Spatial Reasoning and VIDEO GAMES!

From MathWiki

A discussion about whether or not playing video games effects our skills in spatial reasoning. If so...HOW? and in WHAT WAYS?

Refers to an article entitled, "Place Space & Monkey Brains: Cognitive Mapping in Games & Other Media" by Erik Champion from the University of Queensland in Australia. The article proceeds from the DiGRA 2005 Conference: Changing Views - Worlds in Play.

Recently I have been entrigued by the thought that the countless hours I spent as a child sitting in front of either my T.V. or computer screen playing video games, may have effected my spatial skills. In discussing such a topic with Professor Whiteley, I decided to look into this topic a bit further. I quickly came to realize that the question was not whether or not video games actually affected our spatial skills, but rather, IF they did, HOW did they?

Here are some questions which I have been pondering:

  • Do videogames, the ones on our T.V. and computer screens represent 2D or 3D interaction? Does it depend on the type of videogame? For example, SuperMarioBros. contains mostly 2D graphics, whereby Mario travels in a linear horizontal rightwards direction. Whereas, the graphics in the common flight simulator or car racing games (now, much more advanced than I ever remember them as a child) represent the 3D world.

  • In what ways does the mode of navigation effect the level of 2D or 3D interaction with the videogame? Does playing with a joice-stick, mouse, keyboard or game-controller effect the players spatial ability?

  • In regards to geometry and spatial reasoning, how do children who play videogames for countless hours compare to children who never, or hardly ever, play videogames?

In reading an article by Erik Champion, he writes that he is also very curious as to whether computer games effect our spatial skills. He writes, "...psychology students have suggested to me that computer games can help improve not just hand-eye coordination, but also spatial memory. They related that when they started playing three-dimentional 'shooter' games, they noticed a definite increase in their spatial memory." In Champion's article though, he does not go into detail or scientific research-based evidence to prove his claims. He opens up the discussion of this topic and explains that he is in the process of obtaining fMRI, SSVP and EEG scans of brains in order to support his claims. It would be interesting to find out more about his findings.

In the meantime, I will continue to question the connection between videogames and spatial reasoning. I will probably pay closer attention to those students of mine who describe themselves as "videogame FREAKS!" I will open my eyes to the possibility that videogames are in fact educational. It is the interaction with the world around us, including the virtual world, that has such a strong impact on our spatial skills.