I bet any gamer has been told this by their parents at least once, but more likely they hear it every single day. While there is some research that shows video games and extended device use has negative effects on our visual system, there are a TON of benefits to playing action-based video games!
So the next time someone starts telling you how bad gaming is for your eyes, you can fire back few of these key facts about how playing video games can improve your visual skills:
1. Eye-Hand Coordination
Eye-hand coordination is the skill that requires the eyes to gather visual information efficiently to then guide the hands to react quickly to carrying out the necessary movement. This skill is learned in infancy and as we grow we improve upon the connection. Eye-hand coordination is an important skill used daily and is critical for academic and athletic success.
More traditional eye-hand coordination activities include tossing a ball or lacing, but video games that require reacting quickly based on a visual observation, like Fortnite or 6-Siege, help to enhance this skill. For those that really want to blow the socks off their parents, tell them that research shows that playing video games actually increases the thickness of the left frontal eye fields, which is the part of the brain directly responsible for this connection!
2. Oculomotor (Scanning/Tracking) Skills
Related to improved eye-hand coordination is the necessary ability to accurately scan/track a visual environment, gather that information and process it quickly. The basis of these skills are two eye movements:
- Saccades: short, accurate jumps from one place to the other.
- Pursuits: the ability to maintain fixation as we move our eyes smoothly from one to another.
These building blocks of vision can be improved upon with constant work and video games are perfect for this! Once this skill is mastered it often translates into excellent reading skills.
3. Figure/Ground Skills + Other Perceptual Skills
Visual perception is a huge umbrella of skills that are responsible for how we perceive and process the world around us with the integration of many different systems. One of the most important visual skills, figure/ground awareness, requires a person to be able to pick out an object in a busy visual environment. This skill helps us to understand what we are seeing and plays a critical role in learning to read, solving puzzles and not becoming visually overwhelmed.
Other perceptual skills include visual memory, visual sequential memory, form constancy, spatial relations, visual discrimination, and visual closure.
4. Improved visual attention/concentration
To be a successful gamer, you have to be able to maintain your focus and attention for extended periods of time to work through levels of play. The ability to play for hours on end is endurance skill that only develops with practice.
Interestly, a recent hallmark approval by the FDA gives a new alternative treatment to ADHD: video games to help with attention. Traditional treatment for ADHD has been medication and behavioral modification, but with approval, which is the first of its kind, will likely pave the way for many other gaming platforms to be approved for various medical diagnoses.
The game featured, EndeavorRx, works specifically on improving the participants' attention and the data is tracked to see the improvements.
Now that we know how gaming benefits our eyes, here are a few visual tips to enhance your game even more:
While playing video games for an extended period of time, you want to protect your eyes from the potentially harmful effects of device use, which are detailed here. GUNNAR gamer glasses are carefully designed to eliminate dry eye, glare, block blue-light and even enhance focus on the screen. These frames are must for anyone serious about gaming & improving their visual skills!
Practice the “20-20-20 Rule”
Recommended by the American Optometric Association.
Give those eyes a break and after every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away. Taking these visual breaks allow you to perform visually for longer periods of time without fatiguing. Think of it as a water break for your eyes!
The way your visual skills are enhanced is through repetition. So keep on playing!
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