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It turns out playing Mario Kart can actually improve your driving skills

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David Cornish
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"Go outside," your mum moaned. "Nothing good will ever come from days spent playing Mario Kart."

Au contraire, mother dearest. Research recently published in Psychological Science suggests that playing action video games such as Mario Kart will improve the visual motor skills that are key to driving a real-life car. 

Researchers of  New York University Shanghai and the University of Hong Kong performed two tests to establish if action video games had any impact on "visuomotor abilities": the first saw 'experienced' gamers take on those with no background in gaming in a simple driving simulator test, keeping a car driving on a central path through crosswinds, and tracking a dot with a joystick. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the experienced gamers performed much better at the test - but surely that could just be because they're used to playing driving games, right? 

To test the link further, a second test asked people with no gaming experience at all to perform the same dot-tracking test, but the groups were first giving ten one-hour 'training sessions': half the test group playing Mario Kart with a steering wheel controller, the other half playing Roller Coaster Tycoon III with a mouse and keyboard. We know - where was our invite to this kind of vital research, right?

The researchers found that the group playing Mario Kart performed much better in the visuomotor test, while those playing Roller Coaster Tycoon III received no such improvements. 

However - another test (we just think these researchers love finding excuses to play video games) suggested that experienced drivers might best improve their driving skills if they played first-person shooter games, such as Unreal Tournament.

"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," explained Li Li of New York University Shanghai. "In contrast, for novice drivers, who are still struggling with obtaining stable control, training with driving rather than FPS video games is more helpful."

Here's hoping car insurance companies start taking into account time spent on Mario Kart to reduce rates in the near future, yeah?

[Via: Psychological Science]

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David Cornish

Shortlist.com’s esteemed Tech Editor. David has a keen interest in video games, Star Wars and stuff that runs on batteries.

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