This weekend, hundreds of video games enthusiasts lined up in the cold, waiting 12 hours-plus to be the first to get their hands on Nintendo’s new console, the Wii U. And when the game Call of Duty: Black Ops was released in 2010, gamers around the world played it for more than 600 million hours in just the first 45 days. That is the equivalent of 68 years.

While some people worry about the popularity of video games, in today’s talk, brain scientist Daphne Bavelier suggests that gaming may be far more beneficial than we think (in moderation) — even if the game is all about shooting up the enemy.

“Most of you have thought, ‘Come on, can’t you do something more productive than shooting zombies?’ I’d like you to put this knee-jerk reaction in the context of how you’d feel if you found your girl playing Soduku,” Bavelier says. “In reasonable doses, action-packed shooter games have quite powerful positive effects on many different aspects of our behavior.”

In the lab, Bavelier and her team measure the impact of gameplay on the brain. While your mom might have told you that staring at screens will wreck your eyes, Bavelier’s lab actually found that playing 5 to 15 hours a week of video games correlates with better vision — and the ability to see more detail in the context of clutter.

It’s another common trope that gaming causes attention problems. However, Bavelier shows data that people who play video games are better able to keep track of objects around them — while the average person can track three objects effectively, video gamers can track six to seven objects. They’re also better able to multitask in general.

Initial studies suggest that these benefits may be trainable. In one study, Bavelier’s lab gave participants a test, and then asked them to play 10 hours of video games over a period of two weeks. When they came back for a post-test, their performance improved — and the improvement was still measurable five months later. Bavelier’s lab hopes to use these findings to create games that can improve eyesight or help keep the brains of senior citizens sharp.

7 talks on the benefits of gaming

GO TO LESSON IF YOU LIKE THIS ISSUE: LEVEL B2, Listening and writing an article.


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