Playing Mario Kart Makes You a Better Driver?
See? Video games are good for you after all!
A recent study published in Psychological Science found that playing action video games for as little as five hours could be a cost effective way for people to improve essential visuomotor control skills used for driving.
What’s more, it’s about specific types of games too. The control group for the study played Rollercoaster Tycoon instead. They found no improvement in their driving abilities as a result.
That said, it wasn’t purely linked to driving games. Participants in the study had improved visuomotor control after playing Unreal Tournament too.
And both games seemed to work for different audiences. Experienced drivers found their ability to predict input error signals was improved by playing FPS games like Unreal Tournament. Meanwhile, novice drivers struggling with ‘obtaining stable control’ found driving games were more useful. So people with less driving experience seem to do better with Mario Kart, and those with more do better with non driving games.
It’s an interesting study, and you can read the news release for it here:
Or download the study here:
However, it still raises as many questions as it answers.
Like whether the game genre has an effect here. Oh sure, the study found action games worked better than non action ones. That much is confirmed.
But action is not a genre, but a very wide selection of them. FPS games are different from platformers, and shoot em ups are different to fighting games. As a result, four action games can look completely different from each other:
Above: Super Mario Bros 3, Mario Kart 8, Unreal Tournament and Ocarina of Time
So how does this factor into the findings? Would a 2D or 3D platformer have different benefits to Mario Kart? How about a fighting game like Smash Bros or Street Fighter?
Or heck, two games of the same genre? Mario Kart is very different from the likes of Gran Turismo.
As a result, that’s one thing to test in future. What effects each type of action game has, and whether certain ones have their own unique effects as well.
There’s also the matters of skill and game difficulty.
Because not all games are equal here. Some (like the Kirby series) are incredibly easy. Others (like Dark Souls) are extremely difficult. And with other games often having difficulty levels, this should be factored in as well.
For example, look at Mario Kart. 50cc is easy, 100cc is normal and both 150cc and Mirror Mode are difficult.
Which setting did the participants play on?
And if a group was set up for each option, which group would do better at driving in real life? How about a fourth group, who’d been playing a lot of 200c in Mario Kart 8?
Above: 200c is a real test of your reflexes.
So difficulty needs to be taken into account here.
Skill seems like it could be important too. Would the best Mario Kart player of the group do better than the worst in actual driving? What about the one that beat the staff ghosts?
These are all things that need to be taken into account in future. Hopefully future studies can determine if skill, difficulty and game genre have notable effects not demonstrated in this one.
Either way, it seems like games really are good for you after all! Perhaps now the media might stop criticising them so much and encourage more people to get into gaming as a result!
What do you think of the study and its findings?