — somehow changing the optics of the eye…. [But when] people play action games, they’re changing the brain’s pathway responsible for visual processing. These games push the human visual system to the limits and the brain adapts to it,” Bavelier said [Reuters]. The study also found that more sedate games that don’t require precisely aimed actions, like The Sims 2, do not confer a similar benefit.

The researchers say that eye doctors could one day write prescriptions for Nintendo: The finding raises the prospect that people with amblyopia, which affects contrast perception, could be treated with games. A trial has begun to test that theory. Amblyopia, sometimes known as “lazy eye”, affects around 3 per cent of people in western populations and happens when the brain fails to correctly register signals from one eye [New Scientist]. Contrast sensitivity, which is crucial for activities such as night driving, is also one of the first elements of vision to be affected by aging.

Bavelier had previously shown that playing action video games increased players’ ability to detect objects in a cluttered space. In the new study, published in Nature Neuroscience, her team tested the contrast sensitivity of a group of people who regularly played action video games, such as Unreal Tournament and Call of Duty, where the player has to shoot at virtual targets. They found the group’s ability to detect different shades of grey was 58 per cent better on average than people who had not played the games. Those who were not regular game players were then put through a training regime involving hours of console gaming. When they had completed the course, their contrast sensitivity had improved by 43 per cent on average [The Independent].

Most significantly, the improvements in this study were sustained for months or even years in some cases, suggesting that time spent in front of a computer screen is not necessarily harmful for vision, as has sometimes been suggested [BBC News].

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Image: Epic Games

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, Technology
MORE ABOUT: senses, video games, vision
  • Timmy

    I think that as time goes on we are going to be seeing more benifits from video games.

  • Tristan

    The Legend Of Zelda: Link To The Past taught me how to read.

  • FILTHpig

    I play COD2 almost every day for hours…that means I can see better than you! : P

  • http://clubneko.net Nick

    Oh my, yes. This is good news. </professorfarnsworth> I think I’m going to send this to my microscopy teacher, it sounds like something he’d be interested in for his visual imaging class.

  • Lee

    In 1986 my son (then 5) had lazy eye. The opthomologist that we took him to gave him eye drops and a patch and recomended that we let him play all the video games that he wanted to. We followed his advice and saw dramatic improvements in a very short time. Intuative doctor.

  • Demoniac

    Marathon, Tron 2.0, Half-Life, Crysis (and all the rest… you know who you are)… thanks for improving my powers of visual perception!

  • http://arcadevideogamesblog.com Tom at arcade video games blog

    This is certainly good news for gamers. I have never read anything else about improved eyesight as a result of game play, but it does seem logical. The fast paced motion of high intensity games certainly does require acute vision. It’s good to see an article highlighting one of the positive effects of playing video games.

    Tom

  • http://www.adsense-faq.com/ Adsense FAQ Blog

    Way cool, some valid points! I appreciate you making this article available, the rest of the site is also high quality. Have a fun.

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