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SCIENCE! Video games can improve your vision?


For the majority of my childhood, my mother would tell me to cut back on video games, blaming them for my deteriorating vision, rather than her own bunk genetics. Well, the tables have turned, because researchers at the University of Rochester have shown that action video games (first-person shooters in particular) can actually improve eyesight.

Contrast sensitivity is defined as the ability to detect small increments in shades of color, and it is the primary limiting factor for one's vision. The study showed that regular action video game players demonstrated higher contrast sensitivity than non video game players. One could argue that people with naturally higher contrast sensitivity might be more likely to play action video games, so the researchers did an additional experiment to show causality.

Two groups of subjects were tested on their contrast sensitivity, then each group was instructed to train on a video game. Subjects in the experimental group were allowed to play Call of Duty 2 or Unreal Tournament 2004, while subjects in the control group were allowed to play The Sims 2, which was described as being like the experimental games in that it is visually complex and engaging, but differing in that it is more slowly paced and does not require visually precise actions. The subjects who trained on the first person shooters scored higher on the contrast sensitivity test than the subjects who trained on The Sims 2.

The really interesting part of this study is that vision is improved not by improving the eye, but by actually altering the brain in some way. It is not yet known exactly how the training changes or creates any particular synapses.

The results of the study shouldn't be too surprising, if you ask me. I can recall Halo LAN parties, where each of us had a quarter of a 26" SDTV screen, and we were tasked with picking out blue opponents on top of light blue backgrounds. If our contrast sensitivity weren't heightened, some parts of that game would be almost unplayable. Don't you wish this study had been done years ago, so you could show your parents and tell them just how wrong they are?

[via Scientific American, originally published in Nature Neuroscience]
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About Darren Nakamuraone of us since 2:29 AM on 11.06.2006

Darren is a scientist during the day. He has been a Destructoid community member since 2006, joining the front page as a contributor in 2011.

While he enjoys shooters, RPGs, platformers, strategy, and rhythm games, he takes particular interest in independent games. He produced the Zero Cool Podcast for about four years, and he plays board games quite a bit when he can find willing companions.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Darren Nakamura knows several people in the video game industry, most of whom are Destructoid alumni. These include:

Anthony Burch, former writer for Gearbox Software
Ashly Burch, notable voice actor
Nick Chester, publicist for Harmonix Music Systems
Chad Concelmo, writer for Golin Harris
Aaron Linde, writer for Gearbox Software
Jayson Napolitano, publicist for Scarlet Moon Productions
Brad Nicholson, former publicist for Uber Entertainment
Alex Ryan, publicist for Kalypso Media
Jim Sterling, notable voice actor

Darren backs a lot of Kickstarter campaigns! If you want to see what he has backed, you can go here. If he ever reviews a game that he backed, that will be explicitly disclosed in the review.

Darren invested in Psychonauts 2 on Fig.
Xbox LIVE:Dexter345
PSN ID:Dexter345
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