Video Games and Learning to Drive

As “Battlefield 1” launches, Owner of BIG TOM Driving School, Tom Ingram discusses how learning a new video compares to learning to drive.

The very latest Battlefield has just been launched and it packs a mighty punch!

It may come to the surprise of some that actually, just the experience of negotiating your way around this latest battle ground extravaganza does actually offer Learners some valuable experience.  It helps to recognise how it affects you physically and mentally as you play it because much of these symptoms are repeated when you learn to drive. This blog will suggest however, there is one pretty significant drawback.  But let me start with describing the effects of learning a new video game.

You will be engrossed in it, time will fly by, and if you get in tune with your body, you will notice a few other important signs that you need to be aware of to manage the experience.  Your pulse will be heightened and it will remain in this state except for a few brief lapses while the next level loads – this will simply be due to the increased sense of anxiety and stimulus of the “fight or flight” impulse in you that is triggered by what you are seeing.  You will be breathing shorter breaths, more frequently and this will inevitably mean that every once in a while, you will take a very deep breath, almost like a sigh, and it is simply a response from your body to say it needs more oxygen.  Your eyes will stare at the screen – such are your concentration levels, if you wear contact lenses, this may cause them to dry.  Your sense of hearing will diminish, people around you may be talking to you, but you cannot divert the attention required in your brain, not even for a second, to actually listen to what they are saying.  Some people experience this is as a dull background noise that they can hear but not register, other people will quite simply not hear anything in the background and solely be hearing the noise relating to the game.  Muscles might begin to ache from the inactivity of sitting dead still – this may affect the arms, neck, shoulders, lower back.  Some people will sweat as they play the game; so caught up in the action, the body is responding to all these physiological stimuli.  Players will generally keep speech to a minimum, this is due to the same reason as the loss of hearing – the brain will struggle to compose sentences and concentrate on the game in hand.  Speech tends to be rare, very short, with just a word or two, and tends to be loud which is just a reflection of the state of anxiety the player is in at the time.  If you ignore how this is affecting you, and continue to play for long periods of time, inevitably not only will you suffer physically, but also it affects your mental state of mind.  Let’s take a look at what is happening with the brain as you play.

Mentally, also much is happening.  Compare what is happening for the brain to deal with when playing the game with learning to drive.  The alertness levels are spiked to the max, the player is attempting to identify lots of sources of information coming from a range of senses: visual, aural and touch.  The brain is attempting to work out the planning required to achieve the goal/objective for the level, whilst also dealing with the “here and now” immediate issues that have to be managed.  The skill of perceiving danger ahead is being learnt, through trial and error; the brain is learning how dangers can develop at differing rates of speed and also from ALL around, not just what is seen in front.  There is multi-tasking going on in the extreme, from the point of view of the necessary hand to eye co-ordination and also with regards to the number of tasks attempting to be achieved at the same time.  The skill of learning specific sequences to achieve desired outcomes is being developed – the brain is controlling the timing and the mental dexterity of such sequences.  The skill of anticipation is being developed; anticipating impending danger as well as what simply might occur as a result of the numerous actions of other ‘live’ members playing at the same time.  There is a great deal of learning about the strengths and weaknesses of the variety of equipment that can be selected for use, and how these affect outcomes.  Without any visual identification, players begin to instinctively recognise when there is an opposing player nearby of superior strength which represents a very real danger.  They begin to unconsciously associate with specific behaviours that lead to positive outcomes; they are able to identify which of these behaviours they feel confident in and which they do not like.

All of these actions are being developed at an alarming rate, and with differing degrees of success.  As with learning to drive the amount of progress is dependent on time, effort, natural ability and energy levels.  The motivation for investing those resources will alter for different people, but just like learning to drive, there can sometimes be pretty extreme peer pressure to achieve certain levels in given timescales.

How much this is a problem in real terms is still being discovered, but one of the concerns with learning in the comfort of a video game is that repeatedly learning by trial and error with no real consequences can possibly create an attitude to assessing risk which is not conducive when learning to drive.  Higher levels of the Goals for Driver Education encourage a driver to develop the ability to recognise risk-increasing factors such as sensation seeking, peer pressure, adapting to social pressure, alcohol/drug use, attitudes to society, acceptance of risk and when video games are being played, typically very few of these factors are being considered at all.  Players will not necessarily recognise any kind of ‘risk’ that is increased with fatigue brought on by the time in the day/night the game is played, the duration of playing, the presence of alcohol/drugs, the affect peers have on performance.  As a consequence, one of the concerns is that there is no appreciation of a connection between significant influencers and resultant poor performance.  Raising a learner drivers ability to self-evaluate performance and identify what causes differing ability to drive is fundamentally key to road safety, as only by developing that connection in a newly qualified drivers mind can there be any chance of continued learning of how their own personal behaviours are being affected.  It is in this subject of higher order cognitive skills, that video games just fail to develop the critical thinking that is so necessary to become a safe driver.

BIG TOM Driving School provides 5 Day Intensive Driving Courses in Peterborough, Grantham, Lincoln, Boston, Stamford, Spalding and Bourne – we will help you discover how you get your driving licence faster 0800 689 4174  or Email HERE


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