Video Games May Improve Visual Skills

June 15, 2003

Grand Theft Auto 3 -- Half-Life -- Counter-Strike -- Crazy Taxi -- Team Fortress Classic -- OO7 -- Spider-Man
Halo -- Marvel vs Capcom -- Roguespeare -- Super Mario Cart

Do you recognize these titles? They are all action video games. These games were played by college students in experiments to see how video games affect visual skills. Researchers C. Shawn Green and Daphne Bavelier at the University of Rochester (New York) had students play action video games at least four days a week (minimum of one hour each day) for six months. After this training, the students' visual skills were tested.

Students who were trained playing action video games had better visual skills and visual attention than students who had little or no video game playing experience. Video game players tracked objects better, reacted faster and located visual targets better than non-players.

In a separate experiment, the visual skills of students who played 10 hours (1 hour/day) of an action video game (Medal of Honor) were compared to those of students who played 10 hours (1 hour/day) of a non-action video game (Tetris). On all tests of visual skill, the action video game players scored better than the non-action video game players.

The researchers believe that action video games force players to "simultaneously juggle a number of varied tasks (detect new enemies, track existing enemies and avoid getting hurt, among others)." Such demands may result in brain changes that improve visual skills. It is possible that action video games could be used in treatment programs to help people with visual problems. These games might even be used to teach people to drive, monitor radar or operate air traffic control equipment.

Smart kids might use the results of these experiments the next time they hear their parents say, "Stop playing those games!" Perhaps these kids will answer, "Just a little more...I'm improving my visual skills and training to be an air traffic controller."

NOTE: some of the video games used in these experiments have extensive violent content. For example, Grand Theft Auto 3, Halo, and Half-Life all have "Mature" ratings that indicate these games are appropriate for people 17 years and older.


  1. Green, C.S. and Bavelier, D., Action video game modifies visual selective attention, Nature, 423:534-537, 2003.

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