Our teacher gave us this IGCSE English Section B task, which usually requires you to write a speech, newspaper article, letter, etc. about a topic related with the passages given using information from both the passages. Obviously, direct copying from the text material will be penalised, so we have to replace keywords with in-context synonyms as much as possible. But sometimes, it's not possible to find a good substitute. And I suspect that's the case here.

So, there is this line from an article on The Sun, he gave us to go with the task, that talks about how new research shows that video games are actually good for kids (emphasis mine):

Boffins said that children who play Xbox, Wii and Playstation games could be racing, shooting and zapping their way to better visual skills.

another one there:

The scientists believe this is a result of their improved visual awareness.

and yet another...

Playing video games also improves [...] visual and spacial memory [...].

And he summed up all of these into "gamers have better eyesight", while adding that he did find it strange that playing games could improve eyesight and that he was skeptical.

Now, I think he has oversimplified the term(s) for lack of a better technical term. I think he also failed to understand that visual awareness/skill is so much more than just plain seeing things well.

Am I right?

I'm not quite sure if this fix has entirely to do with just English. It's a bit more about being able to comprehend the depth of scientific/technical terms.

Another thing: he said that "improved spatial memory" means that there is more space in your brain, in the sense that more of your brain gets activated and there's more space to store information. When I first heard that, I was like "WTF is he saying?!? lol". I absolutely think he completely misunderstood that. I believe it meant that you get more skilled at interpreting space and being able to remember it better.

Now, are my doubts about his intelligence valid? He was the head editor of the most renowned English newspaper in my non-English speaking homeland, Bangladesh. Otherwise, I do think he is fabulous, both as a teacher and in his English writing skills and he even got a few minor books published and they're on Amazon too.

  • "'improved spatial memory' means that there is more space in your brain" doesn't make sense technically nor language-wise. The definitions of spatial pretty much covers this. Did you ask him why he said that? The only place I have heard about "space in your brain" is the humorous "My brain is full" referring to one's brain that can't learn anything more.
    – user3169
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 20:50
  • But in the end I think the difference lies between what the eye physically sees (better eyesight) and how the brain comprehends it (visual skills/awareness and spatial comprehension).
    – user3169
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 20:55
  • This is a medical question, not an English question, really.
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 21:01

1 Answer 1


This question depends more on the definition of terms than the common English meaning of certain words and phrases, so it may be influenced by opinion.

If we talk of "visual skills", "visual awareness", "visual acuity", what comes to mind? Better eyesight, meaning the physical ability to resolve visual input, certainly, but also things like the ability to visually track moving objects, identify objects at a glance, recognize distance from an object, and so on.

But I think the article meant to talk about hand-eye coordination, which is the ability to effectively move your hands (and other parts of your body) in response to visual input. For example, people with good hand-eye coordination will be more skilled at table tennis, since they can better judge where to place the paddle to intercept the ball.

Naturally this involves developing the part of the brain responsible for "spatial awareness" which has nothing to do with how much space you have in your brain. That's a silly misunderstanding. Spatial awareness includes many factors, many which relate to the ability to take information from various sources (including artificial sensors) and understand, almost intuitively, how that information relates to the real world.

Someone with good spatial awareness would, for example, be continuously aware of all the elements in a tennis match without having to focus on any specific element. She might track the movement of the ball, her opponent, and her own position on the court, and at the same time read her opponent's body language, sense the movement of the wind, and anything else that might relate. A skilled longshoreman (someone who loads cargo onto ships) might sense the weight and balance of the cargo he is moving simply by the feel of it through the controls of the crane he is operating.

I don't think it's any major revelation to say that gamers have better hand-eye-coordination and spatial awareness than the average person, because obviously the skills you frequently practice will improve. The more interesting question is whether those skills translate to improved performance with related, useful tasks in the real world.

  • That is a very good answer @Andrew, but am I alone in regretting that even the Sun could not find a way of referring to these skills without getting into polysyllabic technical terms? I yearn to say something like "gamers get to see better and react faster".
    – JeremyC
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 4:36
  • @JeremyC there's nothing wrong with polysyllables in the right context. Every language has its specialized words targeted to educated discourse, so we might as well use them where we can. In any case, I don't think there's anything really elevated about the terms "visual awareness" or "spatial awareness", as it's a concept most high schoolers would understand. "Visual acuity" is perhaps slightly more scientific, but not out of place in the average crime or courtroom TV drama, which commonly use even more esoteric terms like "lividity".
    – Andrew
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 4:54
  • @JeremyC I mean, just because there's a guy in Washington DC right now who would rather communicate in 140 characters of monosyllables, doesn't mean the rest of us have to tag along. But I probably digress ...
    – Andrew
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 4:56
  • Nothing wrong with technical terms in their place but I was thinking of readers the Sun newspaper over here in the UK. They tend not to have had the UK equivalent of high school education. Such papers, the Mirror is another, pride themselves on being able to explain complex things so that their readers can understand them. It is quite a skill.
    – JeremyC
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 9:45
  • @JeremyC so kind of like the equivalent of Americans who follow Alex Jones. I get it. :)
    – Andrew
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 15:53

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