研究称体验电子游戏可提升玩家认知能力

标签: 资讯频道 体验电子游戏&认知能力 控制小组 游戏调查分析 | 发表时间:2012-07-28 07:48 | 作者:suyane
出处:http://gamerboom.com

作者:Jason Allaire

12岁的Little Timmy告诉父母,他想要一款他所有朋友都在玩的电子游戏。所以父亲就带他到商店去,发现游戏被列为青少年级(13岁以上少年)。

父亲不是非常确定,所以他阅读了游戏背面的文字,发现ESRB有提供匹配评级的内容描述符。这款游戏的描述符包括“血腥场面、低俗幽默、温和语言、暗示性主题,融入酒精和暴力。”其中包含众多负面词汇,更不要说名称中包含“战争”字眼,父亲决定不给Timmy购买这款游戏。非常遗憾。

也许结果可以截然不同。如果这些ESRB标签还包含体验此电子游戏或类似游戏的益处会是什么情况?例如,若下述内容被添加至标签中:“据调查显示,体验此游戏能够提高阅读理解能力,开发领导技能,提交社交互动,提高认知能力。”

在做决策时,用户应清楚其中的积极因素和消极因素。所以为什么用户目前只知其一,不知其二?若体验特定电子游戏的积极心理学益处得到清楚呈现,那么在阅读当前描述时,它们也许会抵消或者甚至是超越我们脑中所联想到的副作用。

ESRB不可能改变其标签机制,这多半会涉及因果联系的法律诉讼,但这并不意味着,开发者和发行商无法附带描述体验其电子游戏益处的调查结果。

体验电子游戏所带来的潜在心理学益处是下文的讨论重点。具体来说,我们的调查主要着眼于体验电子游戏所能带来的认知益处,内容不是非常详尽。随后是提供给有兴趣就自身作品做调查的开发者和发行商的几点建议。

早期电子游戏调查

80年代末、90年代初,随着电子游戏逐步变得无处不在,图像变得越来越写实,情节变得越来越迷人,心理学家开始通过调查研究判断体验电子游戏是否存在负面影响(游戏邦注:例如富有攻击性)。这一研究的相对优点有待进一步探讨(例如:自1996年来,美国暴力犯罪比例有所下滑,而与此同时电子游戏的销量则出现显著提高)。这并不是说,小孩子要过多体验暴力电子游戏;甚至,他们还应该避开暴力电影或电视剧。

鉴于多数调查都锁定潜在消极影响,90年代末,一小群研究人员开始思考,电子游戏是否会带来积极影响。这些早期研究结果大多是他们的假设——体验电子游戏能够带来若干积极影响。研究主要着眼于认知能力,这有其合理性,因为许多电子游戏都涉及解决问题、反应时间、记忆、空间能力和注意力之类的认知技能。

这里先要给出一个忠告;这一选择性调查观点只是着眼于市售电子游戏的影响。这并不包含严肃游戏、旨在“拯救世界”的游戏或是游戏化内容(这是目前学术界运用泛滥的术语)。

虽然这些方面的作品非常重要,而且非常有益,但上述类型的游戏显然明确着眼于创造积极结果(例如,减肥和学习化学)。调查表明,这些游戏的益处更多是“概念验证”。遗憾的是,这些旨在“优化生活”游戏的若干开发者并没有科学确立游戏效能,但这不是文章的讨论话题。本文及我们的研究主要着眼于出于娱乐目的的市售电子游戏。

认知能力

多数着眼于体验电子游戏益处的调查研究都主要锁定认知能力,这是表示特定心理机能的广义术语,例如,记忆、处理速度、工作记忆、空间能力、注意力和感知能力。所有这些认知能力都通过具体测试进行衡量,很多都和智力测验相似。

Brain from gamasutra.com

Brain from gamasutra.com

Bravier和Green的著作被普遍认为是最先研究认知和电子游戏关系的内容。在系列调查中,他们将惯常电子游戏大学生玩家(游戏邦注:例如,过去6个月里,1周里有4天玩电子游戏,每天至少1个小时)的认知能力同非电子游戏玩家的大学生进行比较。

据惯常电子游戏群体表示,他们体验如下游戏作品:《侠盗猎车手III》、《半条命》、《反恐精英》、《疯狂出租车》、《军团要塞经典版》、《蜘蛛侠》、《光晕》、《Marvel vs. Capcom》、《Rainbow Six: Rogue spear》和《超级马里奥赛车》。

通过进行不同研究,两位作者发现,惯常电子游戏群体在视觉注意、空间能力和视觉短时记忆技能的测试上比非电子游戏群体表现突出。

电子游戏-认知的关系甚至还出现在你不会将他们同“电子游戏”联系起来的参与者身上。在针对150位65岁以上成年者所做的调查中,我们发现,有一半人每月至少玩1次电子游戏。这些“祖辈级玩家”的认知能力(包括记忆、反应时间和空间能力)比非玩家老人更高。事实上,他们在着眼于评估真实记忆能力的测试中也表现更突出。

总的来说,多数证据表明,玩电子游戏的玩家在认知能力的测试中比非玩家表现得更突出。我们的著作并非唯一证据;其他研究也表明,平均来说,体验电子游戏的年长者比非玩家年长者拥有更杰出的认知能力。

这是否存在因果联系?

你无需获得心理学博士学位或者甚至是学士学位,就能够发现,这些调查结果并不存在任何因果联系。和任何具有认知挑战性的活动一样,享受或需要这类挑战的群体趋向于被游戏吸引。当然,很可能一开始就具备更高认知能力的群体更倾向于玩电子游戏,而非玩电子游戏给他们带来更高的认知能力。

因此,要检验其中因果关系,我们得采用试验设计,在此参与者会进行基准评估,然后被分配至控制组或在一定天数里体验电子游戏一定时间的小组中。结束训练后,所有参与者将进行后续测试,就小组间的表现变化进行比较。这些试验设计研究也被称作是干预或训练研究,因为他们的目标是,提高(干预)认知能力,体验电子游戏被视作是一种训练形式。

Green和Bavilier采用试验设计,在此鲜有或没有电子游戏体验经验的参与者被分配至体验《俄罗斯方块》的控制小组或是体验《荣誉勋章:联合袭击》的小组中。两个小组连续10天每天体验1小时他们所分配到的游戏。

在有关视觉注意的后续测试中,《荣誉勋章》小组的表现比《俄罗斯方块》控制小组突出。这些结果也体现在其他基于《荣誉勋章》和《虚幻竞技场2004》进行比较的调查中。事实上,据某调查显示,空间能力预先存在的性别差异(游戏邦注:女性的表现不如男性)在体验FPS游戏10个小时之后逐步消失。

在我们的研究实验室中,我们研究体验《魔兽世界》是否能够给65岁以上成年人的认知能力带来任何益处。我们将20位参与者分配到某控制小组中,另17人分配到试验小组,我们向后一小组成员提供《魔兽世界》,告诉他们在未来两周里,他们至少要体验游戏14个小时。我发现,在这两周里,平均体验15小时的参与者晋升至关卡11,完成14个关卡任务。

我们基于他们的基准表现查看《魔兽世界》小组的认知提高情况;低于基准水平的参与者在注意力和空间能力上出现显著提高,而控制小组则未出现这一情况。

在另一研究中,年长者在4-5周里体验《国家的崛起》23.5小时。相对于控制小组,玩《国家的崛起》的参与者在若干认知测试(包括归纳推理、短期和工作记忆)中能力出现显著提高。

现实转移

上述研究还发现,源自体验电子游戏的认知收获能够转移至现实技能中。例如,在某项调查中,医学生分别被分配至3个小组中:一个是被告知避免体验电子游戏的控制小组,一个是体验《半条命》的3D游戏小组,还有一个是体验《国际象棋大师》的2D小组。

brain halflife from gamasutra.com

brain halflife from gamasutra.com

学生进行有关手术技能的虚拟现实测试,这主要基于空间能力、心理旋转和反应时间之类的技能。两个游戏小组每天体验游戏30-60分钟,每周5天,持续5周——这之后他们重新进行测试。

体验《半条命》的学生在手术技术测试中比其他两个小组表现更突出。同样,某研究表明,体验电子游戏的腹腔镜外科医师比其他医师速度快27%,所犯的手术失误少37%。事实上,手术经验和多年实践在预测手术技能方面并不如先前的电子游戏体验经历有效。

Constance Steinkuehler及其同事一直都认为,体验电子游戏,尤其是MMO游戏,会给青少年带来更高的读写能力和书面交流能力。最近,他们发现,当高中MMO玩家被赋予选择机会时,他们多半会选择阅读同游戏相关的信息文本。

通常,这些材料是基于12年级的阅读水平,文本中20%的词汇都是学术性质,而只有4%的文本属于玩家俚语。此外,“阅读有困难的读者”在阅读游戏相关的文本中达到94-97%的准确性,比“学术定义中的识字水平”高出7-8级。这些发现表明,体验电子游戏的儿童会参与游戏相关的智力模拟活动(如阅读),他们的识字水平会比学术测试的评估高很多。

研究你的游戏

若你是位开发者或发行商,调查体验你电子游戏的潜在益处听起来非常有趣,在此你有两个选择。第一选择是和学术研究者合作,展开评价研究。第二个选择是自己进行调查研究。

两种方法都有其利弊。和学术人员合作的优点是,能够低成本完成研究工作。投靠诸如MacGyver之类的学者——当你没有调查资源时。提供游戏副本,也许是若干硬件,大学生的薪金水平能够让你维持较长时间。

一个弊端就是时间。质量研究需要花费时间(介入研究需要花费更多时间)。其次,大学会就学校的任何研究征税。

这一税收被称作是,设施和管理成本(F&A),它负担学校进行研究的设备(例如,公共事业设备、建筑折旧、资本货物折旧、维护和修理以及存储库)和管理费用(例如,HR、工资单和科研管理办公室)。

F&A利率会因机构而变化,普遍利率是40%;所以如果研究人员需要10万美元做研究,这其实会耗费你14.9万美元。额外的4.9万美元是借助大学机构做研究的成本。这依然相当便宜,相比雇佣他人,进行内部研究的成本而言。

另一和学术人员合作的益处是,他在研究设计、数据分析和诠释方面的客观性。若开发者公布内部调查结果称,其消灭僵尸的游戏能够提高思维速度,大家依然会心存疑虑。但如果此开发者和学术人员合作(游戏邦注:就像制药公司和合同研究机构合作,共同进行药物测试),那这就能够一定程度上脱离具体产品,减轻公众的客观性疑虑。

内部进行调查是个绝佳选择,尤其是当你想要在调查问题上享有完整控制权。学术人员不清楚ROI代表什么意思,所以他们想要提出的调查问题不会结合你的盈亏情况。此外,若进行内部调查,你就会对数据享有所有权及控制权。学术人员需要公布他们的调查成果,无论是积极,还是消极结果,亦或是二者皆有。公布信息和公布方式也许不会将你的商业模式考虑在内。因此,获得数据控制权非常重要。

当然进行内容部调查的弊端是,需要雇佣能够胜任调查工作的人员。Valve、Bungie和微软等公司有效吸收具备心理学和相关领域博士学位的杰出研究人才。但将某人培养成学术人才,将其置于商业背景中是件难事,在此研究工作不仅仅是为了追求知识。

或者,寻找具备商业经验但鲜有研究经验的人员将带来灾难性后果——进行合格调查不只是要有营销学位。若主要目标是进行理论和经验上都合理的调查研究,回答具有商业价值的问题,那么的首个关注点就是雇佣经过正式培训,富有研究经验的人员。你的第二个关注问题是,帮助他们认识到调查研究如何提高公司的利润率。就学术职业市场的现状来看,找到符合职业要求的人员并不困难。

最后,无论你采用何种方式,你都不会蒙受损失。我们的建议是,如果你目前没进行过调查研究,但想要进行尝试,和学术人员合作是明智选择。这是低承诺的选择,能够让公司接触科学领域。若你已做过些许研究,热衷于某构思,想要大规模展开调查,那么雇佣有博士学位的研究人员是我们推荐的方式。

总结

食品公司是对的。他们必须附带营养成分标签,以准确显示食品包含的具体糖分、卡路里和脂肪。若某食品尝起来很不错,那么其中某个标准定非常高。但在同个盒子上,他们也许还会兜售“高纤维”或是“吃早餐的儿童在学校表现更突出!”

电子游戏公司也需要植入“营养标签”,但他们未能突出积极因素(除你能够消灭僵尸之外)。我们期望在自己所购买的下款电子游戏中看到“能够提高思维速度!”(本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,拒绝任何不保留版权的转载,如需转载请联系:游戏邦)

Game Research, and What it Means to You

by Jason Allaire

Little Timmy age 12 tells his parents he wants a video game that all his friends are playing. So Dad takes him down to the store and finds that the game is rated Teen. Hmm…

Dad is not sure so he reads the back of the game and finds that the ESRB provides content descriptors to go along with the rating. The descriptors for this game include “Blood and Gore, Crude Humor, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence.” That is a long list of pretty negative words, not to mention that the title has the word “war” in it, so Dad decided against buying the game for Timmy. Sorry Timmy.

Perhaps this outcome could have been different. What if that same ESRB label also included all the positive benefits of playing that particular video game or games just like it? For instance, what if the following were added to the label: “Research has shown that playing this game is linked to: improved reading comprehension; leadership skill development; increased social interaction; improved cognitive functioning.”

When making decisions, consumers should know the positives as well as the negatives. So why are consumers currently getting just one side of the story? If the positive psychological benefits of playing a particular video game were known they may counterbalance or even outweigh the perceived negative effects conjured up when reading current content descriptors.

It is unlikely the ESRB will change its labeling system, and there are probably legal issues with making strong causal claims, but that does not mean that developers and publishers can’t support, conduct, and publicize research that promotes the benefits of playing their video games.

It is the potential psychological benefits attributable to playing video games that are the focus of the following discussion. Specifically, we provide a selective, non-exhaustive review of the research with a particular focus on the benefits afforded to cognition by video game playing. After which, some advice for developers and publishers interested in having research done on their games will be provided.

Early Video Game Research

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, as video games became more ubiquitous, the graphics more realistic, and the plots more engaging, psychologists began research to determine if there were negative implications to playing video games such as increased aggression. The relative merits of this research, still a hot area of inquiry, are open for some debate (i.e., since 1996 violent crime rates in the U.S. have declined while the sales of video games has increased). This is not to say that young children should play excessively violent video games; indeed, they probably should also avoid violent movies or TV.

Given all the research on the potential negative effects, in the late ’90s a small group of researchers started wondering if video games might have some positive benefits. The results of these early studies by and large confirmed their hypothesis — playing video games was related to some positive outcomes. The majority of this research has focused on cognitive functioning which makes sense given that many video games require cognitive skills like problem solving, reaction time, memory, spatial ability, and attention to play the game.

A caveat needs to be made before proceeding; this admittedly selective review of the research only focuses on studies examining the impact of commercially available video games. It does not include research on serious games, games designed to “save the world”, or “gamification” (perhaps the most overused term in academia, currently).

While the work in these areas is important, and no-doubt beneficial, the resulting games are explicitly developed to produce positive outcomes (e.g., losing weight, learning chemistry). Research showing the benefits of these games is a more a “proof of concept” than anything else. Unfortunately, some of the the developers of these “make life better” games do not scientifically establish the efficacy of their games, but that is a topic for another article. So this article, as well as our own research, is concerned with commercially available video games made for entertainment purposes.

Cognitive Functioning

Most of the research examining the positive benefits of playing video games has focused on cognitive functioning, a broad term used to refer to a whole host of specific mental abilities such as memory, processing speed, working memory, spatial ability, attention, and perceptual skills. Each of these cognitive abilities is measured using specific tests, many of which are similar to or the same as measures of intelligence.

The work by Bravier and Green is widely considered the first set of studies examining the relationship between cognition and video games. In a series of studies they compared the cognitive functioning of undergraduates who were habitual video game players (e.g., played action video games four days per week for at least one hour per day over the last six months) to a group of undergraduates that were non-video game players.

Participants in the habitual video-game group reported playing the following games: Grand Theft Auto III, Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Crazy Taxi, Team Fortress Classic, Spider-Man, Halo, Marvel vs. Capcom, Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear, and Super Mario Kart.

Across the different studies, the authors found that the habitual video game group performed significantly better on tests of visual attention, spatial ability, and visual short-term memory skills compared to the non-video gaming group.

The video game-cognition relationship is even found in participants who you don’t think of when the word “video game” is used. In a study of over 150 adults over the age of 65 conducted in our lab we found that almost half our sample played video games at least once a month. Those “gaming grannies” performed significantly better than non-gaming older adults on a wide range of cognitive abilities including memory, reaction time, and spatial ability. In fact, they even performed better on measures designed to assess their real-world memory ability.

By and large the preponderance of the evidence suggests that individuals who play video games perform better on measures of cognitive functioning than individuals who do not play video games. Our work is not alone; other studies have found that older adults who play video games have, on average, better cognitive functioning than those older adults who do not.

Is There a Causal Relationship?

You don’t need a doctorate in psychology, or even an undergraduate degree, to realize that these findings can’t tell us anything about causality. As with any activity that is cognitively challenging, people who enjoy or need that challenge gravitate to toward something like games. It, of course, is possible that people with higher cognitive functioning to begin with are more likely to play video games, rather than playing video games causing better cognition.

Consequently, to test causality, experimental designs have been utilized where participants are assessed at a baseline (pretest) then assigned to a control group or a group that plays a video game for a set number of hours over a set number of days. After the training is over, all participants return for a posttest, and the changes in performance are compared between the groups. These experimental design studies are also referred to as intervention or training studies, since their goal is to improve (intervene) in cognitive functioning, and playing video games is considered a form of training.

Green and Bavilier used an experimental design where participants with little or no video game playing experience were assigned to a control group that played Tetris or to a group that played Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. Both groups played the game they were assigned to for one hour a day for 10 consecutive days.

The Medal of Honor group had significantly greater pretest to posttest improvement on measures of visual attention then then Tetris control group. These results have been replicated in other studies also using Medal of Honor as well as Unreal Tournament 2004. In fact, in one study, pre-existing gender differences in spatial ability — females performed more poorly than males — were eliminated after 10 hours of playing an FPS.

In our research lab, we examined whether playing World of Warcraft provided any benefits to the cognitive functioning of adults over the age of 65. We assigned 20 participants to a control group, and another 17 to the experimental group, who were given a copy of WoW and told to play for at least 14 hours over the next two weeks. We found that, over the two weeks, participants averaged 15 hours of playtime, reached level 11, and completed 14 quests.

We examined cognitive improvement in the WoW group based on their baseline performance; participants who were performing poorly at baseline showed significant improvements in attention and spatial ability that were not seen in the control group.

In another study, older adults played Rise of Nations for 23.5 hours over a four to five week period. Relative to the control group, participants who played Rise of Nations exhibited substantial gains on a number of different measures of cognition including task inductive reasoning and short-term and working memory.

Real-World Transfer

The above studies have also found evidence that the cognitive benefits due to video game playing transferred to real-world skills. For example, a recent study assigned medical students to one of three groups: a control group who were told to refrain from playing video games, a 3D gaming group that played Half-Life, or a 2D group that played Chessmaster.

The students completed a pretest which included a virtual reality test of their surgical skills, which relied upon abilities such as spatial ability, mental rotation, and reaction time. The two gaming groups played 30 to 60 minutes each day, five days a week, for five weeks — after which they returned and took the tests again.

The students that played Half-Life performed significantly better on the tests of surgical skills than the other two groups. Similarly, a study found that laparoscopic surgeons that played video games were 27 percent faster and made 37 percent fewer surgical errors. In fact, surgical experience and years of practice were not as good as prior video game playing experience in predicting surgical skills.

Constance Steinkuehler and her colleagues have long argued that playing video games, specifically MMOs, leads to higher levels of literacy and written discourse in adolescents. Recently, they found that when high school MMO players were given a choice, they most frequently elected to read informational text related to gaming.

On average, these sources were written at a 12th grade reading level, and 20 percent of the vocabulary in the text was academic, while only 4 percent of the text was gamer slang. Furthermore, kids who were supposedly “struggling readers” actually performed with 94 to 97 percent accuracy on gaming related texts which were seven to eight grades above their so-called “academically defined literacy level.” These findings suggest kids who play video games engage in intellectually stimulating activities (i.e., reading) outside but associated with gaming and their literacy level may be actually much higher than what is assessed by academic tests.

Research for your Game

If you are a developer or publisher and the idea of doing research on the potential benefits of playing your video games sounds interesting, you have two options. The first option is a partner with an academic researcher for evaluative studies. The second option is to do the research yourselves.

Both of these approaches have pros and cons that should be considered. One pro of collaborating with an academic is the potential to get the research done for relatively cheap. Academics are like MacGyver — when it comes to having no resources to do research. Providing copies of the game, maybe some hardware, and the salary of a graduate student will go a long way.

One of the drawbacks will be time. Quality research takes time (and intervention research takes even more time). Second, universities charge what is in essence a tax on any money awarded to the university for research.

This tax is called Facilities and Administration costs, or F&A, and it covers the costs incurred by the university in the pursuit of research related to facilities (e.g., utilities, depreciation on buildings, depreciation on capital equipment, maintenance and repair, and libraries) and administrative components (e.g., HR, payroll, research administration office).

The F&A rate varies by institution, but one common rate is 49 percent; so if a researcher needs a $100,000 for a study, it will actually cost you $149,000. That extra $49,000 is the price of doing research with a university. This still might be pretty cheap, considering the costs of hiring someone and performing the work in-house.

Another benefit of collaborating with an academic is the objectivity he/she brings to the research design, data analysis, and interpretation. There might be some level of skepticism if a developer releases the results of an in-house study suggesting that that its zombie killing game improves thinking speed. But if this developer partnered with an academic, much like a pharmaceutical company partners with contract research organization for drug testing, then there is a level of detachment from the product which alleviates some concerns about objectivity.

Doing the research in-house is a good option, particularly if you want to have total control over the research questions. Academics do not understand what ROI means, so the research questions they want to ask may not exactly match up with your bottom line. In addition, if conducted in-house, then you have and ownership and control of the data. Academics need to publish the findings of their studies regardless if they are positive, negative, or mixed. What could potentially be reported or how it is reported might not match up with your business model. Consequently, having control of the data might be important.

Of course the downside of doing things in-house is hiring someone who can actually do the research. Companies like Valve, Bungie, and Microsoft have done an excellent job attracting talented researchers with PhDs in psychology and related fields. However, it can be difficult taking someone trained as an academic and placing them in a business setting, where research is done not purely for the pursuit of knowledge.

Alternatively, taking someone who has business experience but little research experience could have disastrous effects — you need more than a marketing degree to conduct sound research. If the goal is to conduct theoretically and empirically sound research to answer questions that have business value, then your first concern is to hire individuals with the formal training and the experience to conduct the research. Your second concern is helping them develop an understanding of how the research can and will be used to increase the profitability of the company. Given the state of academic job market, finding someone with the qualifications might not be too hard.

Ultimately, you can’t lose either way you go. We would suggest that if you are not currently doing research but want to, then partnering with an academic is a good idea. This is a low-commitment option and allows you to get your company’s feet wet with science. If you are already doing some research, or sold on the idea and want to start in a big way, then hiring a PhD trained researcher is the approach we would suggest.

Conclusion

Cereal companies have it right. They are required to have a nutrition label that shows EXACTLY how much sugar, calories, fat is in each serving, and if it is a cereal that tastes good, one or all of these values will be high. However, on the same box, they might also tout “Great Source of Fiber!” or “Kids that eat breakfast do better at school!”

Video game companies are required to have “nutrition labels” too, but they fail at pointing out the positives (besides the fact that you can kill zombies). We would love to see on the cover of our next video game purchases, “Has been shown to improve thinking speed!”(Source: gamasutra

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