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Tech Video Games Improve Motion Perception -- But Only When Walking Backward

Video Games Improve Motion Perception -- But Only When Walking Backward

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First Posted: Sep 18, 2013 07:00 AM EDT
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Could video games be good for your morals? Scientists have found that heinous behavior played out in a virtual world may actually cause players to be more sensitive toward the moral codes that they violated. Visitors play "Hearthstone" at the World of Warcraft exhibition stand during the Gamescom 2013 fair in Cologne August 21, 2013. (Photo : REUTERS )

There have been studies that have come out in the past that say that video games can improve a person's eyesight, or even their memory. Now, it turns out that video games can improve your perception of movement--but only when you're walking backwards.

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Many have claimed that action video games can enhance a person's general perception of movement.  In order to find out whether or not this is the case, the researchers enlisted the help of 16 action video game players who played more than 10 hours a week. They also gathered 16 people who played games for less than an hour per week.

During the study, the scientists asked the participants to watch a screen showing a visualization of 400 white dots moving on a grey background. While some of the dots moved randomly, a certain number in each test moved in a coherent pattern--either translational (up or down), radial (contraction or expansion) or rotational (anticlockwise or clockwise). The participants were then asked to identify the overall pattern. The fewer consistently-moving dots it took, the higher their motion perception was.

Surprisingly, it turns out that there was not a significant difference between gamers and non-gamers.

"Our study suggests playing a lot of action video games does not really have much effect on motion perception," said Claire Hutchinson, one of the researchers, in a news release. "I probably would have expected people who play a lot of games to do better at these tests--but if you think about it, when you walk and drive a car you experience the same movements in daily life."

That said, the gamers did excel at identifying one type of movement. It turns out that they were exceptionally quick at identifying radial contraction. This particular type of motion is what we would experience when travelling backwards and seeing our surroundings shrinking away towards the distance.

"The fact that gamers were significantly better at radial contraction does show that games have the ability to train your visual system," said Hutchinson. "The next step will be to look at the effect of other games."

While current action games aren't necessarily useful for training our eyes to see the usual motions that we experience, scientists could potentially design games to train these types of vision. Until then, though, gamers will just have to be satisfied at being able to see motion better while walking backward.

The findings are published in the journal Perception.

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