Video Games And Your Eyes: Blinded by the Truth?

Earlier this week, I found myself sitting shotgun in my friend's room with my eyes locked to the lower half of his television.  While he was cranking out kill-streaks faster than Rosie the Riveter, my focus was on staying alive long enough to switch out my guns.  Although I was immersed in the virtual combat zone, if anybody were to watch us playing, they would notice the two of us about six inches from his t.v., mouths agape.  Now, growing up playing Sega Genesis, I was always told that if I stared at the screen for too long, then my eyesight will start to go bad.  Years later, I found myself closer to the screen than ever before while being tea bagged by an eighth grader in North Boston.  Is it possible that my video game skills have diminished over the years due to locking eyes with the cathode ray tube for too long?  In other words, does playing video games hurt your eye sight?

"Don't you ever spawn camp again!!!"

You may hear your friend's complain about their eyes hurting after playing video games for a few hours.  They know their eyestrain is caused by staring at the screen, but they might not know why.  Dr. Troy Bedinghaus from gives us some insight of what might cause these problems.  The first concern is because of the focusing issues the eyes have with a t.v.  As the screen is flat, the eye is attempting to gauge distances much differently than if they were looking at printed words or real-life.  He then adds, "[f]urthermore, when playing video games, the eyes tend to become "locked in" to the screen. This may make it difficult for the eyes to focus easily on other objects, even long after the video game is turned off."  Next, Doc. Tod hits us with a tear-jerker because kids tend to not blink as they are maxing out their sub-machine gun ammo on their enemies.  This causes dryness and irritation, making the eyes even worse than before.

"I may not see you, but I can hear your screams."

 But don't throw away your Dreamcast, just yet!  With every issue that has two sides, there is a push to make video games look better than Franklin's Bifocals.  Live Science has published an article of a study by the National Eye Institute that claims children playing shoot-em-ups became up to 58% better at perceiving fine contrast differences.  A real life example would be driving at dusk with a light fog and being able to see the car in front of you far better than others.  As the article says:

The new finding suggests action video game used as training devices may be a useful complement to eye-correction techniques, Bavelier said, since it may teach the brain's visual cortex to make better use of the information it receives.

Now that sounds like science.  But the study took it one notch more and focused on the type of game played rather than video games, themselves.  In the study, they divided folks into two groups.  One group played Unreal Tournament and Call of Duty and the other group played The Sims, a game that starts with designing a house for three hours.  Afterwards, they found that the group who spent a few hours nailing head-shots had a 43% improvement of their ability to discern different shades of grey.  The Virtual Home Economics group had no improvement.    

At lease he had a 43% increase in ladies...

In 2010, ABC News published an article that showed how doctors not only see improvement by playing video games, but video games are even being used to treat vision problems.  The games engage in motor skills and visual skills.  In the long run, this greatly improves treatments of various eye concerns.  I think that seals the deal on the case of eye damage.

In conclusion, I think we can all agree that while one still needs to rest the eyes every now and then in order to let our eyes relax, video games actually improve many aspects of our vision.  So tonight, as I wait for The Office to come on, I will be seated on the right hand side of my housemate's television as Player Deuce and six...nay, four inches from his 1080p noob-tubing some kids from the U.K.  And when I rise from my chair three hours later, I look forward to having so much focus you'd think my eyes took Adderall.

His right eye has the strength of two normal eyes, thanks to video games.