When you power up your video game controller you're probably thinking more about the fun you'll have than the impact the games have on your vision. Surprisingly video games can affect the way our eyes see and process images. Video games aren't just a way to spend a few hours; they can have a real life impact on how you see the world even when you aren't sitting in front of the screen.
Video Games- For the Young, the Old and the In-Between
Many people think that video games are only being enjoyed by children, but this is not true. Video games are played by a variety of different age groups from the very young to the very old. The average age of a gamer is 33 years old. Many video games manufacturers are focusing on attracting older audiences which means that the vision effects of video gaming could potentially impact all age groups.
The amount of time spent playing video games is another factor to consider the impact of games on vision. Video games are very popular. In fact just one month after Call of Duty: Black Ops was released it had been played for more than 600 million hours, the equivalent of 68,000 years. People enjoy this technology and are willing to use it.
Does Screen Time Decrease Eye Sight?
Many people believe that too much screen time can decrease eye sight and lead to vision problems, but studies indicate that this may be a myth, especially when it comes to video games. On average, non-gamers typically have normal vision. Those that regularly play video games surprisingly had better vision in tests than those that did not play. This means that video games could potentially help those with low vision and special games could be developed to aid with vision improvement.
Multiple Vision Benefits of Video Games
Two main vision benefits are believed to come from moderate playing of action video games. One is an increased ability to read fine print. Video gamers are more likely to able to read small writing without having to use vision aids like a magnifying glass. The second benefit is an increased ability to see the differences in varying shades of gray. This is especially useful in driving in stormy or low-light conditions.
Other visual benefits of action video games are also present. For example those that play regularly are better able to track objects with the eyes and brain. The average person can typically keep track of three to four objects, but the average action gamer can track six to seven objects at a time. This potential benefit of gaming is used every day in driving situations. Drivers must be able to see and track multiple things at once: the cars in front of them, the cars behind them, children playing, pedestrians, pets, etc. An increased ability to track could lead to better and safer drivers, a vision benefit we could all use.
Many of the visual benefits of video games seem to last. Some studies indicate an improvement in certain visual qualities even five months after the video game usage had ended. This is especially promising news for those interested in developing games to treat vision problems.
Although video games are enjoyable to some they are literally changing the pathways in the brain. Since our eyes gather images which are then processed by the brain, video games have the potential to improve our vision. As the brain's pathways are made more efficient by video games, the visual signals that our eyes collect are transmitted more effectively and processed more rapidly.
Different Games Have Different Impacts
While the possible vision benefits of video games might make you want to run out and start playing, it is important to remember that different games have a different impact. The studies referenced in this article relate to action video games, not other types. Each different type of game can have a different impact on the brain. More research is needed on this subject to fully determine how each game can change the brain and how to best utilize this technology for both vision and mental improvement.
It is also important to remember that moderation is key. The visual benefits studied are for moderate users; bingeing and overindulging on video games may not bring the same results. The full impact of technology on our brains and on our vision is yet unknown and will require many years of study to fully determine.
Using Video Games to Treat Vision Problems
As more studies are completed and more knowledge is gathered about the impact of technology on the brain and eyes we may see an emergence of video games designed to help those with vision problems. Treatment that is fun and engaging is likely to be more popular than treatment that is forced. The key to creating these possibilities is finding a balance between the benefits and the fun side of video gaming. Researchers, game developers and others will need to work together to create new possibilities. Maybe someday soon we'll see vision enhancing video games on the market.