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Motion-controlled video games may improve real world skills

Friday, Feb 19, 2016,15:44 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

Washington | Motion-controlled video games, that require players to use their own bodies to control the movements of the avatar, may help boost skills when people compete in the real world, according to a new study.

Participants in a study who played 18 rounds of a video golf game that used a motion controller to simulate putting did significantly better at real-world putting than a group that played a video-game with a push-button controller and better than participants who had no video game training.

Motion controllers require players to use their own bodies to control the movements of the video game’s avatar. What we can infer from this is that the putting motion in the game maps onto a real putting behaviour closely enough that people who had 18 holes of practice putting with the motion controllers actually putt better than the group that spent 45 minutes or so, using the push-button controller to make putts, said Edward Downs, former doctoral student in mass communications, at Pennsylvania State University.

The researchers suggest that motion-controlled video games, as well as future virtual reality devices are turning video games into simulations. It seems to us that we’ve crossed an evolutionary line in game history where video games are no longer just video games any more, they have become simulators, said Downs, currently associate professor of communication, University of Minnesota-Duluth.

These games are getting people up and physically rehearsing, or simulating motion, so we were trying to see if gaming goes beyond symbolic rehearsal and physically simulates an action closely enough that it will change or modify someone’s behaviour, said Downs.

Players who used the push-button video-game controller – a form of symbolic rehearsal – actually did worse in the real-world putting exercise than the other groups, according to Downs. Why we suspect the symbolic rehearsal group did worse than the control group is because the control group didn’t have to spend the previous 45 minutes translating button pushing into putting behaviour, so they came in with more of a clean slate, said Downs.

Using these devices as simulators could have some drawbacks, including simulating skills, such as shooting or fighting, that could be used in negative ways. The study is really about process, and process is going to happen the same way whether the behaviour is considered pro-social or anti-social, said Downs.

The researchers recruited 161 participants from a university and randomly divided them into three groups: one that would operate the motion-controlled game, one that would operate the symbolically controlled game and a control group.

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