Study finds gamers have +1 nightvision

According to a recent study (h/t Livescience) by the University of Rochester, gamers who play action videogames have better vision, especially at night. In fact, players who put in a lot of time can become 58 percent better at perceiving fine contrast differences, which amounts to quite a bit.

Researchers divided test subjects into two groups and had one group play Unreal Tournament 2004 while the other played The Sims 2. The idea was that UT required more visual motor coordination, and The Sims, while strong graphically, did not.  Each of the volunteers’ vision was tested at the beginning of the study, then each played 50 hours over 9 weeks.  After that, their vision was tested again.

Those who played the shooter on average showed a 43 percent improvement in their ability to discern close shades of grey, which according to the scientists is the primary limiting factor in how well one sees. If players continue to play games for more than six months, the increase rose to 58 percent.

This study immediately followed past experiments conducted on videogames, including one that demonstrated how gamers were able to accurately pick out objects in a cluttered space.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration that contrast sensitivity can be improved by simple training,” said study leader Daphne Bavelier. “When people play action games, they’re changing the brain’s pathway responsible for visual processing. These games push the human visual system to the limits and the brain adapts to it, and we’ve seen the positive effect remains even two years after the training was over.”

Notice that she called gaming “training”. So, I can only conclude that according to science, playing GoW isn’t a “waste of time”, or a way to burn brain cells; it’s training. Ninja training.

Being a closet ninja myself, I wasn’t particularly surprised by the study’s results. But it is nonetheless pleasing when science offers hard evidence that our time spent in videogames is quantifiably productive. So, keep up the good work, soldier. And remember that next time a parent tells you to eat your carrots, point out this study and calmly ask for a copy of Modern Warfare.

Take that, mom.