Video games are suddenly useful

(ORDO NEWS) — Swiss scientists have developed a special action video game about an alternative reality for schoolchildren, and with its help they were able to improve the accuracy and speed of reading, and even overall academic performance.

It is known that many cognitive skills, such as attention, working memory, cognitive flexibility, can be improved through computer games. However, more complex abilities, such as reading, can be subjected to similar training.

The process of reading relies on many different abilities: decoding letters into sounds, learning certain patterns of eye movement, holding information in working memory about individual words as we try to understand a sentence.

Based on this knowledge, scientists from the University of Geneva and the University of Trento have developed a special video game to improve the reading skills of schoolchildren.

The results of the study were published in the journal Nature Human Behavior . The authors of the work have developed an action video game about an alternative reality, where the player, together with the main character, saves planets by collecting resources and overcoming obstacles.

The study was conducted on 150 Italian schoolchildren aged between eight and 12, who were divided into two groups: the first played a video game of scientists, and the second – in Scratch, where children learn programming in a playful way.

The specificity of the process in both games suggests a significant load on such cognitive abilities as attention and regulatory functions, but in different proportions. In the researchers’ action video game, the children had to memorize long sequences of symbols in a limited amount of time or slow down immediate reactions, for example, by pressing a button only when a key sound was heard.

In Scratch, the subjects manipulated objects and logical structures to a greater extent in order to achieve the desired sequence in the lines of code.

The training lasted six weeks, two hours a week, under the supervision of specialists. Before and after the experiment, the children were tested for reading words, including meaningless ones, as well as tests for attention.

It turned out that playing an action video game led to a sevenfold improvement in control over the distribution of attention compared to playing a game to learn to code. In addition, students who played the action video game had improved reading accuracy and speed, even though this skill was not directly trained in the game.

The scientists conducted control tests six, 12, and 18 months after the end of the experiment, and the effect persisted in the video game group. Moreover, this part of the subjects had an increase in academic performance, which indicates an overall improvement in learning ability.

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