U.S. Naval Research: Gamers make better soldiers

U.S. Office of Naval Research finds that gamers have more advanced cognitive functions that make them better soldiers. Games might be used more actively as training tools.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
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The U.S. Office of Naval Research has found that when it comes to fighting wars around the world, gamers are more capable at taking on the enemy than nongamers.

According to Ray Perez, a program officer in the ONR's warfighter performance department who discussed the findings in the Pentagon Web Radio Webcast, gamers perform "10 [percent] to 20 percent higher, in terms of perceptual and cognitive ability, than normal people that are non-game players."

Perez went on to say that his office has found that video games "increase perpetual abilities and short-term memory." Games also help people focus longer.

The Office of Naval Research is attempting to develop "training technologies and training methods to improve performance on the battlefield." Because current U.S. soldiers are facing "significant challenges," it's becoming more necessary for the U.S. government to find training techniques that improve a soldier's advantage on the battlefield. And according to Perez, gamers might be best equipped to meet those challenges.

Amazingly, the ONR's early research has found that a gamer's improved abilities can last more than two years. That could prove to be extremely valuable to the government, considering that soldiers are typically deployed to war zones for a year at a time.

Although the ONR has a long way to go in determining exactly how video games affect the brain and how they increase the ability of a soldier, researchers are already trying to turn video games into learning tools for today's military personnel. According to Perez, researchers are considering training on mobile devices, as well as simulations in virtual environments.

No mention was made of whether the U.S. government would plan to actively recruit gamers. That said, it would seem like an obvious next choice, considering that they already have the "training" that might make them better soldiers.

The Office of Naval Research will continue to study the effects video games have on soldiers. Look for more on this, as that research is made available.