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Old 02-15-2006, 03:25 PM   #1
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Video Games: good for you

[q]Better living through video games?
CAROLYN ABRAHAM

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

When he snags downtime from his schoolwork, Ryerson University student Brad Evans gabs with friends, grooves to Kanye West on his MP3 player and races virtual hotrods on his Sony PlayStation. All at the same time.

Before you assume gadgets and video games fry the minds of the future, consider this: Canadian researchers are finding evidence that the high-speed, multitasking of the young and wireless can help protect their brains from aging.

A body of research suggests that playing video games provides benefits similar to bilingualism in exercising the mind. Just as people fluent in two languages learn to suppress one language while speaking the other, so too are gamers adept at shutting out distractions to swiftly switch attention between different tasks.

A new study of 100 university undergraduates in Toronto has found that video gamers consistently outperform their non-playing peers in a series of tricky mental tests. If they also happened to be bilingual, they were unbeatable.

"The people who were video game players were better and faster performers," said psychologist Ellen Bialystok, a research professor at York University. "Those who were bilingual and video game addicts scored best -- particularly at the most difficult tasks."

The York study, which tested subjects' responses to various misleading visual cues, is to be published next month in the Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology. Three other studies published in the past two years have also concluded that action video games can lead to mental gains involving visual skills and short-term memory.

No one is certain how this translates to general learning or everyday life. But Mr. Evans, 21, an aerospace engineering student, said years of gaming have added valuable dimensions to his thinking.

"I grew up with video games, starting with Nintendo and SuperMario . . . from the age of 8 or 9," he said. "I know it helps with my dexterity; it's good for co-ordination and faster reflexes."

Prof. Bialystok suspects video gamers, like bilinguals, have a practised ability to block out information that is irrelevant to the task at hand.

"It's like going to the gym," she said. "You build up the ability to control impulses with practice."

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servl...y/Science/home

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Old 02-15-2006, 04:11 PM   #2
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Many interesting benefits from video games, from hand-eye coordination to multi-tasking.

I recently read a story about an individual in the air force who had a perfect score on his first flying exam in a T-34. The reason: he had flow a T-34 around the same airport on Microsoft Flight Simulator.

One question - do video games help or hurt an indivudal's attention span? Short term memory up, but is long term memory affected?
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Old 02-15-2006, 04:15 PM   #3
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^ Pretty much what I was thinking...I don't doubt that they help prevent brain aging as far as "tricky mental tests" and "short-term memory" go (though how much "brain aging" should people this young be showing anyway?), but I suspect what regular use does for your ability to stay focused on a task requiring sustained, reflective analysis is another story.

The analogy to bilingualism is interesting, though--my parents often switched back and forth between English and Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) when talking to us and each other, and while I can only understand Ladino, not speak it, I do think this improved my ability to not be thrown off by extraneous details when listening to a conversation or carrying out a task.
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Old 02-15-2006, 04:16 PM   #4
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Kids were able to engage in activities that sharpen their mental abilities before video games.



It was called piano lessons.
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Old 02-15-2006, 04:19 PM   #5
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Well I think musical training is thought to have somewhat different benefits. Supposedly it helps build math skills, although I can't say it ever helped me much in that area.
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Old 02-15-2006, 04:20 PM   #6
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i feel so old -- i loved Nintendo, and Super Nintendo back in the late 80s/early 90s.

these days, i'm all about crossword puzzles and Sudoku.
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Old 02-15-2006, 04:20 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
Well I think musical training is thought to have somewhat different benefits. Supposedly it helps build math skills, although I can't say it ever helped me much in that area.
Math and the ability to do multiple things at the same time (left and right hand - view music, not hands, etc.)
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Old 02-15-2006, 04:24 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader


Math and the ability to do multiple things at the same time (left and right hand - view music, not hands, etc.)


which, come to think of it, sounds like video games ... i'll be honest, i'm *blown away* at how complex the video game controlers are these days.

or perhaps it was because i was only able to last 3 minutes playing Halo with a bunch of 9 year olds.

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Old 02-15-2006, 05:03 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511

which, come to think of it, sounds like video games ... i'll be honest, i'm *blown away* at how complex the video game controlers are these days.
I'm not sure the complexity of video games necessarily involves the human interface. Many games, such as Halo, are really "button mashing" games - press buttons as fast as you can - sequence and timing play a minor role.
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Old 02-15-2006, 09:38 PM   #10
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Good thing for my brain-aging that I'm bilingual then (English/French), I have no interest in video games lol.
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Old 02-15-2006, 09:47 PM   #11
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Do video games really offer any advantage as far as smarts and skill that you couldn't get from music lessons, gymnastics, baseball, Spanish classes, etc? I have a middle school aged cousin and all he ever does, all he's done for the past 5 years, is play video games. When he's not home, he has his portable systems, even in church with the sound off. Unfortunately, he also has problems socially because he has a rare form of ADHD (he's VERY smart and quick and has no patience for his peers and if he can't get something right on the first attempt, he won't try). I know he's a more extreme case, but I look at him and feel sad because these games offer him nothing. He has no true friends, no hobbies, no desire to do anything but play games. My aunt has to pay me to sit with him and get him to do his math homework. He would forget to eat if he was left to his video games.

We never had access to a single game system growing up. The only game I know is Mario Kart, and I suck so I never play. I've never had any desire to play and don't regret never being able to. As kids, we learned team work and coordination by organizing sports games and obstacle courses in our yard and building forts from raw materials.
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Old 02-15-2006, 09:59 PM   #12
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The article was saying gamers who multitask seem to have an advantage, it's not the video games alone.

Lots of middle schoolers are loners at that age and become more social later on, hopefully that will be the case with your cousin. Too much of any one thing is never good.
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Old 02-15-2006, 10:01 PM   #13
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I don't know about console games because I have always felt that they were simplistic, but PC games such as Deus Ex, Rainbow Six, Civ, Arcanum etc. are definitely more than excercises in mashing buttons.
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Old 02-15-2006, 10:07 PM   #14
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Played them a good bit in the '80's - ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, etc., video games have been around a bit longer than people think!

Funny thing was there was usually a social aspect as you would play with friends rather than alone.

Oh and I was at or near to the top of the class at school.

BUT my parents were very anti-TV and we did not have a TV in the house until I was around 13 or so.
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Old 02-15-2006, 10:37 PM   #15
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I was just playing "Resident Evil 4."

I've been playing video games since Atari 7800, and I'll probably play them for the rest of my life. But I'm also a media geek, so this stuff is right up my alley.

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