Despite all the “video games turn our children into mindless killers!” tabloid headline nonsense, a recent study says that video games make you smarter and faster:
The U.S. military has long suspected that troops who have long experience with video console and computer games have made Americans better soldiers, at least when it comes to operating high-tech military equipment. But now a study (by the Office of Naval Research) has found that such experience also enables troops to solve problems faster, and act more quickly with those solutions. In technical terms, the computer game experience increases perceptual and cognitive ability 10-20 percent, over those with no computer game experience. The navy was interested in this because most sailors have technical jobs, and many of them involve operating electronic equipment. Officers and chiefs (NCOs) have noted that, over the years, the new recruits appear to be more skilled when they first show up. It didn’t have anything to do with new training methods, so many supervisors suspected video games. That proved to be the case, but the increased problem solving ability and responsiveness was a generally unrecognized bonus.
The army noted the same thing, especially under combat conditions. For example, because so many troops had years of experience with video games, they took to CROWS (the remotely controlled machine-gun turret on many vehicles) quickly, and very effectively. The guys operating these systems grew up playing video games. They developed skills in operating systems (video games) very similar to the CROWS controls. This was important, because viewing the world around the vehicle via a vidcam is not as enlightening (although a lot safer) than having your head and chest exposed to the elements, and any firepower the enemy sends your way. But experienced video gamers are skilled at whipping that screen view around, and picking up any signs of danger. The army now has a CROWS trainer built into its America’s Army online game. Many NCOs believe that all that multitasking kids do with their computers (and other electronic gadgets) have made the combat troops more effective.
I also suspect they’ll find similar positive effects among older computer users . . . that those who do some gaming (other than the Minesweeper/Solitaire/Freecell kind of games) probably have better overall mental awareness than those who do not.