Head in the Game

Headphones, playstation controller, keyboard and coffee mug.

Grand Theft Auto, Animal Crossing, Mario Kart – video games are just mindless fun – right?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Gamers will tell you that games are serious business. It takes HOURS of practice to “get to master level”. So how do game hours translate to brain power?

Meet Gan Xianyang and colleagues from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China. They wanted to peek inside a gamer’s mind.

About forty League of Legends players were recruited. Half were experts, half were non-experts. Volunteers sat in front of screens with electrodes attached to their heads. The electrodes monitored brain activity while the gamers watched two-second streams of letters. They had to identify whether two SPECIFIC letters were among the twenty in the stream. Otherwise — game over!

Results? Expert players more accurately identified the target letters. They didn’t miss a beat! Brain activity showed that experts processed the letters faster than non-experts.

Hmmm…so why do MY gamer kids have such a hard time reading a grocery list? You tell me.