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Did you really need another excuse to go out and buy that latest game for the gaming console of your choosing (assuming you’re not a gaming snob who preaches the superiority of PC)? Well, rejoice, because science has come up with yet another one for you.

“Our research shows that playing easily accessible action video games for as little as 5 hours can be a cost-effective tool to help people improve essential visuomotor-control skills used for driving,” Li Li of New York University Shanghai, lead author on a recent psychological study, was quoted as saying.

Using a driving simulation, the researchers working in the study compared the visuomotor-control skills of experienced action video game players comparative to considerably more inexperienced gamers, and soon found that the experienced gamers had an easier time in keeping to their own driving lane and persisting on a straight path despite considerable headwinds.

Pursuing further, the researchers enlisted the services of individuals with little to no gaming experience and randomly assigned them to either an action video game group, or a control group, in which they were tasked with completing a total of 10 one-hour training sessions. The action video game group were trained by being given a steering-wheel controller to play Mario Kart on gaming giant Nintendo’s Wii console, while the control group were trained using a mouse and keyboard to play Rollercoaster Tycoon III, in which players are tasked with building and maintaining amusement parks. Curiously, the data collected by the study showed that the action group playing Mario Kart saw improvements in their visuomotor skills after as little as five hours, with even further improvements witness after the complete 10 hours of training time. In comparison, the control group tasked with playing Rollercoaster Tycoon saw no such improvement.

Further, the researchers took to proving that improvements upon visuomotor skills were not, in fact, limited to experiences with just action driving games, as they also tasked non-gamers with playing Unreal Tournament, a First Person Shooter game, and saw similar improvements.

“The differing effects of driving and FPS video games on the sensorimotor system suggest that for experienced drivers, who have stable control but need to improve their ability to predict input error signals, training with FPS rather than driving video games is more effective,” says Li Li, “In contrast, for novice drivers, who are still struggling with obtaining stable control, training with driving rather than FPS video games is more helpful.”

So there you have it, video games can really make you a better driver. Cue choruses of “I told you so!” from children to their mothers (or man-children to their significant others) around the globe. Of course, is it really surprising that Mario Kart would make you a better driver, what with the control needed to maintain a steady path around bananas while dodging turtle shells? And let’s not even begin to mention the havoc of Rainbow Road…

You can read the full results of the study here, via Psychological Science, and be thankful that video games have trained you to be experienced for even such chaos as below:

  • Words: James Schofield

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