We start playing games when we are just a few months old. Well, maybe we don’t actually play them, but we’re involved. Peekaboo – when we hide our faces from babies and then suddenly appear, seemingly out of nowhere – is often our first experience of a game. It only works for a few months, though. Pretty soon we realise that our parents don’t actually disappear when they hide behind their hands and the effect wears off. But it sets us up for a lifetime of game-playing.
Nowadays, video games are pervasive throughout our lives. We play on computers, laptops and consoles. We play in real life, on board games and even while sitting on the toilet (go on, admit it – you’re addicted to Angry Birds). Within the first month of its release, Call of Duty: Black Ops racked up 68,000 years of gameplay!
What is all this game-playing doing to us? What impact is it having on our brains? We often talk about having the world’s best Gamified Social Learning Management System, so we think it’s important to be able to explain exactly why games and gamification (applying game mechanics to non-gaming scenarios, like eLearning units and online learning platforms, to make difficult tasks more palatable) works so well to get people engaged.
We decided to do a bit of researching into the impact that video games have on our brains, and found two major myths:
Myth 1: “Video games damage your eyesight.”
False. Gamers that indulge in 10 or 15 hours of gameplay per week actually tend to have very good vision – better than those who never play video games. Gamers’ eyes can resolve really small details, which means they can easily read the small print on a prescription pill bottle and figure out which teeny tiny screw is which when attempting to put together new flat-pack furniture.
Gamers can also discern between different shades of grey better than non-gamers. We’re not talking 50 Shades of Grey here – what we mean is that if you’re in a fog, a serious gamer will be able to spot a car up ahead faster and more easily than a non-gamer. Clearly a good thing for preventing car accidents, no matter what people say about the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ effect!
Myth 2: “Video games destroy your attention span.”
False. Gamers are able to focus on more objects at once than non-gamers. For instance, Daphne Bavelier and colleagues tested gamers and non-gamers on how well they could track the movement of blue dots once they turned yellow (skip ahead to 6:50 in this video to see this in action). Daphne et al. found that the average person could focus on three dots and successfully state whether a random dot was always yellow or originally blue. Gamers, on the other hand, had such great attention to detail and superior attention spans that they could focus on 6 or 7 dots at once! Try it for yourself – it’s not an easy task!
If gamers are better able to track moving objects, this means their brains are more adept at spotting hazards when out on the road, whether they’re driving or walking. It also means they are better able to track the progression of their team on a football field, or make quick decisions during a bike race. Clearly great skills that will benefit them in their daily lives.
So what relevance does this have for gamification in online learning? Well, it goes to show that there is a lot more to games and gamers than meets the eye. If games for gaming’s sake can increase our ability to successfully track moving objects, increase our attention span and improve our eyesight, imagine the incredible impact that games with an actual purpose could have on our lives, our learning and our businesses! If we design games that tap into people’s learning habits, motivation and skills, we’ll really see what games can do.
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