February 8, 2013 by kxrodri
The article Improving Multi-Tasking Ability Through Action Video Games comes to the conclusion that video games, specifically action video games, helps improve multi-tasking abilities. In this study participants are given a Sony ps3 and told to play a specific video game for at least five hours every week for ten weeks. The study found that compared to the control (no video game playing) the participants who played video games were more reactive to secondary tasks without compromising primary tasks. The study then suggests that video games can be used to help with situational awareness and therefore be used “as training tools for increasing attentional capacity”. Adventure video games are useful to widen attention spans but only to a certain extent.
The study reports using participants with little to no experience playing games. The participants are then separated into two groups. The first group, a control, was asked not to start playing video games for ten weeks, the group will then be called back and asked to take a series of multi-tasking tasks. The second group is given a Sony ps3 and given popular first person shooter games. The second group is given first person shooter (FPS) games because “they feature considerable sensory demands, as targets are often presented in cluttered settings” and “in terms of attentional demands, all the games feature abrupt onset of events, with the need to discriminate and select important objects among distracters”. FPS games also feature various multi-tasking opportunities such as watching ammunition levels, what type of guns to use, and keeping track of other team members. The study however, fails to produce an important control. The study fails to include a group of participants who regularly play video games so that it can be seen if there is a limit to how much a person can improve in multi-tasking abilities.
The participants were asked to come to a lab and partake on multitasking tests that “consist of computerized tasks analogous to activities aircrews perform while engaged in high workload flight operations, yet is accessible to populations with no aviation experience”. The participants are given the tests before given video games. After the tests, the participants that aren’t from the control group are given games such as Ghost Recon Advanced War Fighter 2, Unreal Tournament 3, Medal of Honor, Vanquish, Bioshock 2, and Resistance 2. It is important to note that all the games are FPS games.
What was measured in the study was the reaction times of the participants. It was found that there was a quicker reaction time from the participants who played video games than the control group. There were several areas that were tested and the tests that showed the most improvement from playing video games was communication instructions. This means that after playing video games, participants were able to receive instructions and follow through on them more quickly than the control group. However, because there wasn’t a group that had experienced video game players there wasn’t a way to measure potential improvement. The study showed improvements throughout both groups, but the video game group had the most improvement. These findings beg the question: If there was a group with experienced video game players, would there be an improvement in reaction time?
The study concludes that there was an improvement of about half a second in reaction time and lower number of errors for the group that played video games. The participants “became faster and more consistent in their time to respond to communications, with those completing more games showing the most improvement”. It is apparent that the video games did help improve multi-tasking abilities, but it would be more conclusive if the study covered the possibility of a threshold. FPS video games allowed the participants to be completely aware of their surroundings while maintaining watch on other aspects of the game. If there was a group with experienced FPS video game players then the results of the study would have to be slightly adjusted. The experienced group would show very little improvement in their reaction time. The reason for this is that the participants were given something new to learn, but they can’t improve from something they already know. There would be a slight improvement however because the participants still improve from the gameplay but only slightly.