*The following is excerpted from an online article from NYMAG.
New research in a paper from Princeton University to be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that playing video games five hours a week, may actually make people smarter. Skills learned for mastering games improves perceptual processing in the brain.
Researchers found that playing video games, even twitchy mainstream ones, can help with certain types of learning. Video-game players players are not only better at a type of perceptual processing connected to a variety of learning tasks, but that playing video games appears to cause an improvement in these abilities (one of the groups in the experiment was tasked with playing the action games Unreal Tournament 2004 and Call of Duty 2 for 50 hours, total, over the course of a couple of months).
"A key takeaway from this study is that playing action video games improves not just the skills taught in the game, but learning capabilities more generally," said Vikranth Rao Bejjanki, a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton and one of the study's co-authors (he was at the University of Rochester at the time of the research). "Previous research by our group and others has shown that playing action video games leads to improvements in a wide range of attentional, perceptual and cognitive skills. In this new study, we show that action gamers excel at a wide range of tasks because they are better learners, and that they become better learners by playing action video games."
Bejjanki was quick to point out that this is no excuse for bingeing on games — just five hours a week appeared to do the trick, he said. And researchers still have a lot to learn about this stuff — Bejjanki said future studies will, ideally, drill down a lot more deeply into the specifics of how video games affect human perception and learning: “In ongoing research, we are currently engaged in trying to uncover the precise characteristics of action video games that are essential for boosting players’ learning,” said Bejjanki. “So we're testing the importance of factors such as the amount of variability in the game, the need to make predictions at different time scales, and the pacing of the game.”