Profile of action gamers
A total of 8,970 individuals between the ages of 6 and 40, including action gamers and non-gamers, took a number of psychometric tests in studies conducted by laboratories across the world with the aim of evaluating their cognitive abilities. The assessments included spatial attention (e.g. quickly detecting a dog in a herd of animals) as well as assessing their skills at managing multiple tasks simultaneously and changing their plans according to pre-determined rules. It was found that the cognition of gamers was better by one-half of a standard deviation compared to non-gamers.
However, this first meta-analysis failed to answer a crucial question. “We needed to think about what the typical gamer profile is,” points out Benoit Bediou, researcher in the FPSE Psychology Section. “Do they play action-type video games because they already have certain cognitive skills that make them good players; Or, on the contrary, are their high cognitive abilities actually developed by playing games?”
Training your brain by playing action video games
The psychologists proceeded to analyze intervention studies as part of the second meta-analysis. 2,883 people (men and women) who played for a maximum of one hour a week were first tested for their cognitive abilities and then randomly divided into two groups: one played action games (war or shooter games), the other played control games (SIMS, Puzzle, Tetris). Both groups played for at least 8 hours over a week and up to 50 hours over 12 weeks. At the end of the training, participants underwent cognitive testing to measure any changes in their cognitive abilities.
“The aim was to find out whether the effects of action gaming on the brain are causal,” continues Bavelier, adding: “That’s why these intervention studies always compare and contrast a group that is obliged to play an action game with one obliged to play a video control game, where the mechanics are very different. This active control group ensures that the effects resulting from playing action games really do result from the nature of this kind of game. In other words, they are not due to being part of a group that is asked to undertake an engrossing task or that is the centre of scientific attention (placebo effect).”