Whenever video games are suspected of failing to live up to their comparatively young status as a cultural asset, defenders who do not seem to trust the label itself refer to studies that have shown that gaming has a positive effect on video players’ perceptual abilities and learning performance. Even if these cases represent a kind of indirect profitability from an argumentative point of view, which was believed to have been overcome in the discussion about video games, performance and opportunities to increase it are now the more recognized currency – compared to, say, gain in knowledge.

One such study has now been published in the science magazine Nature. Eight researchers around the study leaders Ru-Yuan Zhang (Shanghai Jiao Tong University) and Adrien Chopin (University of Geneva) try to show that action video games have a positive effect on “learning to learn”. Learning to learn therefore takes place when information or skills that people acquire during a task lead to the fact that these people can learn and cope with the requirements of new tasks more quickly.

45 hours of video game play in ten weeks

In two intervention studies each, the scientists divided test persons who did not spend more than one hour a week in first-person or third-person shooters and sports games and simulations in the past year and the year before, and did not do more than three hours a week in the past year, and Spent no more than five hours a week playing other video game genres the year before, in two groups. One group played first-person shooters like “Call of Duty: Black Ops” (Parts 1 and 2) and “Half Life 2”. The other group played simulation games like Sims 3, Zoo Tycoon 2013, and Viva Piñata. The test participants had to work 45 hours of video game play over a period of ten weeks, playing at least three and a maximum of eight hours per week.

Before and after the game phase, the participants were tested on the basis of certain tasks. They had to understand the direction of movement of moving patterns, remember shapes, and correctly sort smileys with changing faces according to their initial stage. Based on the evaluation of the two rounds with 25 (University of Rochester) and 52 (University of Geneva) test persons, Zhang and colleagues found that the action gaming group was able to perform both lower-level perceptual tasks and performed better in the more demanding cognitive tasks (higher-level cognitive tasks) than the group that had dealt with life simulations. What do we learn from this now? So if shooters have positive learning effects, then only one thing remains to be considered: There must be enough time to learn on the side.