Thursday, May 29, 2003 - Videogame Players May Flunk, But They Can Sure Pay Attention - Videogame Players May Flunk, But They Can Sure Pay Attention "Maybe there's hope for the videogame generation after all: In experiments described in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, scientists found that playing action videogames can bring marked improvements in the ability to pay attention to objects and changes in the visual environment.
Earlier studies showed that playing videogames leads to better spatial skills (producing ever more kids with the eye-hand coordination needed to land a plane on an aircraft carrier). But this is the first to show enhanced attention skills.
The improvements seem to come from playing not just any videogame, but action games -- including such bestsellers as Grand Theft Auto, Spider-Man, Crazy Taxi, Halo and Super Mario Cart -- that require the player to track known enemies, monitor the scene for new attackers, scan the environment for "pick ups" like weapons, and avoid traps.
To be sure, videogames offer no help, and might hurt, other kinds of attention, such as the ability to concentrate for prolonged periods on reading, writing or solving math problems. And a growing body of research suggests that the virtual behavior that violent games reward can encourage real violence and aggression. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, for example, gives points for killing a prostitute the player has just had sex with and then taking back his money."

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