Playing games might be especially helpful for inexperienced drivers.
All those hours spent lapping the Nordschleife in Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo were for the best because they made you a better driver, according to a study by researchers at New York University Shanghai. The positive effects aren’t just for racing games either because the data shows playing first-person shooters improves visuomotor control, too.
“Our research shows that playing easily accessible action video games for as little as 5 hours can be a cost-effective tool to help people improve essential visuomotor-control skills used for driving,” says Li Li, the study’s lead author, told the Association for Psychological Science.
The researchers performed two experiments to check the link between video games and visuomotor control. In one study, the scientists examined a group who played action games for five to ten hours per week for the past six months and compared them to subjects who didn’t. In a driving simulation, the gamers were better able to keep a vehicle in the lane while compensating for crosswinds.
Separately, the researchers found that the positive results only required a few hours to happen. For this experiment, non-gamers had ten, one-hour training sessions in either Mario Kart or a strategy game called Roller Coaster Tycoon III. The Mario Kart players performed better in a visuomotor control test after just five hours, and they improved even more after ten hours. Similar results occurred when testing with a first-person shooter instead of a racing game.
According to the study’s abstract, the results “suggest that action video games can be beneficial training tools for driving.” The researchers think a little bit of time playing would especially benefit inexperienced drivers, which is probably a welcome recommendation for many teens.