Remember when your parents would tell you to put down the Game Boy or get off the computer because you were going to ruin your eyes? Well, the joke’s on them! According to a recent study, videogames “can improve visual perception”.
That’s it! You’ve won! Take that, parents or legal guardians!
Granted, there are limits and details. The study specifically discusses so-called “Action Video Games” (or “AVGs”, as the
kids these days researchers call them), and they specifically refer to large screens that take up a significant portion of your field of vision to help you focus on the peripheries. Handheld and mobile gaming likely doesn’t have the same effect, although maybe it would work if you held the screen really close to your face.
This was also a relatively small study with only 24 participants, all legally blind or visually impaired children, and the results have only been tracked for one year. It’s also mentioned that the group that played a “Tetris-like game” did not see the same types of improvements seen in the groups playing Ratchet & Clank or a custom-built game made for the study. The children were also pre-screened to have vision traits amenable to the goal of increasing utilization of peripheral vision, and it’s worth noting that the “lead author” of the single, small study is also the founder of the company that developed (and likely intends to sell) the custom-built game that showed improvements in the subjects.
“We didn’t improve the kids’ hardware—these children have profound physical problems with their optics, muscles, and retina, and we can’t fix that.”
—Jeffrey Nyquist, founder of NeuroTrainer
It’s not all bad. The children with the specific circumstances targeted by the program did see legitimate and impressive improvements. However, as with most things you see on the Internet these days, this makes for a great news headline you can show to people to support your own opinion despite not investigating the facts for yourself, and that you will immediately forget about as you move on to the next post in your feed.