Thesis has games all sewn up

James Brooks is researching the merit of computer games.
James Brooks is researching the merit of computer games.

That is the challenge facing Kinross resident James Brooks as he prepares for the final of the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition being held as part of Research Week at Edith Cowan University.

His presentation was selected as one of the best at the School of Engineering and Health Science final on September 4 and he will now compete to be named overall winner on September 17.

Research Week, which runs from September 16 to 20, offers members of the community a chance to get involved with research at ECU.

Mr Brooks is researching whether playing video games can improve a player’s long-term cognitive abilities, including increased attention capacity, faster reaction times and the ability to multitask.

‘Previous research has found that playing first-person shooter games can improve people’s cognitive abilities,’ he said.

‘But previous research only measures these abilities for durations ranging from five to 30 minutes, even though regular gamers play for between two to four hours at a time.

‘My research is investigating whether playing these games not only improves cognitive performance, but whether this increased performance can be maintained not just for 30 minutes but for up to two hours.’

The ECU PhD candidate is using software developed by NASA to train astronauts to measure gamer cognitive abilities compared with non-gamers.

‘My research aims to show that playing video games will help people to keep paying attention for longer periods of time,’ he said.

‘This could be of use not just to NASA pilots, but anyone who needs to concentrate for long periods such as long-haul drivers.’

Mr Brooks said condensing his research down to three minutes was something he was already doing when trying to explain his work to family and friends.

‘The real challenge has been turning the technical knowledge from my field into something a lay person can relate to and understand,’ he said.

Fifty-three PhD and masters students entered the 3MT competition.

The winner will compete in the national finals on October 18.