Gaming Science News

By Jim Rossignol on January 6th, 2010 at 5:38 pm.


Hello! Welcome to Gaming Science News, the blogpost that happens when there’s a load of gaming science news to report. Are all those grants for research into the science of electronic gaming finally producing some useful insight into the favourite pastime of the 21st century human-person? Can gaming help you be the best at thinking? Should you play Tetris immediately after a terrorist attack? Let’s find out…

CAN VIDEOGAMES HELP WITH POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS?

The Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford have been taking a look at whether playing Tetris can reduce flashbacks after a traumatic event. How could they test such a thing? Well, “all participants viewed a traumatic film consisting of scenes of real injury and death followed by a 30-min structured break.” Mmm. After that they either did nothing much, or were made to play Tetris. The flashbacks of the patients were then monitored for the week following the horrible snuff viewings. It turns out that flashbacks to the film were significant less common in those subjects who played the Tetris. The theory being that Tetris competed for the same resources that the flashbacks would have used, and reduced their impact on the gaming noggin. The study concludes: “Playing “Tetris” after viewing traumatic material reduces unwanted, involuntary memory flashbacks to that traumatic film, leaving deliberate memory recall of the event intact. Pathological aspects of human memory in the aftermath of trauma may be malleable using non-invasive, cognitive interventions.”

Conclusion: Always have a version of Tetris handy. There’s usually a good phone version these days, although excessive exposure may run the risk of reprogramming your mind for Communism.

ARE GAMERS BETTER ABLE TO THINK THROUGH COMPLEX PROBLEMS?

Rolf Nelson from Wheaton College recently published his findings into this topic in the journal, Perception. Here’s the abstract from Rolf’s paper: “To understand the way in which video-game play affects subsequent perception and cognitive strategy, two experiments were performed in which participants played either a fast-action game or a puzzle-solving game. Before and after video-game play, participants performed a task in which both speed and accuracy were emphasized. In experiment 1 participants engaged in a location task in which they clicked a mouse on the spot where a target had appeared, and in experiment 2 they were asked to judge which of four shapes was most similar to a target shape. In both experiments, participants were much faster but less accurate after playing the action game, while they were slower but more accurate after playing the puzzle game.” (Via, GamePolitics.)

Conclusion: Well this is essentially a min-maxing strategy. Do you want to put all your XP into intelligence, or dexterity? Basically, if you’re speccing to be a quick-but-slow character, stick to action games. If it’s brains you want, do the puzzle games. That, my friends, is science.

DOES GAMING STOP YOU GETTING LOST ALL THE DAMNED TIME?

Researchers at Vanderbilt University are trying to discover whether gaming can be a balm to those people who couldn’t navigate their way out of a paper bag, like John. The study says: “Previous research has shown that people can take knowledge gained in a virtual environment and apply that knowledge to navigate in an identical real space. Virtual replicas of real spaces are expensive to create and are rarely encountered by the average person. Fortunately, many inexpensive and commercially available video games use highly-detailed, realistic-looking environments. We are doing this study to see if video game navigation experience can have a positive effect on players’ real-world navigation skills.” And what did the experiments show? Well, they’re actually still working on it, but apparently you can improve your basic navigational skills after just ten hours of gaming.

Conclusion: I am awesome at 3D shooters and I never get lost, ever. John is awesome at 2D adventure games and sissy stuff like that. He gets lost if you point at something too quickly. LINK PROVEN!

CAN READING RPS STOP YOU FROM GETTING BORED OF NEW GAMES?

Honestly, this is a real thing: variety amnesia. According to this study, people get bored of stuff. Apparently, you can recover from being bored of things you’ve recently been “consuming” by being reminded of stuff from the past. Here’s the abstract: “Consumers frequently consume items to the point where they no longer enjoy them. In a pilot study and two experiments spanning three distinct classes of stimuli, we find that people can recover from this satiation by simply recalling the variety of alternative items they have consumed in the past. And yet, people seem to exhibit “variety amnesia” in that they do not spontaneously recall this past variety despite the fact that it would result in a desirable decrease in satiation.”

Conclusion: Going back to read old RPS posts will make Modern Warfare 2 seem less boring. That’s a win for science, and for you!

Tune in next time for more facts from gaming science. Because facts are super-true.

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39 Comments »

  1. Vinraith says:

    I hadn’t previously realized it, but I’ve actually been conducting a scientific study which evidences that reading RPS results in buying far, far more games than you can play.

    • Jacques says:

      I blame the Steam sales for that, not RPS.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Jacques

      That doesn’t work for me, as hardly any of the games in my backlog are on Steam. About half of them, however, are indie or obscure titles that I would never have heard of if not for this site. :)

      Not that I’m complaining, mind you. This is pretty much the best “problem” ever.

    • Bhazor says:

      Over Yule I had my Steam account banned (I actually got it back on the 25th of December, it’s a miracle! Thank you Immortal God Emperor!)so I ended up spending most on GoG. About £50 in fact or around 800 bajillion hours of game if played properly and not just glanced at. I mean I now have the entire Might and Magic series, Fallout 1&2, Septerra Core, Gothic 2, Combat Mission, Settlers 2, IL 2, the Tropico set and all the Jagged Alliance expansions.
      Those fuckers be long.

      What are they like? No idea I’ve never played them.

    • blaargh says:

      @Bhazor: how’d you do that? And what happened to steam bans being unrevertable?

    • Bhazor says:

      Sorry I should have said suspended.
      It took a fortnight and a shed load of emails to Paypal and Valve before they stopped accusing me of fraud for lodging a complaint that a game I’d bought hadn’t appeared on my games list.. My main bug bear was Valve not knowing how paypal worked and told me to close my claim without retracting it. Which meant it took me about 4 days (and 3 emails) to reopen. Lengthier explanation in yonder comments. (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2009/12/23/mega-bargain-bucket-steam-goes-sales-mad/comment-page-1/#comments)

      I understand I was pretty lucky in all regards.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Bhazor

      I’m glad to hear it all got resolved, the notion of losing one’s Steam account (and through no fault of one’s own, no less) is one of those great nightmares of gaming I think. That others haven’t been so lucky under these circumstances is a fairly sobering thought.

    • sinister agent says:

      I’m with vinny on this one. It’s getting so that I’m going to have to take on fewer hours at work to concentrate on games. Honestly, the sacrifices I make….

  2. Omroth says:

    Nothing could make Modern Borefare less boring. Nothing!

  3. Radiant says:

    “Consumers frequently consume items to the point where they no longer enjoy them…”

    I’m trying to do this with porn.
    Trying to hit that wall.
    Although I may have blew through that wall back in the 90′s.

    God damn you Kirsten Imrie

  4. suibhne says:

    Wrong link on that last entry – it’s just a repeat of the navigation study.

  5. Chris R says:

    I attribute my great sense of direction to my love of FPS games. If I’ve been somewhere once, I can always find my way back, and my sense of North/South East/West is usually dead on. Thanks games!

    I also attribute my alertness to playing lots of FPS games. When I’m driving or walking I’m constantly scanning everything around me for potential threats, just like you would do while playing any FPS. It’s helped me avoid at least 2 car accidents, and 3 times from being hit by a vehicle. Thanks games!

    • suibhne says:

      I attribute my innate fear of red barrels to my love of FPS games. I also attribute my inarticulate but undeniable love for crates to playing lots of FPS games.

    • Starky says:

      Any true and hale fellow already had a deep and abiding love for crates, chests and non-red barrels (brown being the best) before, or despite playing videogames.

      In fact the reason such are used as they are in games is due to Mans inborn love of the sacred container.
      It’s why Pirates used them and Emperors filled their tombs with them.

      It is due to the sacred container that we receive the blessings of alcohol.

      (I think I need to start a church of the sacred container and His many forms – maybe write a book in a sci-fi setting to kick it off…)

    • Glove says:

      Ah, the ol’ Cargo Cult. Nice.

    • sinister agent says:

      I often find myself standing motionless for up to several minutes while other people around me have their turn.

      It makes cooking dinner rather a risky prospect, and don’t even ask about the sex.

    • MajorManiac says:

      I hate it when my girlfriend gets lag. ;)

  6. Garg says:

    I have a suspicion that the control for that Oxford Tetris study wasn’t well chosen. Would the results of someone watching TV, doing some work or having a conversation for half an hour also have resulted in less “involuntary flashbacks”? If you have half an hour with bog all to do after watching that, then it’s no surprise you’d be thinking of it a lot and so it would form a stronger memory.

    Lazy science :(.

    • D says:

      Its a good thing Jim properly referenced the study he was describing. SCIENCE GO

      “Thus, by selectively interfering with visual sensory-perceptual processing of the traumatic film via visuospatially demanding cognitive tasks, subsequent analog flashbacks are reduced. Note, this is not the same as simple distraction, since other types of tasks such as verbal tasks during traumatic films are predicted (and have been shown) to lead to increased flashbacks [23], [24].”

      Last sentence is key. So maybe working afterwards would help if you work in a tetris block manufacturing plant, but not normal work or conversations. [23][24]

    • TeeJay says:

      Tetris Block manufacturing plant:
      http://www.amusement.fr/index.php?/gallery/made-of-myth/
      (Amusement magazine)

  7. Colthor says:

    “ARE GAMERS BETTER ABLE TO THINK THROUGH COMPLEX PROBLEMS?”

    Either way, we’re great at looking up the solution on GameFAQs.

  8. Pew says:

    Are my students more likely to get bonus points for reading RPS?

    Yes, but only if they can tell me where Kieron worked in the 90′s.

  9. Helm says:

    “Conclusion: Going back to read old RPS posts will make Modern Warfare 2 seem less boring. That’s a win for science, and for you!”

    I realize this was written in jest but I’m afraid the inferred point is opposite to what would actually happen. Were one to be playing a boring game and then remember the quality of past played games, they’d be even more compelled to stop playing the new and boring game.

  10. Vinraith says:

    Taking this seriously, I do think I’ve avoided more than one accident as a result of playing a lot of racing games as a kid. Slipping through abruptly closing holes in traffic and weaving around things that are moving much slower than you (such as vehicles that have just had a collision and come to an abrupt halt) isn’t a bad skill set to have on tap, though obviously one shouldn’t use it in non-emergencies.

  11. Clovis says:

    So when John plays a proper 3D adventure game, like Penumbra, does that make him cry?

    • MajorManiac says:

      If I was going to be trapped somewhere I’d be happy to have Mr Walker with me. Not only can he provide witty banter, but after playing all those adventure games he should be able to unlock doors with snails and build helicopters out of tinsel.

  12. Santiago says:

    When I was a kid and kept playing those lucasarts adventures where you never die or have bad consequences to your actions ever, I found myself once very surprised after trying a particularly dangerous move with a knife and ending up cut, badly.

    I swear I realizewd the relationship immediately, which scared me enormously. From the real world that is.

  13. seanf says:

    I found a full copy of the Variety Amnesia paper here: http://www.behaviorlab.org/Papers/Amnesia.pdf

  14. Zerrick says:

    Some very interesting Gaming Science News. Always good to know that games can also improve your brain next to just relaxing oneself.
    Please continue this series of articles.

    For myself I have noticed that I can think different about problems because I had to solve something in a game.
    And of course RPS has made me view games in a different light so I enjoy them even more. Go RPS!

  15. Kelron says:

    Reminiscing about old games makes me want to play those instead.

  16. Jayt says:

    The more you know!

  17. TheApologist says:

    My cats get lost when I point at things too quickly.

    Does that mean John is my cats?

  18. MedO says:

    In Germany, I don’t think it would be legal for Valve to prevent you from playing the games you bought due to consumer protection laws. Whether they actually do it or not is a different question, and apparently it’s a difficult legal matter because of their subscription argument (I actually read part of a legal evaluation that claimed you should even be able to re-sell your Steam games, though IANAL).

  19. MedO says:

    Argh, that should have been in answer to Vinraith :(

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