Playing video games is not such a mindless pastime as regular players are found to have much better visual skills than the rest of the population.
Gamers showed enhanced attention in tests, cope better with distractions and are especially good at spotting details in busy, confusing scenes.
And anyone can improve their visual skills by playing computer games, American researchers found in a study published in Nature journal.
Are you surprised by the findings? Do you think your attention has developed from playing computer games?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Are video games good for you? Yes - gotta go, must shoot more bad guys.
Mark Bowyer, UK
I feel sorry for people who criticise games. They're yesterday's people.
There are many different genres of video games. Some of them, like real time strategy games, engage the mind much like chess does. Whereas games like Grand Theft Auto are mindless. You just have to pick the right kinds of games.
All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy. A balance has to be established, whether it concerns playing video games or other outdoor activities.
It's funny to see people who use the "lack of exercise" argument, as if assuming that video games are the total cause of it. If we weren't gaming, we would be stuck in front of a TV being even less active.
If we weren't gaming, we would be stuck in front of a TV being even less active
I've played games for about 15 years. I'm now at university doing a degree in programming games. I don't have poor social skills, I don't have poor hygiene, I'm not scared to go out in the daylight. People are finally waking up to the fact that gamers aren't nerds that sit in front of a screen 24/7 and it's about time.
Richard, Northern Ireland
I am happy to let my children play video games. I'd prefer them to be playing these games with their friends rather than walking the streets - which as we all know is just not safe anymore. I have special "game nights" with snacks and drinks, which settles me because I know they are not only having fun but safe. The games are actually a lot more challenging than the pathetic children's programmes that are on TV nowadays!
The games are actually a lot more challenging than the pathetic children's programmes that are on TV nowadays!
It's not just the hand-eye co-ordination that is beneficial. Some role playing and adventure games have as complex storylines as novels, and can keep you intrigued for weeks.
Computer gaming is an addiction, like any other. We don't care if it's bad for us, we're still going to play :-P
As an avid game player, I find that game playing is a good way to reduce my anger and stress. If I have had a bad day at work, then a quick game can help to reduce the stress and calm me down for a more relaxing evening with my girlfriend. (See some of us game players do have social skills ;-)
Steven Prudames, Germany (ex-UK)
In some areas computer gaming can improve your visual skills but there are problems like stress, mood swings and short temperedness - such as getting very annoyed that you are losing or dying too often. I find that I snap at anyone that interrupts me whilst I am gaming or find myself in a bad mood after game play. Others that I have spoken to agree this can only be bad for your stress levels.
I find myself in a bad mood after game play
They're not good for you, they make you lazy and you never move off your seat - I play games a lot so I ought to know.
Modern gaming probably helps to improve social skills as well, with more gamers being part of a "clan", and communicating with other members through instant messaging, or even voice communication. I certainly won't be downing my joypad in the near future!
I've heard that similar benefits can be gained through active participation in 'real life', particularly if you go for the multi-player version!
So if you practice something, you get better at it? WOW that's a surprise!
BT, Redditch, England
Being brought up with Doom, Half life and Xwing helped a lot when I took the RAF and Army aptitude tests. The tests appear to be similar to those done by the Americans, testing memory and visual awareness, all of which are improved in front of a monitor. However I still had to go outside to get physically fitter!!
Xwing helped a lot when I took the RAF and Army aptitude tests
Made me sharper? I'm normally shattered and half asleep at work when I've been playing command and conquer generals into the wee small hours...
I've just got back into playing games after taking a couple of years out in the real world. Things have really improved in games and the scenarios are very realistic. And have you seen the women? They look real - so who needs the real thing!
So if everyone plays computer games we'll all be better at spotting details in busy, confusing scenes? Very useful. I often think to myself, "If only I could spot the small detail in confusing scenes I would be so much more successful in life."
I actually interviewed someone who put 'playing computer games' on his CV as a skill and talked about it throughout the interview. He didn't get the job.
I cannot believe there are STILL people who believe computer games are bad and that all gamers are geeks. The explosion in the industry is due to the demystifying of computer games and the production of titles for ordinary, sociable kids and young adults.
Of course using your reflexes, survival instincts and initiative in a virtual world improves those skills in the real world.
I have to add one bad point though. My driving (in the real world that is) has definitely taken a turn for the worse recently since playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for a whole week...
My driving has taken a turn for the worse since playing Grand Theft Auto
Tony Coleby, UK
Attention to detail and reflex skills can certainly be helped by playing FPS (first person shooters). Non-gamers tend to see lots of pretty, fast moving graphics and dismiss the whole affair as mindless; they are also the people who wouldn't be able even to attempt the game due to their poor eye-coordination skills.
There are also strategic and multi-tasking skills to be learned playing Real-time strategy and empire building games. Building-up virtual countries, running their economies and conducting foreign policy (all, of course, at a cut down level) can be intellectually stimulating.
They are good for kids as they have simulator games from building cities to football management. As for adults I am always having rows with the wife for being on it for long amounts of time as they are so hi-tech and addictive.
I am always having rows with the wife for being on it
Gamers are probably more active as people than many couch potatoes, staring blankly at their non-interactive, inert soap-operas on TV for up to seven hours a night. And these people criticise gamers? Wake up couch slobs - gaming is a bigger industry than music and film put together - these stereotypes will have to disappear as it enters the mainstream.
Andrew Sherlock, Wales, UK
OK so maybe kids gain some extra visual skills if they spend their time playing lots of video games. Now test their reading ability, creativity and most importantly fitness levels - are they still better off?
Great, now to dispel the knee-jerk geek gamer tag. Spending all your time reading the works of Shakespeare wouldn't exactly give you a busy social life. Many things are good in moderation.
Roy Jackson, England
So there are some benefits to being a habitual gamer. But is it enough to offset the aversion to daylight, poor personal hygiene, and inability to talk to girls that plague so many of them?
It's been known for years that increased use of motor skills utilising hand and eye co-ordination improves those skills. It's only prejudice that makes some believe that computer games are a complete waste of time. However, let's not forget that the benefits may be offset by the lack of improvement in social and verbal skills which will atrophy if they're not used. As usual what you get given with one hand can be taken away with the other. Balance is everything in life.
Absolutely. Also, I've also heard that video game players make better lovers as they're used to staying up late. Also, when you're depressed, videogames provide an alternate reality: this helped keep me sane when I was unemployed for 10 months a few years ago.
Video game players make better lovers
This is hardly news. In the early 80s research showed the benefits of video games. Indeed, they were promoted as a way to improve co-ordination and dexterity for certain disabled children with a marked increase in ability shown after playing games.
These benefits seem insignificant when compared to the benefits of getting outdoors and doing a physical activity.
Who cares? GAME ON :)