For decades, we’ve insisted to our parents that we aren’t wasting time by playing video games so much. It will help us later in life, we say. It’s building hand-eye coordination and reflexes!
Turns out, that might actually be true. A new study from the Association for Psychological Science found that playing “easily accessible action video games for as little as 5 hours can be a cost-effective tool to help people improve essential visuomotor-control skills used for driving.”
That means all those countless hours you’ve spent hurling turtle shells at your friends in “Mario Kart” may have actually made you a better driver in real life!
The study, conducted in Hong Kong, put experienced gamers and those with less experience in a driving simulator. In this phase of the study, the video game fans demonstrated greater precision in the virtual driving environment than those who didn’t play games regularly.
A different test was then administered to a group of people who all had little to no interest in games. They were randomly separated into two groups: one that played the action and reflex-heavy “Mario Kart,” and one that played the more relaxed, administrative amusement park simulator “Rollercoaster Tycoon III.” After 10 “training sessions,” they were tasked with using a joystick to keep a dot away from the center of the screen to test their control skills.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the “Mario Kart” group was more capable of accomplishing their goal. The moment-to-moment action of a racing game like “Mario Kart” requires much more precision than “Rollercoaster Tycoon III,” which mostly asks players to manage the economy and happiness of their amusement park. Similar effects on control skills were noticed after people were trained with “Unreal Tournament,” a fast-paced first-person shooter game.
Anytime your friends, family or significant other question your video game playing habits, just point them to this study! Thanks to “Mario Kart,” you might be able to avoid a horrible car accident. Heck, you might even be chosen by aliens to save the galaxy if you get a high enough score in your favourite arcade game.