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Study: Tencent video game can aid focus

By Aaron Hagstrom in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-02-23 16:53
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A Chinese professor was among a team of researchers who found that Tencent's popular League of Legends video game can increase one's focus.

Weiyi Ma, assistant professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Arkansas, who is working in the US on a H-1B visa, conducted the study with neuroscience researchers from China's Ministry of Education and the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu.

The study - published Feb 13 in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience - found that the visual attentive selection of gamers improved after they played for one hour. That is relevant to physical and cognitive development - two of the four domains of human development, he said.

Ma wrote the paper while also designing the study and analyzing and interpreting the data. Participant-recruitment and testing were done by the team in China, he said.

The study tested 29 male players (finding them easier to recruit) - both experts and nonexperts - of League, a 3D, third-person, multiplayer online battle arena game (MOBA) that was released in 2009. In the game, players take the role of an unseen summoner who controls a skilled champion, and they compete with similar teams.

Gamers in the study were administered visual tests while their brain activity was electrically monitored.

Last November, researchers at the University of York in England found a correlation between high IQ and skillful performance in MOBA games. League was the primary game used in testing, and the study called it "complex, socially interactive and intellectually demanding".

In 2016, League of Legends developer Riot Games reported more than 100 million League players each month. Riot Games, based in Los Angeles, is wholly owned by Tencent, which is headquartered in Shenzhen, in Guangdong province.

League falls within a new genre of cognitively demanding video games - called strategy action video games (AVG) - which can offer new perspectives on the ability of the brain to change throughout a person's life, Ma said. Most research has focused on traditional AVG, leaving strategy AVG understudied, he said.

However, that does not mean the game is beneficial in every aspect, Ma said.

"Our findings do not speak to social and emotional development," said Ma, who is also participating in ongoing research on those aspects. "Based on the preliminary data, we predict that we may find a negative association between video gaming and social and emotional development."

Tencent announced an "anti-addiction" system for its Honour of Kings game last July after receiving complaints from parents and teachers.

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