Need to Finish Homework Quick? Warm Up with an Action Game

December 14, 2009 -

A Wheaton College psychology professor has released findings from a study which compares how action games versus strategy games impacted a participant’s ability to perform tasks.

As detailed on NewsWise, Rolf Nelson, who specializes in human visual perception, had subjects play either Unreal Tournament (an entry in the action genre) or Portal (a puzzle-solving/strategy game) sandwiched  between chores designed to measure speed and accuracy. Those who played the action game were able to perform their task faster, but with less accurate results, while the strategy game induced more accurate, yet slower responses.

Nelson explained how the research might be relevant to real-life, particularly for students:

If they’re playing an action game and then switch to homework, they may try to blaze through their homework at the cost of making mistakes. Or if they play strategy games, they may work slowly, but turn in more accurate work. In fact, it is striking how dramatically these strategies can be shifted by a single hour of video-game play.

Nelson also believes that other studies continued reliance on first-person shooter type game to measure perceptual effects might be off base:

…it is misleading to base conclusions about video games in general on a single genre, just as it would be misleading to base one's conclusions about the effects of television by considering only crime shows.

Full study results are published in the current edition (Volume 38) of the journal Perception. An abstract is available online here.


Re: Need to Finish Homework Quick? Warm Up with an Action ...

 I actually giggled reading the first couple lines of this. I'm a Wheaton graduate and Prof. Nelson's classes were excellent. He's a very intelligent guy, I've been waiting to hear more about his research on this topic for some time. It certainly does raise some interesting questions about the varying effects of different game genres. Performing different kinds of tasks engage different parts of our mind, so it stands to reason different games do as well.

Re: Need to Finish Homework Quick? Warm Up with an Action ...

Anything that helps stimulate the mind will automaticly help you if what you need to do next requires extreme thought. I also reccomend a quick round of Tetris.

Re: Need to Finish Homework Quick? Warm Up with an Action ...

This looks to be a very well thought out study.  The games they picked were really good for this.  In UT you always have to be running around and in the action, in Portal you always have to solve puzzles.  


If they picked something like Call of Duty the gameplay would vary too much.  Sometimes you're sneaking around being patient and precise and other times you're running and gunning relying on quick reflexes and instinct.

Re: Need to Finish Homework Quick? Warm Up with an Action ...

I'll have to take a look at that study when I get home from work.

Re: Need to Finish Homework Quick? Warm Up with an Action ...

I have an even better homework strategy:  Take that hour you were going to spend playing an action or strategy game, and use it to do your homework.

Re: Need to Finish Homework Quick? Warm Up with an Action ...

I think you're missing the point....

It isnt just homework that is affected. Next time you have an exam, play a few rounds of Starcraft before you leave for it.

Re: Need to Finish Homework Quick? Warm Up with an Action ...

Or maybe study a bit more?

Re: Need to Finish Homework Quick? Warm Up with an Action ...

I love this article because this is the college I am currently attending. I was hoping this would end up here. I have heard about Nelson's research and the coauthor, Ian, has been good friend of mine since my freshman year. I am so glad this paper got published because it is great to see something that looks at the effects of videogames in a political vacuum. I am curious what other games would do in terms of effects. Unreal Tournament and Portal are both FPS. What if they tried a more intense strategy game like the Total War Series or Civilization IV? Then again there could also be problems of finding people who dont just have issues with those types of games and lack the patience or temperament to enjoy them.

Re: Need to Finish Homework Quick? Warm Up with an Action ...

I would have thought the Total War and Civ series would support the "slow and methodical" approach. After all, it's hard to imagine a strategy game more about slow and methodical than Civ! It can take hours before you even realise your new city wasn't placed in the smartest of areas!


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