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by Mike Zazaian January 16, 2007 - 4:25pm, 4 Comments

Richard Ryan, professor of psychology, left, and graduate student Andrew Przybylski.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Rochester indicates that video games provide players with much more than a good time.

Teamed up with multimedia think tank Immersyve Inc., lab coats at the University of Rochester conducted a study of 1,000 video gamers to gauge what kept them glued to the screen.

Participants in the study were separated into four groups, each of which played a different video game. Gamers were given a survey before and after gameplay to determine what aspects of video games were appealing prior to actually playing a game, and what sort of satisfaction was achieved during and after play.

Rochester researchers determined that while the notion of fun was largely thought to the be the primary motivation for video gaming, the psychological enrichment derived from the challenge of gaming was found to be the greatest consideration for video gamers when deciding to play or re-play a game.

It’s our contention that the psychological pull of games is largely due to their capacity to engender feelings of autonomy, competence and relatedness, said Richard Ryan, a motivational psychologist at the University of Rochester.

These factors, in addition to a sense of personal achievement, were found by researchers to enhance overall psychological wellness within gamers.

University researchers conducted a related study in 2003, in which video games were evaluated for their abilities to enhance visual skills in players. Conducted by Daphne Bavelier, an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, the study showed that individuals who play action-style video games can actually process visual information at a rate 30 percent faster than non-gamers.

Researchers recruited a group of gaming aficionados who played Medal of Honor, Grand Theft Auto 3 and Half-Life on a regular basis, as well as a non-gaming control group. In a first test an image would appear on a video screen for 1/160th of a second, and subjects were asked to indicate where on screen they had seen the image. The gaming group demonstrated a much higher degree of accuracy in locating the image than non-gamers.

In another test participants were shown a video screen in which 12 objects appeared for a fraction of a second. The subjects were then asked to assess how many objects they had seen. Researchers again found that members of the gaming group were much more likely to respond correctly than non-gamers.

According to Bavelier, whom published the findings of the study in the May 29th, 2003 issue of Nature, These results indicate an enhanced allocation of spatial attention over the visual field, even at untrained locations, in [video game players].

Read the University of Rochester press release
Findings from the second study, as published in National Geographic.
Image courtesy of University of Rochester