FPS Players Make Accurate Decisions Faster

This is how the eye of the Internet sees your thoughts.
More medical news from University of Rochester, NY, who have long been experts in gaming science. Their most recent research shows that action games help us with quick decision-making. The study by Daphne Bavelier, Alexandre Pouget, and C. Shawn Green shows that shooter-playing gamers make faster decisions that are no less accurate than their The Sims-playing counterparts. “It’s not the case that the action game players are trigger-happy and less accurate: They are just as accurate and also faster,” Bavelier said. “Action game players make more correct decisions per unit time. If you are a surgeon or you are in the middle of a battlefield, that can make all the difference.”

Full release here. Have a read of that for the methodology, before speculating about the methodology, eh?


  1. bleeters says:

    Coming soon, “murder simulators alter brain, scientists prove”.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “murder simulators alter brain for the better, scientists prove”.

    • CMaster says:

      @Jim – no editor would greenlight that headline. The first one is much more likely to get people to read and get good and angry.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Arguably I am an editor :)

    • CMaster says:

      Yes, but not of a daily newspaper.

    • Jamesworkshop says:

      Nobody cares about all that

      what the people really want to know is does playing with a mouse and keyboard on a PC provide a bigger effect than console kiddies on their clusmy controllers

    • Rich says:

      My daily rag headline generating skills have failed me, but I wanted something with ‘super soldiers’ or ‘make better killers’, or somesuch.

    • bleeters says:

      “Video game carnage provides ‘potent training regimen’ for aspiring killers”, perhaps.

    • Collic says:

      @ James workshop, probably not, and in any case, i doubt a scientific study would make distinctions about input methods. The study is about what how the decision making and act of playing affects the brain, not how accurate your headshot ratio is. Of course, I know you’re almost certainly joking :)

  2. SquareWheel says:



  3. Alexander Norris says:

    I propose we force all future surgeons and corpsmen to become professional Q3A players before they’re allowed to exercise their functions and get paid.

    • Dawngreeter says:

      I always thought people should be banned from performing the role of a politician or any other kind of state or city official until they get a high enough score in Civilization.

    • Vague-rant says:

      Future surgeon here who spent a chunk of revision time playing Mass Effect 2. I’d thought that was a mistake but I never realised quite how much of a mistake (I ended up failing a module). Knew I should’ve been playing an online shooter.

      On the other hand, I like to think I also learnt ethics from Mass Effect 2. Like not to allow Subject Zero to EVER escape.

    • Sobric says:

      @ Dawngreeter

      Nononononono. I watched a perfectly normal and very politically minded friend of mine play Civ and get giddy with joy about Nuking the shit out of Buddhist Israel. Civ is a training ground for dictators, not politicians.

    • Lack_26 says:

      Many Surgeons do play video games to keep up their reactions, I know one who’s about 60 and he plays Counter Strike to try and keep up his reaction times.

    • Dawngreeter says:

      Well, yeah, there’s always that. A violent genocidal sociopath waiting deep down in every one of us. But still, I don’t think politicians would ever know how to think outside the box enough to consider that various religions and government setups are not “good” and “evil” but situational and very relative. Democracy increases productivity but also resistance to war. This is not because people are traitors and only militant backwater hicks are true patriots. It is because you traded warlike social structure for a more productive one. And if you think warmongering is a good idea, you are either a violent revolutionary who shouldn’t be allowed to participate in general election or a dangerous lunatic.

      That was almost a rant, wasn’t it…

  4. CMaster says:

    Makes sense – action games, especially things like UT require you to make snap decisions very quickly based on limited information.
    I’d question whether it helps at all with decisions that are more than simple binary calls however (being able to do left/right quickly is one thing, but being a surgeon often involves many, many different options).

    • Baboonanza says:

      Indeed, but I wouldn’t expect a gamer to be better at making decisions about surgery than a surgeon with experience, because surgery experience can’t be created by playing a video game.

      I would suspect that the particular skill is time-sensitive decision making based on direct stimulous. In fact I was going to criticise the research for only using screen-based visual cues, but then I read the methodology (thanks Jim :) ) and they also used audio cues, which suggests it’s a bit more general than that.

      I read a very interesting book on how experts (like fire-fighters and A&E doctors) make fast decisions and the interesting thing was that they don’t way up options in their head, that’s done at some lower level using experience they’ve built up over however many years. Experts just *know* the correct decision, and the concious mind justifies it after the fact.

    • Baboonanza says:

      The book was :

      Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions
      Klein, G

      And I heartily recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in the subject. It’s a detailed, serious book but is based around case-studies of US fire-fighters so is also absolutely fascinating the read.

  5. Richard Beer says:

    I love stories like these. And as CMaster says, it makes PERFECT SENSE!

    Everything life skill is about practice, whether it’s mental or physical. If I constantly use certain parts of my brain to shoot things, drive things, work out puzzles etc on a computer, then I’ll also get better at real-life situations that use those same mental skill-sets (like driving a car). It’s kind of obvious.

  6. alseT says:

    I think competitive RTS like Starcraft taxes your decision making part of the brain a lot more than any FPS game. That’s why APM is a metric used so widely. It should actually be called “decisions per minute” capped by the speed and accuracy of your hands.

    • Butler` says:

      I still put FPS on par with RTS in terms of skill roof and strain on the faculties (and both ahead of fighting games).

      Also, most people have played competitive RTS (there’s no public / scrim RTS games) but not necessarily FPS. Played a tightly fought 1v1 in Q3A (CPMA pref!) or a 5v5 in CS (1.6 obv) or equiv.?!

    • alseT says:

      I haven’t played any of those games to any great extent but my brother is still very hardcore into CS 1.6.

      I’ve watched him play a lot and I don’t know. You obviously need to have extremely good reflexes and hand-eye coordination but you depend a lot on your teammates and there’s not that much room for technique and fancy stuff that changes the meta game all the time as in SC2 for example.

  7. SeanybabeS says:

    Didn’t Jim mention something like this in his fabulous book This Gaming Life? Available in all good book stores now.

    *Awaits royalty kickbacks*

  8. N'Al says:


  9. Cat says:

    Oh, but I don’t think I play many FPS’s.

    I mean, I play one occasionally, but I think I play WAR mostly.

    Atleast I think I do.

    Yeah thats right WAR, I play WAR.

    Oh no, sorry I mean WoW, not WAR.

    Yup, I’ve decided, its definately WoW I play mostly.

  10. Pandaemonius says:

    As a psychology graduate, I have to take issue with the claim that people’s decisions are faster but equally accurate in general.

    If you click through, you’ll see that the decisions participants were asked to make are about very simple things, intended to be answered rapidly (between 500 milliseconds and 2 seconds, I would say). All this study really shows is that practice makes your reactions faster, and not just with the task you practice.

    Another thing to note is their choice of ‘strategy’ game. The Sims? Really? I guess they wanted to have a real contrast in their results. A real RTS (or indeed any action game at all) would have a very similar effect on reaction times, I would guess, depending on whether you have people play multi or single, and the difficulty levels.

    I’d be interested to see the effects for different genres on the same task. For example, are turn based strategists slower, but more accurate?

    • Rich says:

      Compare an FPS player to a Starcraft (2) multiplayer pro, and you might well be right.

      The Sims really isn’t a strategy, by normal gaming definitions. There’s an awful lot of waiting around, letting them do their own thing. In an actual RTS even queuing up units, rather than ordering each one individually, can be enough to get you swamped.

      Turn based strategies typically have more to think about, so maybe they teach you to multi-task better. I’d say that an RTS is probably more likely to teach you how to quickly deal with changes in your situation.

  11. Navagon says:

    “If you are a surgeon or you are in the middle of a battlefield, that can make all the difference.”

    Yeah, because you’ve got to know who to throw insta-healing medikits at and who to hose with the health gun. Such skills save lives.

    • Nick says:

      Surely you just shock paddle them and then gun down the nearest enemies with your M60?

    • Navagon says:

      You’d make a fine medic, Nick.

    • sleepygamer says:

      Wait, I thought I was supposed to hack off limbs of friend and foe alike with my trusty hacksaw, and hurl infected needles at the enemy?

      And there was this one time where I somehow used my Doctorate in Doctoring to make someone glow bright red and make his bullets hurt people more.

    • Navagon says:

      Begone with your shamanistic ways, Sleepy! You befoul the good name of modern medicine with your dark arts! A true practitioner of modern medicine would have made the person glow yellow, increasing their damage resistance.

    • sleepygamer says:

      I suppose next you’ll be condemning me for injecting myself with heroi- ADRENALINE mid-battle to keep alert, or popping multiple jars of painkillers to sooth the pain, won’t you?

      Or perhaps you feel that bandaging someone’s arm and leg for a near fatal head wound is somehow “wrong”?

      [i]You sicken me.[/i]

  12. Butler` says:

    Study makes no sense.

    Of course your reactions are going to be 25% faster if you’ve been doing an activity for a prolonged period of time that requires fast reactions, compared to one that doesn’t.

  13. Sigma Draconis says:

    Good to know those hours of practicing Shock Combos won’t be wasted.

  14. kenoxite says:

    So all my impulse shopping has been absolutely precise and correct so far? Good to know.

    /adds it to invisible notebook of lame excuses

  15. tigershuffle says:

    Playing Counterstrike and other FPS games has certainly helped me computer map peoples extents of land faster…..and for that solicitors should all be grateful :)
    Thats how you increase productivity in the public sector Mr Cameron!
    give us access to Steam on our lunch breaks

    oh and this is a lovely read about gamers in todays Daily Mash
    link to thedailymash.co.uk

  16. sfox says:

    I don’t like how they referred to the Sims as a ‘strategy’ game. In no way, shape, or form should it be referenced as a strategy game as there is no goals involved in the game save for those set by the player.

  17. EaterOfCheese says:


    when i play fps i make other people have to make accurate decisions faster cos i’m l33t


  18. Grey! says:

    *sigh* politicians should play postal 2 (or 3) for moral improvement.

  19. Joshua says:

    On addition, you can never really ‘fail’ the sims. ‘Bad’ decisions have consequences which might be just as fun as the ‘good’ decision is (which is THE reason the Sims is awesome, although it just happens to be the reason why I don’t enjoy playing it for long).

  20. Gosh says:

    doesn’t this contradict itself? if fps players get better att fast decisionmaking doesn’t that theoretically make them better strategy and mmorpg players?

  21. hamster says:

    Psychology studies lol. Always have been and always will be a joke. Also, be very careful who “funds” the study lest there be any vested interests…

  22. G says:

    @ Baboonanza, this is exactly the case for Starcraft pros. It may be a strategy game but really its a reactionary game. The flow of a match has been worked out to such a level that experts know exactly what the player should be doing next. Therefore I question is it really decision making or simply fast reactions. Its interesting stuff.

  23. JuJuCam says:

    “The Sims” is clearly not a strategy game by any gamer definition, but as a control group for this particular experiment, I don’t think it can be faulted. The hypothesis was that the timing and accuracy of decision making is affected by fast paced high stress videogames. In order to prove it the control needs to have a slow paced, calm, almost relaxing gameplay experience. It’s important that they do play a game, so that some amount of decision making training takes place, however I’d be interested to see if there was a no-game control, or even if they assessed the participants pre-gaming.

    For my part, I think high level competitive RTS would deliver predictable results along the lines of FPS. I’d be more interested in PC ARPGS like Diablo and Torchlight, where broad strategic decision making can have massive ramifications but momentary decisions are fast but generally trivial.

  24. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    I <3 Boomsticks

  25. akasha73 says:

    Action games may develop a person’s decision making skills but there’s a much wider category other than the usual situations being dealt within the game. I know some shooter fans and I find them indecisive. So to speak, not all FPS players think faster than those who don’t play video games.