Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Can Driving Games Improve Your Real-World Driving Skills?

When you’re leaping through a hail of bullets, diving through an explosion, and landing hand grenades onto the back of space ships in Halo, it can be hard not to feel at least a little bit impressed with your own abilities. Sure, it’s only a computer game and it’s obviously not real, but there is always the thought at the back of your mind that just maybe you could do it in real life too – after all, you’ve displayed all the reactions and the tactical genius necessary… how much harder can it be to do it all for real?

Of course you might even have considered that the simple act of playing Halo, could have even made you better in a gunfight should the need ever arise. And in that case, couldn’t playing a snooker game make you better at playing snooker in real life? And could playing a driving game make you better at driving?

That last point is actually quite an interesting one, seeing as driving is something that we all need to do on an almost daily basis, and that can be quite dangerous. If playing computer games could really improve your ability to drive well, then that would actually be very useful and it might even be worth going out of your way to play more driving games. Let’s take a look then at whether or not that could really be the case…

The Difference Between Driving and Pretending to Drive

The first thing to bear in mind is that there are indeed a lot of differences between driving in real life and driving on the Xbox. The first is the feedback that you get from driving – when you drive in real life you can feel the engine growl underneath you, you can feel the tug of the steering wheel as it tries to return to the neutral position, and you can feel the weight of the pedal as you push it down. Simply pulling the right trigger on a game controller just doesn’t have that same feel to it, and unfortunately it’s not really a very effective simulation. Sure you can make it a little more realistic – by using a steering wheel controller for instance – but that’s still only going to go so far.

At the same time, driving for real means dealing with a lot more information and a much wider field of vision. Most driving games are about F1, or about grand theft auto – they don’t require you to keep an eye out for people crossing the road, or to follow the highway code, thus they could potentially even lull you into a false sense of security when driving. Worst of all, these games often have entirely different objectives to real world driving – sometimes actually encouraging you to crash or at least have ‘near misses’. Not exactly great practice for real-world driving…

On the Other Hand…

But games aren’t out of the race just yet – you see playing computer games can actually have a very positive impact on your brain. Many studies have shown how computer games can improve your reaction times for example, as well as your concentration and even your ability to split your attention between tasks. These are all skills that you would have to use when driving, and so it’s easy to imagine how that might be beneficial when you’re really on the road. But the surprising part of this, is that it’s not necessarily the driving games that will improve your driving most. It may well be that you’re better off playing something that simply demands a lot of attention and good reflexes – such as Space Invaders or Tetris.

At the same time, it’s also worth considering that some ‘games’ are designed specifically to help your driving in other ways. There are plenty of software packages out there aimed at learner drivers for instance, and these can help to challenge your perception by getting you to press keys whenever you spot hazards or just to become more familiar with the highway code by testing your knowledge.

So no, ‘Need for Speed’ isn’t going to help you to get to work any safer or more efficiently each morning. That said though, it’s still an awful lot of fun and it may just improve your reactions that little bit – which can sometimes make all the difference.

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Todd Jacobson, the writer of this post, is a driving instructor at a race driving school in Florida. He is a blogging enthusiast and loves to share his knowledge on sports cars and driving techniques through guest posting.

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