Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Are Computers Driving Us to Distraction?

Research studies have shown video gamers who practice on action games like Medal of Honor have a wider visual span and greater sensitivity to visual detection. But the flipside of this visual sensitivity is increased visual distraction.

Several research groups are exploring the relative importance of central focus (See Left, below) and peripheral focus (See Right below). Whether video game training is boosting visual skills depends on what sort of skill you care about.

Side attack games like Medal of Honor probably increase visual focus to the periphery. Good if you're trying to stay alive in Mosul, but maybe not so great if you're sitting in the middle of a noisy class trying to listen to the teacher. Even the Internet diverts our focus to the periphery with blinking cursors, talking paper clips, and image-changing ads (see the Boss in the Machine editorial below).

But don't think we're just technology-haters. The phenomenon may be real (please think about this web designers - our conscience is tweaked too). It means that RPG attack games are not the best thing to have your child playing all the time after school if focus and distractibility problems have been identified. There are games that might even enhance central focus- and wouldn't it be terrific if these games had just as much excitement and personal challenge as the peripheral games?

Our game experience is not extensive, but at home we let our kids play side-scrolling games (many are free nowadays) for visual tracking practice. Side scrolling games are things like Donkey Kong or Charlie the Duck. Also old maze-type games like the Pac man variants, Pong-variants, or Air Hockey can provide challenging exercises in eye movement jumps, turns, and tracking. BTW, don't get us wrong- getting outside and playing ball is a good thing to do too. For Xbox,Tarzan or snowboarding games would seem to strengthen central visual focus over side.
Video Games Boost Visual Skills, Study Finds
The Boss in the Machine
Free online games at play.vg

1 comment:

  1. I think its great if you're sitting in the middle of a noisy class trying to listen to the teacher. Even the Internet diverts our focus to the periphery with blinking cursors, talking paper clips, and image-changing ads

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