Mobile game Cut the Rope improves ability to think on your feet: NTU study

The iPhone game: Cut The Rope. -- SCREENGRAB: APPLE 
The iPhone game: Cut The Rope. -- SCREENGRAB: APPLE 

SINGAPORE - Want to improve your mental finesse? Playing a puzzle game like Cut the Rope may be just the thing you need, say researchers from Nanyang Technological University.

Dr Michael D. Patterson, an assistant professor in psychology, and PhD student Adam Oei found that playing this popular mobile game helped people to think on their feet better.

Previously, no casual mobile games have not been found to confer on players "this type of broad improvement to executive functions, which are important to general intelligence, dealing new situations and managing multitasking", said Dr Patterson.

For the study, 55 undergraduates, all non-gamers, were asked to play one of four games - action game Modern Combat, real-time strategy game Starfront, arcade game Fruit Ninja and puzzle game Cut the Rope - for 20 hours across four weeks.

Before and after the gaming period, they were given a series of tests which measured how fast they could switch tasks, how fast they could adapt to a new situation and how well they could focus on information while blocking out distractions.

Only those who played Cut the Rope showed significant improvements in all three tasks. After 20 hours of game play, they could switch between tasks 33 per cent faster than before, were 30 per cent faster in adapting to new situations and 60 per cent better in blocking out distractions.

Cut the Rope requires players to feed candy to a little green creature called Om Nom while collecting stars. The candy hangs by one or several ropes which players must cut. One meets more obstacles on the way and needs to change strategies in order to meet the goal.

Dr Patterson said: "Cut the Rope improved executive functions probably due to its unique puzzle design. Strategies which worked for earlier levels would not work in later levels. This regularly forces players to think creatively and try alternate solutions. This is unlike most other video games which keep the same general mechanics or goals and just need players to speed up or increase the number of items they keep track of."

Previous studies have shown that action shooter games improve players' visual acuity.

Dr Patterson, however, cautioned against game addiction.

"You could be playing this on the MRT or waiting in line. But if this takes away from your social life or your exercise time, you might want to cut down playing time," he said.

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