Did you know that playing video games can improve your cognitive skills?
Teenage you is probably overjoyed at this statement. After all, how many arguments did you have with your mom about playing too many video games? Turns out, it may have been good for you after all.
Read on to learn all about the importance of hand eye coordination in gaming — and how gaming can improve this important cognitive skill.
What Is Hand Eye Coordination?
Hand eye coordination is the skill that governs how your visual and motor systems work together.
How do you reach out and pick up a cup?
The visual system sends signals to the brain about the cup’s position in space. Your brain then sends information to your motor system about where to position your hand to be able to pick up the cup.
This is all very complex and must be very precise for you to pick up the cup without knocking it over. That’s why little kids seem to be clumsy and knock things over all the time, they haven’t yet developed their hand eye coordination.
Now imagine how fast this process must happen for you to catch a surprise ball or a falling object. As with any skill, practice can speed up your reaction time and improve your overall hand eye coordination.
Without good hand eye coordination, you can’t perform basic daily tasks and some activities, like driving, become more dangerous. Therefore it is crucial for children to develop this skill. Hand eye coordination is important for everything from learning to read to playing sports.
Visual Skills and Gaming
So where do video games fit in this picture? After all, you aren’t actually reaching out and grabbing things in a video game.
First, playing video games can help improve your visual skills. For example, this study from the University of Toronto found that participants who played fast action games like first-person shooters or racing games had improved visual search skills as opposed to those who played a 3D puzzle game.
This means they could pick objects out of an environment more easily. This skill is handy for real-life applications such as reading x-rays, baggage screening, defeating camouflage, understanding satellite images, or even just picking your friend’s face out of a crowd.
A strong visual system is an important aspect of hand eye coordination. If you can’t see what you’re trying to interact with, you can’t interact with it very well.
Based on the study’s findings, playing certain types of video games may be an effective form of “therapy” for developing the visual skills for good hand eye coordination.
Now you can tell your mom that all those hours spent playing video games were worth it after all. You were working on developing your hand eye coordination.
Hand Eye Coordination and E-Sports
While video games can help you develop better hand eye coordination, you also need this skill to be a good gamer. Your hands and fingers need to be able to respond quickly to the visual information you are receiving from the game.
To that end, professional e-sports players (and anyone who would like to improve their gaming skills) can practice small drills to improve their hand eye coordination.
Here are a few ideas:
- Rolling a quarter through your fingers
- Performing ring rolls through your fingers
- Twirling a pen, which works three fingers at a time
- Alternately touching each fingertip to your thumb in rapid succession
- Finger abduction patterns (moving the fingers from side to side)
- Making circles with your fingers
- Crossing the fingers of one hand
- Crossing the fingers of both hands with the palms together
- Placing your hand on a tabletop and lifting each finger independently
All of these exercises can help improve finger speed, dexterity and the coordination needed for serious gaming.
Another part of hand eye coordination is focus. Gamers must be able to zero in on important information in a game to react to it. Reducing outside distractions helps, which is why you’ll see professional gamers wearing noise-canceling headphones to block out sounds around them. They need to be fully focused on the game and able to hear their teammates’ comments to perform their best.
E-Sports and Exercise
Now you might think that esports athletes have no need for physical exercise outside of the finger drills for dexterity that we just mentioned. However, this isn’t true.
While they may not need to train quite as hard physically as an athlete participating in traditional sports, exercise is good for more than just the body. It’s good for the brain.
Exercise helps strengthen motor skills, improve hand eye coordination, and reduce reaction time — all skills that are useful in playing video games.
Additionally, exercise can improve cognitive functions related to attention, flexibility, and speed. It can also strengthen the hippocampus, the region of the brain that is responsible for processing new information and learning.
Exercise also has a profound effect on mental health. It is well-documented that it can help decrease stress, and even lower the incidence of depression and anxiety.
All of these are positive benefits that will give a gamer an edge in gameplay.
Improving Hand Eye Coordination
As we mentioned earlier, with practice you can improve your hand eye coordination skills. Juggling and bouncing a tennis ball against a wall are both great activities for this, but they can get boring quickly.
We have developed a simple game that you can modify in a variety of ways to make it harder as your coordination improves. This also means that our game is perfect for people at any level. Make it easier if you are struggling and then take it up a notch as you improve.
All you need is a HECOstix, a three-legged device that you toss back and forth. You can work on your hand eye coordination and get exercise at the same time — a double bonus for gamers!