Video Games and Their Impact in Sports

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As an avid fan of Soccer and a fondness for the Fifa video game franchise, I was interested in delving deeper into the details and trying to find an arbitrary relation between the two. While the importance of physical abilities and motor coordination is non-contested in sport, more focus has recently been turned toward cognitive processes important for different sports. Coaches should be innovative in their methods and use concepts familiar to children. If that means allowing the next generation to play a bit more Fifa to learn the advantages of pressing or positioning, so be it.

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They can then progressively take those ideas on to the training pitch and use them productively to make them better players. The game developers could also benefit as they strive towards a ever more realistic implementation of the sport.

Literature Review

Video gaming leads to improved cognition, creativity, sociability, and more. 


Gray, Peter. “Benefits of Play Revealed in Research on Video Gaming.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 27 Mar. 2018,

In this article, the researcher suggests that there is an increase in creativity measured using Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking where children performed better immediately after 30 min of video-gaming. It showed a substantial improvement in an aspect of creative thinking called flexibility.

This may not be an absolute reflection as the performances were compared to those who spent time on cell-phones and the internet thereby giving a relative comparison. It also demonstrated other psychological benefits such as motivation or persistance to stick trying to solve longer than someone who hasn’t played video games, making them less likely to give up, and emotional benefits reducing anger and fear making them less likely to throw tantrums. It also showed social benefits as players would interact with each other online, albeit it’s no comparison to real human interactions, it helped improve basic conversation skills and cooperation.

In general, video games seem to have a healthy impact on our brain, at least when used in moderation and provides several benefits which argue against contrary evidence stating that video games are ’digital heroin’.


“Results overwhelmingly support the idea that video gaming produces many of the same kinds of benefits as other forms of play.”

“A general lesson from video games, reported by many gamers themselves, is that persistence pays off. “

Testing Gamer vs Non-Gamer Brains: How Do Video Games Affect You? | WIRED 


WIRED, YouTube, WIRED Senior Editor Peter Rubin, 25 Oct. 2018,

In a study conducted by WIRED, they conducted cognitive experiments on a pro League of Legends player and an amateur gamer such as testing pure reaction time making them rely on their peripheral vision, testing cognitive processing overload by making them do a set of tasks while being told to do the opposite, and the ability to track multiple objects at the same time.

They found that the pro player significantly outperformed in complex tasks that had more distractions. A question arose asking “is it that people who are good at these tasks are playing games or is there proof that games can actually improve cognition?” It was found that specific games that involve a lot of movement and object tracking action does improve cognition. The main positives are in perception- ability to interpret external stimuli like sights sounds; spatial cognition- ability to orient oneself and navigate around environments; and top down attention- ability to focus on a task with other distractions. Unfortunately the extent of these generalizations aren’t known as although some gamers may exhibit exceptional hand-eye coordination, they may not be very good at catching a baseball.


“?We’ll get more learning gain from smaller sessions spread out over time than one big block”

“Gaming can help with focus, spatial attention, even memory.”

 Virtual realities as optimal learning environments in sport – A transfer study of virtual and real dart throwing


Tirp, Judith & Steingröver, Christina & Wattie, Nick & Baker, Joe & Schorer, Jörg.

(2015). Virtual realities as optimal learning environments in sport – A transfer

study of virtual and real dart throwing. Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling. 57. 57-69.

A study of virtual and real dart throwing regarding the extent of the transferability of these skills between virtual and real learning environments was conducted which involved measuring throwing accuracy (TA) and quiet eye duration (QED) in dart throwing. Using the Microsoft XBox Kinect, the participants were asked to throw darts in pre- and post-tests on a real and on a virtual dartboard. Throwing accuracy was defined as radial distance from the bull’s eye. While Quiet Eye Duration was measured using special eye tracking glasses. Results showed significant differences in TA between groups with the real training group outperforming the control group while the TA was also marginally better in the virtual group. Results for QED showed a significant improvement between tests especially in the virtual group where it was longer and enhanced. As more tests were conducted, both real and virtual training groups improved between tests while the control group performed the worst.

The results showed the efficiency of both training modalities and the difference in training effects between groups suggests actual transferability of skills which could be implemented in real situations.


“O?ne of the main findings in this line of research is that longer quiet eye duration leads to superior results”

“They show that perceptual-motor skills can be trained in novices in a relatively short amount of training”

Developing competencies by playing digital sports-games


Kretschmann, Rolf. “Developing competencies by playing digital sports-games.” (2010). 

This article plays with the idea of playing digital sports games as a way to become more competent in the actual sport itself and then compares it results from more traditional educational methods. 

It explains the types of sports games such as simulation and management games which consist of games like FIFA and Football Manager which this paper intends on analyzing.

It explains how sports simulation games are capable of developing competency in a sport as its model tries to replicate the actual sport itself and has a certain element of realism to it and how these competencies are mainly centred around decision-making and reasoning (which these games improve) and extends into functions such as motor- hand-eye coordination; cognition- problem solving, creativity; as well as emotional and social competence.

Sport learning methods are mentioned such as in NBA 2k Live, the player can learn the exact techniques for different types of shots (lay-up, dunk, hook shot, etc.) which they can then apply in real life.

It mentions how sports and digital games are interdependent as they both influence each other but raises the question of actual motor skills transferability instead of just knowledge, understanding, and cognitive skills.


“Teachers can support the learning process by using digital sport games in physical education classes by giving tasks in analyzing the variety of techniques and their structures, rules and their violations, or exploring successful tactics in the game.”

“The connection or parallelism of digital and real games has always to be made clear to the students.“

Video Games can Improve Performance in Sports–An Empirical Study with Wii Sports Bowling.


Siemon, Andreas & Wegener, R & Bader, Florian & Hieber, Thomas & Schmid, Ute. (2009). Video Games can Improve Performance in Sports–An Empirical Study with Wii TM Sports Bowling.

According to several medical studies, it can be assumed that the training of senso-motor abilities can positively affect actual sports performance in real life situations. In this study, by using the bowling games of the Nintendo Wii as virtual training, experiments were conducted to determine positive effects, if any, on participants’ performance in a real game in a bowling alley. One group took part in a video game training session while the other group received no special training. After that participants of both groups played a game in an actual bowling alley. Results showed a significant positive effect of console training on the mean scores in bowling. Since the groups’ average scores differ considerably, the study provides evidence that the training on the video console had had a significant influence on the performance on the bowling alley.


“It significantly showed that the console training had had a positive effect on the mean scores in bowling. “

“Training with video games can affect strategic thinking processes.”

Executive Functions Predict the Success of Top-Soccer Players


Vestberg, Torbjörn et al. “Executive functions predict the success of top-soccer players” PloS one vol. 7,4 (2012): e34731. 

A good soccer or any team player at a high level could be characterized by certain characteristics such as excellent spatial and divided attention, working memory and mentalizing capacity. They must be able to quickly adapt, change strategy and inhibit responses based on ever-changing scenarios in the game.. Many of these abilities are referred to as “in-game intelligence”” in sports but in neuropsychology, these are collectively referred to as ‘executive functions’. In a study conducted, the participants were sorted into two parts and the approach was to use well-known neuropsychological assessment tools such as the Design Fluency Test, a color-inference test and a trail-marking test, to assess the soccer players’ executive functions. The results showed that both High Division and Low Division players had significantly better measures of executive functions in comparison to the control group for both men and women. The higher division players also outperformed the lower division players in these tests as can be seen by Xavi’s (one of the best midfielders of his generation) results which showed a really fast scanning ability which perhaps gives him an advantage over other players on the pitch in regards to positioning, decision-making, etc.


“?Success in ball-sports also depends on how information is processed given the complex and quickly changing contexts”

“Executive functions are related to only some aspects of IQ” 

3D-Multiple Object Tracking training task improves passing decision-making accuracy in soccer players


Thomas Romeas, Antoine Guldner, Jocelyn Faubert, 3D-Multiple Object Tracking training task improves passing decision-making accuracy in soccer players, Psychology of Sport and Exercise, Volume 22,2016, Pages 1-9, ISSN 1469-0292,

A question then arises asking, “Are these executive functions trainable?” Yes they are, and the training for it is similar to video gaming. In this research, it shows that elite gamers—especially those who play action games or first person shooters, like Counter-Strike—have a lot in common with elite team-sports athletes when it comes to cognitive and executive functions. 

A sport scientist Mayer says. “”Increasing speed of processing, task switching experience, object tracking, all this stuff that we need on the field you can improve through actual video game play, and that’s a scientific approach we’re excited about.”

A study conducted involved a 3D-Multiple Object Tracking training task to improve passing decision-making accuracy in soccer players and is the first to show a actual transfer effect of these skills from virtual training of executive functions to on-field decision making during game-play.

The results showed a vast improvement in their on-field decision making skills compared to control and placebo groups as it trained their brain by increasing their information processing and concentration. Although in the FIFA video game, there’s no technical way to parse the different cognitive skills and track players improvements. But despite that, Mayer acknowledges that the noise in a typical game of FIFA, may improve anyone’s processing speed and thinks the video game could make a difference in the way the game is played.


“Decision-making accuracy in passing, but not in dribbling and shooting, between pre- and post sessions was superior for the 3D-MOT trained group compared to control groups”

“Virtual reality, a technology that is recognized as an important tool to potentially improve sport performance” 

Developmental activities and the acquisition of superior anticipation and decision making in soccer players 


André Roca, A. Mark Williams & Paul R. Ford (2012) Developmental activities and the acquisition of superior anticipation and decision making in soccer players, Journal of Sports Sciences, 30:15, 1643-1652, DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2012.701761

A study conducted on soccer players using a real-life scenario film interpretation was done to determine the decision-making skills and game understanding and then compared to hours of actual soccer played in childhood or adolescence to conclude a relation between the hours of practice (done via a questionnaire) and level of ability of a soccer player based on decision-making metric which based on above mentioned articles, is a sound metric to consider. They found that the development of anticipation and decision-making in soccer is directly influenced by the amount time spent practicing in youth i.e. there is no difference in average hours practiced for similarly skilled soccer players. However, some of these skilled players performed substantially better in the decision-making test meaning there is a difference in perceptual cognitive ability. We can conclude that although playing a video game like FIFA won’t make someone drastically improve as that can only be done by old-fashioned training and practising for hours. However, after a certain level, these games help increase the level of ability through cognitive functions and can give players an advantage over their opponents on the field.


“The ability to anticipate and make decisions is presumed to be particularly important at the elite level in soccer,” 

“Elite players who went on to be offered a professional contract accumulated more hours per year in childhood in soccer-specific deliberate play”

Do cognitive training strategies improve motor and positive psychological skills development in soccer players? Insights from a systematic review.


Maamer Slimani, Nicola Luigi Bragazzi, David Tod, Alexandre Dellal, Olivier Hue, Foued Cheour, Lee Taylor & Karim Chamari (2016) Do cognitive training strategies improve motor and positive psychological skills development in soccer players? Insights from a systematic review, Journal of Sports Sciences, 34:24, 2338-2349,

In the world of soccer, players are principally judged based on three metrics- physical, technical, and tactical. However, often metrics like cognitive and psychological ability is overlooked. This study performs several cognitive experiments in order to judge the player’s cognitive ability in relation to performance. Methods such as self-talk, imagery, relaxation, music and goal-setting were conducted and it was found that they all seem to have a positive effect on soccer performance, at least in terms of motor and psychological skills like self-esteem, confidence, etc.

The results showed that it reduced player’s stress and also made them use their cognitive training to practice technical skills and correct mistakes. They also found that players in certain positions are affected differently such as a midfielder was found to be more responsive to combined cognitive strategies when compared to forwards and defenders.

It suggests that coaches and teams may benefit from the implementing these trainings in order to improve their players’ performances. 


“Cognitive training can enhance skill execution and sporting performance”

“Mental imagery was found to improve motor skills (i.e., dribbling, passing, shooting and checking off, specific soccer skills) or soccer performance in terms of time, error performance, speed and technical quality”

Game Play: What Does It Mean for Pedagogy to Think Like a Game Developer?


Shane Pill (2014) Game Play: What Does It Mean for Pedagogy to Think Like a Game Developer?, Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 85:1, 9-15,

For these strategies involving video-game training in sports to actually take effect, coaches will have to implement them and incorporate them in their trainings. The article describes how ‘a coach must think as a game-developer’ in order to incite the most effective learning strategies. For example, developing a design that allows players to learn from experiences and solve problems which improve their core cognitive functions. It explains how digital game-play is related to sports as they both similar constraints thereby making the learning principles applicable and transferable to both. An approach in teaching physical education like this goes beyond actual set-learning to a more dynamic intellect of decision-making. The video game of FIFA perfectly serves this purpose as the endless scenarios in-game and little intricacies emulating real soccer can help coaches teach players to have a better understanding of the game.


“Physical education teachers should consider the same learning principles as digital game designers.”

“Thinking like a game developer requires thinking about sport teaching as a carefully designed learner-driven system of interconnected experiences”


This literature review analysed articles which related to the main concept behind this research paper. It analysed whether playing video games actually has an impact on our brain and what the difference is between cognitive abilities of pro-gamers and non-gamers. This helps in understanding the point of playing video games like FIFA in the first place and gives us a background on the benefits. Next, it analyzed whether these acquired cognitive improvements can be extended to real-life sports using dart-throwing and bowling as an example. This shows that playing FIFA could a potential relational effect on soccer ability. It then focused on the exact cognitive abilities which would make an impact to soccer players specifically and how to train them which is important to this project as it gives an area to focus on gives a metric like decision-making to use to compare players’ abilities when conducting the actual experiments. The remaining articles give an idea of other possible methods we can use to help improve soccer performance which may stem from FIFA specifically and could help in developing the survey questionnaire. It also mentions what the next steps for coaches are to actually implement this more seriously and see its effects on a higher stage. 

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Video Games and their Impact in Sports. (2019, Oct 07). Retrieved from