Gaming isn’t just a lot of fun—it’s an activity that requires a wide range of skills. The more you play, the more those skills develop (as long as you’re doing it right!). In fact, your favourite hobby could also be benefitting you outside of the gaming realm. A study by the University of Rochester showed that gamers (particularly those playing action games) have better reaction times than non-gamers that help them make quick decisions in real life scenarios.
Consider a game like Counter-Strike — it demands speed and accuracy, so your anticipation and physical reaction skills need to be on point if you want to triumph. Of course, your reaction times will be steadily improving the more you play. Then again, the same goes for your opponents! If you want to get that edge on the competition, it’s worth developing some habits and tricks that can speed up the process.
Read on to explore some of our tried and tested methods to improve reaction time for gaming.
Practice Makes Perfect
As we’ve already mentioned, generally speaking, the more you play the better your reactions should be. How you play is also important. We don’t want to get too hippy-dippy here, but you should be playing mindfully and really focusing if you want to train your brain. Concentration and focus is key to ensuring quick reactions, after all.
On the flip side, it’s also important not to overdo it. Unless you’re a full-time professional gamer, there’s no need to play for hours on end. Take regular breaks to clear your mind and give your eyes a rest. If you’re fatigued you won’t be at the top of your game and it can be detrimental to reaction time (not to mention your health!) in the long run.
Yes, some of you may not want to hear it, but it’s true—a healthy lifestyle can improve your gaming ability. Reaction time is all down to the brain, and a happy body equals a happy brain! We’re not suggesting you have to start chucking back the wheatgrass shots and become a crossfit devotee to improve your reflexes (though be our guest!), but how you treat your body matters.
A few diet tweaks here and there and some light exercise can really improve your brain function and general mood. Fuel your gaming sessions with plenty of water and cook up some meals that are good for stamina and brain function. Maybe replace Friday night’s burger and chips with salmon and rice. It doesn’t have to be boring—throw in some spices and add your favourite condiment. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
Another healthy choice that will work wonders on your reaction time is making sure you get plenty of shut-eye. As fun as it may be, staring at screens for hours on end is not great for your brain. Plus, getting a good night’s sleep (7-9 hours) will ensure you’re refreshed and ready to take on new foes in the morning!
Habits and Association
Some people find that developing certain habits to go alongside their gaming helps them to focus and ‘get in the zone’ to play. It might be a certain type of music, lighting, or particular place to sit—experiment with your surroundings and see what works for you.
A strong cup of coffee before you start, or chewing gum throughout the game might also aid concentration. Take it easy with the caffeine, though. If you push it you might end up reacting to every single movement around you!
Brain Exercise Games
Of course, some games have been developed to specifically improve reaction time. These can act as great training exercises outside of your regular games of choice. There are apps to suit every type of gamer. If you’re looking for something fun and don’t mind a bit of gore, try out Finger Slayer. Alternatively, if you fancy something with more variety to train multiple brain functions (sans blood!) give something like Lumosity a go.
A great option that can provide a quick reaction test during breaks or while your game is loading is the emergency stop game from driving school PassMeFast. It’s simple but effective. You just have to see how fast you can react to a stop sign by clicking your mouse. Sounds easy, but you may not be happy with the reaction speed age you’re given the first few times. Keep practicing and see how quickly you can lower the age. Beware—this can get pretty addictive!
The Right Tools
If game play and reaction time is something you take seriously, having the right tools is a must. For you to be on top form, every aspect of your computer needs to be optimized for the game you’re playing. This may vary from person to person so find out what works for you.
A good place to start is determining if your mouse is set to the right sensitivity. Not sensitive enough and you’ll miss the mark; too sensitive and you run the risk of jumping the gun (literally!). Check both your computer’s settings and the settings for the game itself before you begin.
Hardware is, of course, just as important as software. How many frames per second can your system handle? What’s the screen resolution? Do you have good quality headphones? To really take it to the next level, it might be time to invest in a proper gaming headset.
All of these aspects enhance the game, so your senses are in the best possible position to pick up on any movement and act fast.
Measuring Your Results
So how are you going to know if any of these techniques are working? Well, for one, your scores should improve! It’s also really useful to have some other kind of measurement of progress, so you know you’re going in the right direction.
This is where the brain exercise games come in useful again. Once you’ve found the one that suits you, stick to it. Switching around may produce unreliable results. For example, if you pick the emergency stop game (sometimes the simplest really are the best) you’ll know you’re getting better when the reaction age gets progressively younger.
Some people may be blessed with naturally good instincts, but there are little techniques anyone can employ to improve on the skills they already have. Plus, reaction times deteriorate the older we get—so it’s a good idea to starting working on them as soon as possible! Give a few of these options a whirl and be smug about the fact that your gaming habit has many benefits beyond the joy of beating your mates.