You’re at the front lines shooting Nazis before they shoot you. Or you’re a futuristic gladiator in a death match with robots.
Either way, you’re playing a video game — and you may be improving your vision and other brain functions, according to research to be presented on Thursday at a New York University conference on games as a learning tool.
“People that play these fast-paced games have better vision, better attention and better cognition,” said Daphne Bavelier, an assistant professor in the department of brain and cognitive science at the University of Rochester.
Bavelier was to be a presenter at Games for Learning, a daylong symposium on the educational uses of video games and computer games.
The event, the first of its kind, was an indication that electronic games are gaining legitimacy in the classroom.
US President Barack Obama recently identified the creation of good educational software as one of the “grand challenges for American innovation,” and the federal Department of Education’s assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Innovation and Improvement, Jim Shelton, was to attend Thursday’s conference.
Panelists were to discuss how people learn and how games can be engineered to be even more educational.
“People do learn from games,” Dexter Fletcher of the Institute for Defense Analyses said.
Sigmund Tobias of the State University of New York at Albany said an Israeli air force study found that students who played the game Space Fortress had better rankings in their pilot training than students who did not.
He added that students who played “pro-social” games that promote cooperation were more likely than others to help out in real-life situations like intervening when someone is being harassed.
Bavelier’s research has focused on so-called first-person shooter games like Unreal Tournament and Medal of Honor, in which the player is an Allied solder during World War II.
“You have to jump into vehicles, you have to crouch and hide,” said Tammy Schachter, a spokeswoman for game developer Electronic Arts Inc.
Bavelier said playing the kill-or-be-killed games can improve peripheral vision and the ability to see objects at dusk, and the games can even be used to treat amblyopia, or lazy eye, a disorder characterized by indistinct vision in one eye.
Bavelier said games could be developed that would harness the positive effects of the first-person shooter games without the violence.