Sep 25, 2010

How Video Games Reorganize Your Brain.

It is no secret that video games aid players with their hand-eye coordination. A new study shows that playing video games extensively reorganizes how the brain handles difficult visuomotor tasks.

Gaming pundits have been pulling out the eye-hand coordination card for as long there have been video games. Seeing things is easy. Manipulating things with one's hands is simple. Watching one thing while manipulating something else with one's hands is the tricky bit. Since gamers spend a great deal of time watching a screen while manipulating a controller, their eye-hand coordination improves.

Researchers from the Centre for Vision Research at York University in Canada wanted to know how those improvements occurred. They assembled two groups of 13 test subjects. One group played video games for at least four hours a week over the previous three years. The other group did not play.

Each of the 26 young men was placed in a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine and asked to complete a series of increasingly difficult visuomotor tasks.

"By using high resolution brain imaging (fMRI), we were able to actually measure which brain areas were activated at a given time during the experiment," said Lauren Sergio, associate professor in the Faculty of Health at York University. "We tested how the skills learned from video game experience can transfer over to new tasks, rather than just looking at brain activity while the subject plays a video game."

The results found that subjects without extensive gaming experience showed increased activity in the parietal cortex, typically associated with hand-eye coordination. The experienced gamers showed increased activity in the prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain.

By extensively practicing the visuomotor tasks associated with video game play, the gamers changed the way their brains handle such activities.

Gamer brains are special!

The research grants new hope for the treatment of Alzheimer's patients, which often have trouble handling even simple visuomotor tasks.

The researchers hope to enhance their findings in the future by determining how much change occurs per time played. They also plan to test female gamers for the same changes.

Extensive video-game experience alters cortical networks for complex visuomotor transformations [ScienceDirect] [Pic]

Sep 18, 2010

Shooter video games can improve decision making?

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Violent video games like "Call of Duty" can help trigger-happy players make decisions faster in real life, according to a study released on Wednesday.

Researchers from New York's University of Rochester found that first-person shooter games produced a heightened sensitivity and led to more efficient use of sensory evidence.

"These benefits of video games stem only from action games, which almost always means shooter games, where you go through a maze and you don't know when a villain will appear," researcher Daphne Bavelier said in a statement.

"It's not exactly what you'd think of as mind enhancing. Strategy or role-playing games don't have the same effect."

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, involved testing 26 people aged 18 to 25, none of whom had played shooting games before, over several months.

Half of the participants played 50 hours of shooting games like "Call of Duty" and "Unreal Tournament" while the other half played 50 hours of a strategy game, "The Sims 2."

They were then given various tests such as deciding which direction a group of dots on a screen was moving at varying speeds, and deciphering which ear was hearing noises.

The researchers found that the group who had played the shooting games was able to make judgments faster and more accurately. They were found to be 25 percent better at decision making.

"Unlike standard learning paradigms, which have a highly specific solution, there is no such specific solution in action video games because situations are rarely, if ever, repeated," the researchers wrote in their study.

"Thus, the only characteristics that can be learned are how to rapidly and accurately learn the statistics on the fly and how to accumulate this evidence more efficiently." The findings come amid a debate about the pros and cons of violent video games such as first-person shooters.

Research from Texas A&M International University earlier this year found violent video games can increase aggression and hostility in some players but also found that they can benefit others by honing their visual/spatial skills and improving social networking ability.

Source :

Sep 17, 2010

Comparison between Razer Blackwidow Ultimate and Steelseries 7G.

Some may be asking, why just a comparison only between the 2 keyboards. Well, sadly those two are the only mechanical keyboards widely available over here in Malaysia.
Well, technically there are four - Razer Blackwidow, Razer Blackwidow Ultimate, Steelseries 6Gv2 and Steelseries 7G.
The differences between the Blackwidow / Blackwidow Ultimate and 6Gv2 / 7G can all be found online, but in essence there is no difference in performance between models within the respective brands.
So now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's take a look at how the Razer Blackwidow Ultimate stacks up against the Steelseries 7G.

As can be seen the Blackwidow has a larger footprint compared to the 7G sans wrist-rest.

Now over to the side profile, here we can see that the Blackwidow also has a lower profile, but it also has a couple of feet beneath to raise its profile up. The 7G is non-adjustable.

Razer Blackwidow has a USB 2.0 port along with the standard headphone + mic outputs on its side.

Steelseries 7G meanwhile places its two USB ports which are unfortunately 1.1, along with again the standard headphone + mic outputs.

The Blackwidow runs only on USB, which allows it to use gaming-centric drivers by Razer for the usage of macros - afterall it is termed as a gaming keyboard.
The Steelseries 7G meanwhile has an option of connecting using PS/2 - which allows it to have NKRO - or with the included PS/2 to USB adapter.
NKRO or N-key rollover nowadays seems to be a popular term, and while the Blackwidow with its USB connection limits it to a 6-key rollover - how many people actually press more than 6 keys at once? Then again, how many actually use macros?

The main significant difference though between both keyboards is that the 7G uses Cherry MX Blacks switches, while the Blackwidow decides to equip itself with the more clicky Cherry MX Blues.
In terms of actuation force, the Blacks require 60 grams with the Blues requiring a lighter force at 50 grams - though somehow the Steelseries 7G feels much smoother and lighter - guess that's why it pays to learn how to touch type so you do not bottom out the keys.
Whereas with the Blackwidow, one usually presses down on the key til a click is felt and also heard - which is about half its travel distance before bottoming out.

Both keyboards have the typical media control keys. The Blackwidow, like previous Razer keyboards, has an option to disable the Windows key. Steelseries meanwhile simply relocates the Windows key over to beside the Right-Alt key and away from WASD.

Anyway, what is a gaming keyboard without gaming-centric drivers? Unfortunately, Razer still has not made available for public download the drivers required to enable macros for the Blackwidow.
The Steelseries 7G has no such option, rather it is very plain but nevertheless good even though naming it as a gaming keyboard is abit far-fetched.

So in conclusion, how does one choose between these two?
Easiest way would be to look into your wallet, as the Blackwidow is expected to have a list price of RM299 with the Blackwidow Ultimate at RM389.
Steelseries 6Gv2 has a list price of RM379 with the 7G coming in at a monstrous RM579.
At those prices, one would then think the 7G is god-like, perhaps then Razer should've priced the Blackwidows at upwards of RM600 - no surprises then that the Blackwidows are better value for money.