When you go out for dinner you expect that someone’s attention is on you right, well that was a different story in my case. Any time we were together, the attention was glued to Facebook or other chats, texting, thankfully never any games – that was always when we were at home.
Meet my test subject Alex – 3rd year uni, into gaming, hanging out with friends and has a passion for skiing – even though he broke his leg, nothing holds him back from doing what he loves. We spent 8 months together, and in this time, we got to know each other pretty well. The traits, the flaws, the passions, the things that make you smile, make you go crazy and the things that just make you distracted and loose all attention to where it is needed.
Over this period of time, it was clearly evident that he loved his Facebook – the morning scroll often made him late for class or rushed to get ready. Lazed across the bed of a morning while I would jump into the shower endeavouring not to be late, he would truly push the limits of time.
Of an afternoon or night-time, Alex often loved to play the latest video game that had been released. It was like he challenged himself to finish the game as fast as he could even if I was around. The phone would go on silent and he would tune into the game he was playing. Try talking to him or even ask a question if he was ready for dinner and it was a screaming matching, getting up in his face or simply just eating without him until he realised he was hungry enough to stop and have a possible cold dinner. His attention to the games and dedication truly made me amazed as I was sure that they weren’t that cool. Mind you, when I would sit down and watch, I WAS AMAZED – I was hooked, just to sit there and watching was amusing and to be so entertained by such a game even when I wasn’t playing was fascinating. Through the course of 8 months I would say Alex at least have finished 4 or 5 games and would have replayed them on different levels and difficulties.
There’s a study that suggest that the soundtracks in video games hold the players attention for longer and that with the sound on they are more likely to score a higher score (Bernhard et.al, 2014). The study suggests that players got a higher score when playing with the sound on because it gave them cues and clues to enrich their senses of warnings, highlights and feedback. This attention can be given in the games, making you concentrate for hours on end without knowing how much time as passes by, but when it comes to attention in the classroom is it a different aspect as Swing, Gentile, Stevens and Ferlazzo found. Soundtracks alone can be good for focusing, thus when you are studying for exams and can’t seem to concentrate, pop on a video game soundtrack and you will find that you will focus for hours on your studies without even noticing time go by.
Swing, Gentile, Stevens and Ferlazzo posted an article in 2010 “ISU study finds TV viewing, video game play contribute to kids’ attention problems” stating how the attention of students from 3rd, 4th and 5th grades along with college student’s attention spans decrease in the classroom the more they play video games. They express that the students are exposed to “constant stimulation and constant flickering lights, changes in sound and camera angle, or immediate feedback” which then impacts their classroom attention because teachers are not able to provide this sort of stimulation (Gentile et al., 2010).
When I asked Alex about this statement he disagreed, and I have to agree with him. The hours spent playing video games can often stimulate your concentration when it comes to other important things in life. You’re teaching your brain to focus on things that may seem important in the long run. Although it is important to point out that it often comes down to the amount of hours that you play. Alex also stated that ‘gaming in the long-term can help improve your problem solving skills, attention to detail and strategic thinking as video games stimulate different types of thinking and different areas of the brain’.
Miguel Vidaure, 2015, wrote an article”Scientific studies show why everyone should play video games” backing up myself and Alex’s views on gaming and how they are not all bad for you. Players playing action games have ‘enhanced cognitive abilities… with noticeable differences’. Vidaure (2015), also found that the brain was able to process data faster and therefore learning more efficiently. At the end of the interesting article Vidaure says that playing video games is good for you, but should not be used as a substitute [to physical exercise]. He stated that “fresh air and sunshine are just a few benefits of outdoor physical activity that isn’t offered by video games” (Vidaure 2015). Vidaure says that is it important to still get physical activity into your daily routine, but when it’s not possible (such as bad weather), you are still able to exercise your brain with video games along with the use of motion games that allow you to burn calories while ‘climbing mountains, running through forests and enjoying virtual settings’.
I decided to personally test my own concentration and attention span by setting up a time-lapse video of me sitting at my desk trying to study. This was taken in a period of an hour and you could clearly see that my attention was consistently directed at other things such as my phone (texting, making phone calls and scrolling through Facebook and Twitter), updated my Word Press site, leaving the room to cut my father’s hair and even look at dresses I was given for a special occasion. In the space of that our, my goal was to have this blog post finished and uploaded, although I found that I had only written about 5 lines. If this is me in a semi private space with family around, imagine what I would be like in a public space! I always wondered why I loved puppies so much – maybe it’s because we have the same attention span.
Bernhard, T., Spackman, M. and Baxa, J. (2014) Video games: Do you play better with the sound on or off? Viewed 21 September 2016 <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-shapes-film/201402/video-games-do-you-play-better-the-sound-or>.
Gentile, D., Swing, E., Stevens Martin, S. and Ferlazzo, M. (2010) ISU study finds TV viewing, video game play contribute to kids’ attention problems – news service – Iowa state university. Viewed 21 September 2016 <http://www.news.iastate.edu/news/2010/jul/TVVGattention>.
Vidaure, M. (2015) Scientific studies show why everyone should play video games. Viewed 21 September 2016 <http://techu4ria.com/scientific-studies-show-why-everyone-should-play-video-games/>.