Action video games - games that feature quickly moving targets and require the user to make rapid, accurate decisions - can improve attention skills, brain processing, and cognitive functions, a new study has found.
Researchers found that it is the specific content, dynamics, and mechanics of individual games that determine their effects on the brain and that action video games might have particularly positive benefits.
Action video games feature quickly moving targets that come in and out of view, include large amounts of clutter, and require the user to make rapid, accurate decisions.
Researchers found that action video games have particularly positive cognitive impacts, even when compared to "brain games," which are created specifically to improve cognitive function.
"Action video games have been linked to improving attention skills, brain processing, and cognitive functions including low-level vision through high-level cognitive abilities," researchers said.
"Many other types of games do not produce an equivalent impact on perception and cognition.
"Brain games typically embody few of the qualities of the commercial video games linked with cognitive improvement," they said.
Researchers Dr Shawn Green, assistant professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Dr Aaron Seitz, of University of California Riverside noted that while action games in particular have not been linked to problems with sustaining attention, research has shown that total amount of video game play predicts poorer attention in the classroom.
Furthermore, video games are known to impact not only cognitive function, but many other aspects of behaviour - including social functions - and this impact can be either positive or negative depending on the content of the games.
"Modern video games have evolved into sophisticated experiences that instantiate many principles known by psychologists, neuroscientists, and educators to be fundamental to altering behaviour, producing learning, and promoting brain plasticity," researchers said.
"Video games, by their very nature, involve predominately active forms of learning (ie, making responses and receiving immediate informative feedback), which is typically more effective than passive learning," they said.
The study was published in the journal Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences.