Abstract Title

Characterizing cognitive differences between novice and expert video game players

Presentation Type

Paper

Abstract

It has been suggested that playing video games interacts with a number of cognitive functions. From basic visual abilities, such as contrast sensitivity, to more complex tasks, such as driving skill, researchers have begun to incorporate “how many hours of video games do you play” as a standard demographic question (Li, Polat, Makous & Baveleier, 2009; Sue, Ray, Talaei-Khoei, Jonnagaddala, Vichitvanichphong, 2014). But what do we mean when we describe someone as a video game player (VGP)? Traditionally, these studies define video game exposure in one of two ways: training studies using novice gamers, or recruiting those who play games above an arbitrary weekly hourly threshold. Do such operational definitions truly provide comparisons of the highest possible level of video game experience to non-gamers? In this study, nine professional, nationally ranked fighting game players (all previously/currently top 10 in their state) completed a cognitive battery including measures of working memory, attention, executive control, and spatial ability, and were compared against novices with no video game play for six months. Although VGPs and non-gamers showed similar patterns of performance on many measures, VGPs did show evidence of superior dual-task (p < .05), mental rotation (p < .05), inhibitory control abilities (p = .058), as well as a broader functional field of view (p < .05). Our findings, extrapolated from VGPs with an extreme level of expertise, confirm both previous studies reporting cognitive differences on some measures associated with game play, but also those reporting null effects on other measures.

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Characterizing cognitive differences between novice and expert video game players

It has been suggested that playing video games interacts with a number of cognitive functions. From basic visual abilities, such as contrast sensitivity, to more complex tasks, such as driving skill, researchers have begun to incorporate “how many hours of video games do you play” as a standard demographic question (Li, Polat, Makous & Baveleier, 2009; Sue, Ray, Talaei-Khoei, Jonnagaddala, Vichitvanichphong, 2014). But what do we mean when we describe someone as a video game player (VGP)? Traditionally, these studies define video game exposure in one of two ways: training studies using novice gamers, or recruiting those who play games above an arbitrary weekly hourly threshold. Do such operational definitions truly provide comparisons of the highest possible level of video game experience to non-gamers? In this study, nine professional, nationally ranked fighting game players (all previously/currently top 10 in their state) completed a cognitive battery including measures of working memory, attention, executive control, and spatial ability, and were compared against novices with no video game play for six months. Although VGPs and non-gamers showed similar patterns of performance on many measures, VGPs did show evidence of superior dual-task (p < .05), mental rotation (p < .05), inhibitory control abilities (p = .058), as well as a broader functional field of view (p < .05). Our findings, extrapolated from VGPs with an extreme level of expertise, confirm both previous studies reporting cognitive differences on some measures associated with game play, but also those reporting null effects on other measures.