From Gran Turismo to real life racing: Why we shouldn't be so surprised at Jann Mardenborough's transformation

Using force-feedback steering wheels, the game was able to simulate reality

Share

Sometimes, just sometimes, games have an unwanted effect on the brain of the player that transfers into the real world.

Only this weekend, having completed The Last of Us: Left Behind, my subsequent walk to the newsagent was punctuated with the sudden urge to duck behind a few cars and stealthily make my way past a couple of neighbours chatting among themselves at the end of the road.

Had I done so, I would have looked pretty barmy, especially if I followed this up by lobbing some bricks or bottles in the opposite direction to put them off my scent. But it's not the first time this has happened.

Extended plays with Tetris made me yearn to rearrange the bricks of houses so that they would fill up windows and doors. Such madness even has a name: Tetris Syndrome. According to Wikipedia, it “occurs when people devote so much time and attention to an activity that it begins to pattern their thoughts, mental images and dreams.” Thankfully these effects are short-term for most of us and they wear off after 30 minutes or so (certainly don't let it put you off playing Left Behind: it's poignant, emotional and compelling).

But the action in some games can have a longer-lasting and more positive effect. Jann Mardenborough, a 22-year-old from Cardiff, has become so adept at Gran Turismo 5 that the skills he has learned from playing have put him on the path to becoming a professional Formula 1 driver.

He came first in a Gran Turismo 5 competition in 2011 having played the game on his PlayStation 3 for up to four hours a day during the tournament - and he has now been signed by Red Bull as a GP3 driver for the 2014 racing season.

Within the virtual world, he was able to learn the controls of a racing car, understand the tracks and work out how the virtual vehicles would behave. All of this seeped into his brain and ensured that, from the moment he took to a real track for the very first time at the age of 19, he already had a feel for the contours ahead of him and the behaviour of the motor beneath his body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using force-feedback steering wheels and pedal sets, the game was able to simulate reality to a high degree. And he is not alone in having been positively affected by this. He took part in the Dubai 24 Hour Race in January 2012 with three previous Gran Turismo Academy winners.

But should we be surprised? Probably not. For studies which explore the theory that gaming can actually improve people's skills more often than not yield positive results. Improved hand-eye co-ordination, for example, has long been seen as a benefit of gaming to the point that surgeons who play games are said to perform better in theatre.

Researchers at the University of Rochester have also found that players of action-based games make decisions 25 per cent faster than non-players and women can better mentally manipulate 3D objects. Games can even enable players to juggle up to six things at once compared to up to four in the majority of other people, according to scientists.

And it doesn't stop there. Researchers at the University of Toronto have found games can improve visual attention. A cover story in Nature magazine explored how games (albeit ones that were specially made) could help issues such as ADHD, dementia and autism, each of which have the loss of cognitive control as a common denominator. A game called Depression Quest was designed by developer Zoe Quinn after she found online games helped her deal with late night panic attacks.

Of course, it is over-simplistic to say that games are always a force for good. Playing them for too long can, it has been shown, damage a person's social skills and lead to addiction and depression. Sitting down for lengthy periods of time could lead to thrombosis and it's not unknown for some gamers to have died after putting in too many hours. Games can also lead to poor performance at work. Former England number one goalkeeper David James explained why he conceded three goals in 1997: "I was getting carried away playing Tekken II and Tomb Raider for hours in end." Maybe he should have played FIFA.

But if you're stuck for something to do with your time now that the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board has shamed the nation by revealing we watch three hours 55 minutes and 30 seconds of TV per day, then you could do far worse than pick up a games controller.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron has reiterated his pre-election promise to radically improve the NHS  

How can we save the NHS? Rediscover the stiff upper lip

Jeremy Laurance
 

Thanks to Harriet Harman, Labour is holding its own against the Tory legislative assault

Isabel Hardman
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor