We've seen more than a few recent studies that have turned out in the gamer's favor but this one…well, not so much.
According to GamePolitics , the latest bit of research from Iowa State University documents a distinct link between "frequent" video game playing and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). The title of the study was, "Video Games and Cognitive Control," and it was designed to test the affect of game playing on two types of cognitive activity: proactive and reactive. Proactive is apparently a "preparation" mechanism, where we get ourselves ready for what's coming up around the next corner. Reactive is exactly what it sounds like. Now, there were two groups – the "frequent" players and the "occasional" players – and both were asked to perform the Stroop task. This tests both aforementioned attention types with brain waves and responses; for the exact details of this test, head through the link above. As for the results, while reactive control was similar in both groups, the "frequent" gamers exhibited "significantly diminished proactive attention." From the press release:
"These data reveal a reduction in brain activity and disruption of behavior associated with sustained attention ability related to video game experience, which converges with other recent findings indicating that there is a relation between frequent video game playing and ADD."
They admitted the study had "a few limitations," but they said the results should refute claims that game playing somehow "improves attention." For the record, I don't believe that's what others have been claiming; they talk more about increased reaction time and even better puzzle-solving abilities, for example. Personally, I'm not surprised at the results of the study, as there seems to be an ever-increasing number of gamers out there who can't even sit through a 2-minute cut-scene or 10-second loading screen without becoming annoyed. At this point, I wonder what might happen if we ever had to go back to reading text rather than simply listening to voices…these days, I think most gamers would just skip it all.
Of course, I've always been in the minority. Considering what I read, I seriously doubt that 25 years of gaming has affected my attention. I do believe, however, that it can affect the attention spans of younger people.