Long Video Game Play and Time Perception, Chicken and Egg Problem

Video game play

It’s no secret that Dr Shock enjoys a video game now and then. Time flies when I am having fun, at least that’s what I thought.

In recent research this phrase: “time flies when having fun” doesn’t apply to playing video games. Surprisingly the enjoyment values recorded for each task in this trial, 8 minutes reading from screen and 8 min video game play, and 24 minutes game play, were not correlated with the time estimation values. It didn’t matter whether you enjoyed your self or not, this didn’t influence your time estimation (wrong or good).

The results from this study shows that video game dependence defined as longer usual playing length and a greater number of hours spent playing per week are all associated with lower time estimations in the 24-min video game task. Since only the 24-min task is affected by the gaming profile, and not the 8- min task, the gamers seem to lose the track of time only when they immerse themselves in the game for a longer period. Moreover, the ones playing longer and a greater number of hours estimated the total duration of the study correctly. This indicates that they are able to perceive long durations adequately.
Their time estimation mechanisms for long durations are normal, and they just have difficulty estimating long video game playing sessions.

Compared to reading from a computer screen during 8 minutes, video game play for 8 minutes was estimated as shorter than the 8-min reading task. An attention-based hypothesis might explain this finding. The literature provides empirical evidence that an increase in mental workload yields shorter time judgments. Time may be estimated as shorter in the video game task because this Tetris task might require more mental effort than reading. Tetris requires a constant visual-motor coordination in addition to spatial abstraction to make sure the blocks are correctly aligned. As more resources are required to play the game, less attention is available and directed to the passage of time. That’s only for Tetris, can you imagine what would happen when playing Doom or Call of Duty 4.

How was this study done?

116 adolescents (14–15 years old) had to judge prospectively or retrospectively the duration of three consecutive tasks: a 8 min and a 24 min task of playing video game (Tetris) and an 8 min task of reading on a computer screen (control task).

Why is this important?
Adolescents play for a long duration of time not because their timing mechanism is disrupted by the video game but because their time mechanism is disrupted they play longer. The Chicken and Egg problem.

These findings are coherent with the hypothesis that time perception might partially determine playtime; adolescents who have a greater tendency to play video games tend to lose track of time when they play. As adolescents underestimate time when they play, they play for longer that they expected or planned to play. Moreover, they like to play because they lose the track of time when they play. Therefore, timing mechanisms might not only be disrupted by video games, but they might likely also be part of the reason why they play for long periods.

So does Dr Shock play a lot because he has inaccurate time estimations or does he have inaccurate time estimations because he plays a lot? What do you think?

S TOBIN, S GRONDIN (2009). Video games and the perception of very long durations by adolescents Computers in Human Behavior DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2008.12.002