Can playing action-based video games make you a better driver?
Posted August 2, 2016
Playing action video games such as Mario Kart can better prepare subjects for realistic driving hazards, according to a new study.
The study published in the journal Psychological Science found playing action-based video games "may boost players' ability to coordinate incoming visual information with their motor control, a skill critical to many real-world behaviors including driving."
For the study, researchers from New York University Shanghai and University of Hong Kong gathered 80 students and faculty from the University of Hong Kong to participate in several video game experiments. After 10 one-hour sessions, there was a steady improvement in "visuomotor-control skills" from participants playing action video games compared with those who didn't.
“Our research shows that playing easily accessible action video games for as little as five hours can be a cost-effective tool to help people improve essential visuomotor-control skills,” said lead author Li Li in the study report.
The Huffington Post reported on another video game experiment in which experienced gamers (who played at least five hours of video games per week) were better at controlling a virtual car in a driving test stimulation.
"Only 14 of the 80 participants had a driver’s license, and being a licensed driver had no effect on the study’s outcome," according to the Huffington Post. But "experienced drivers may want to reach for their favorite first-person shooter games over the driving-centric ones."
Despite the claim of action video games being beneficial, Mirror reported a 2015 University of Montreal study that claimed "sustained gaming could lead youngsters to neglect parts of their brains, with devastating results."
The typical teenager spends hours glued to a screen playing action video games such as Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario and Call of Duty. The Montreal researchers found these gamers were "far more likely than nongamers to use an area of the brain referred to as the 'reward system,' rather than the hippocampus, which controls memory, learning and emotion."
The virtual reality of warfare, violence and action has evolved over the years, and according to the Washington Times, the U.S. military views those developments positively because games can be a tool for recruits to experience intense situations without the fallout.
The article also quoted critics who say some of the more popular games go too far, allowing "players to commit such violations of accepted international law as shooting wounded prisoners, torturing detainees or using prohibited chemical weapons to defeat an enemy force — with no negative consequences."
The Atlantic reported in 2013 that, according to Corey Mead, the author of "War Play," "beginning in 1960 and ending in the 1990s, 'the armed forces took the lead in financing, sponsoring, and inventing the specific technology used in video games.'"
And while war-themed video games remain popular, according to livestrong.com, excessive engagement in these types of games can cause aggression, reduced self-control and developmental problems.