How Gaming Helped Me Score an A+ In School

Hey everyone. Thought I’d change up things for this weeks post and not talk directly about gaming, but it’s influence in my life outside of gaming. I think it’s also important to talk about because my time in University really helped me discover that I wasn’t too bad at writing. In group assignments, I was usually designated to write the final report of every ones work. I was jokingly told I was good at B.S. πŸ˜‰ But I think it’s kind of a start as to how I decided to get into writing about gaming in the first place. In addition to that, this was something I always wanted to share to a larger audience, so consider yourselves lucky πŸ™‚

Over my academic life, I had tried involving games as much as I could in my studies. I was always interested in gaming topics outside of the games themselves. Back in elementary school, grade 4 I think, we were tasked with doing speeches about a topic. I of course talked about the benefits of playing video games and how they improve your hand eye coordination. I did very well and it was about a topic I cared about, so I nailed it!

This was just the start however. My biggest and proudest academic assignment was many years later in York University. I was studying Computer Science. It had it’s ups and downs, but overall was an interesting program that today has helped me grow in my career. But there was one particular 4th year class that even though I flunked the final exam, I did a research paper and did it very well.

This class was Human-Computer Interactions. This was a course all about how we as humans interacted with technology. This was at the time when the iphone just came out. So there was a lot of talk on how things like typing was approached on small devices like regular cell phones and smart phones.

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How do I used this thing again?

It was a great course. Tough at times since the material was so abstract. However once we reached our assignment, I got excited as I naturally excel on the more hands on type of things. We had to do a research paper on a topic within human computer interaction. It could be anything as long as it involved researching, collecting data, and presenting results and conclusions on an experiment related to human-computer interaction.

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Let the experiments begin!

At the time, the legendary console known as the Nintendo Wii had recently come out. I loved the console, bought it on day 1, and despite it’s lack of games, I had a great time with it. I was very active on a forum of a popular web show back then called Pure Pwnage (for those who haven’t heard of it, check it out, it’s genious!). I was heavily involved in the forum community of the console section, and even became a moderator at a point. Unfortunately, the internet being the internet, there was always lots of talk about how consoles were inferior, and keyboard/mouse was god send, and PC players would own consoles players etc. etc. I never partook in these talks, because I’m all about that ba… I mean fun.

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A never ending fued

But I felt I had enough of this smack talk between the two side. We needed to settle this once and for all! So I decided, my research paper was going to be on, and was actually titled, ‘Comparing Accuracy and Speed of The Nintendo Wiimote and a Mouse’. Yep, I know, it never was called the Wiimote, and was actually a Wii Remote. But man, Wiimote just stuck to me since it was revealed, and I didn’t realize until a few days ago when googling Wiimote, that I never hit many results. Either way, Nintendo should have called it a Wiimote, it sounds so cute and sounds like the work remote! Anyways I’m getting off topic here!

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Let’s get it on!

Why I chose to do this? Other than the competitive nature of gamers and trying to determine what was the ultimate way of playing games. When the Wiimote was unveiled, it’s motion controls brought possibilities of being able to play certain genres differently. One genre that came to mind for me and many others was First Person Shooters. It was usually agreed upon that analog stick controls never let players turn to fast or precisely. However the Wiimote could potentially close that gap. We now know that it didn’t quite achieve this, but it nobly tried in a few hit titles like Metroid Prime 3 and arguably Red Steel 2. Regardless of how it panned out, it still brought that potential to the table.

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Metroid Prime 3 showcased pretty tight motion controls for aiming on the Wii

How did I go about comparing these? Simple! At a high level, I needed a program that would let me shoot targets, and needed it to interface with a mouse, and a Wiimote. Of course the program would need to be able to measure things like time and accuracy and record these results to compare later.

So I started to work away. First I created a very simple Java program that would display a target randomly on the screen. Once you hit the target, it would disappear and a new one would appear. You would go through this cycle until all the targets were hit. Think of it like those shooting range in the Zelda games, except without all the fun music and cool card board cut outs of monsters. Other than being a ground breaking game with cutting edge graphics, in the background, it was recording all the important data I would need. The target was composed of 3 rings, the bulls eye, the inner and out rings. The program would log which ring was hit, and also measure how far from the center of the target it was. It also logged when the hit was made to help keep track of overall time taken. Lastly, it would also track when a target was missed. This was all key information for me to determine how accurate someones play through of the game was.

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My ground breaking Target Practice game!

Once this was complete, I was able to use this program to record results of using a mouse as an input device. Next, I needed to have the Wiimote interface with my laptop, in a way where when I moved the Wiimote, it would register the movement as if it was a mouse. So I devised an interesting and cumbersome setup. I got a bluetooth dongle to connect the Wiimote to my laptop. Through some free software, I was able to setup drivers and configure my Wiimote to work with my laptop as a mouse. I did need the infrared bar so the Wiimote would know where it was actually pointing and tell this to the laptop. Well, because I was on a poor student budget, I wasn’t able to get one of those wireless infrared bars. I heard about using candles as a sensor because they emit infrared light, but I don’t think my lab would be cool with my bringing in fire. So what did I do? The only thing any man would do. Bring the entire Wii console to the lab, power it through it’s big ass power brick, just so I could power it’s infrared sensor. Yes, such an elegant solution, but I couldn’t argue with the results. It gave me a “portable” solution to be able to bring to the computer labs so I could have people participate and gather all the data I needed. I wish I had a picture of it, but sadly, it was so long ago. But I did draw up a super detailed sketch for you all, no detail was spared.

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A sketch of my setup for the experiment, no exaggeration was made

Now that everything was in working order, I next needed my participants. So I picked a busy time for our labs and setup up my work station, and patiently waited for students to trickle in. I approached 16 random people asking them to run the experiment. Luckily enough, I think only 1 or 2 people said no because naturally I wasn’t the only one there doing work. It was key I used people who were visitors to the lab, because I needed an audience that was familiar with using pointing devices and would not only be proficient at using a mouse, but also be able to learn new devices like the Wiimote quickly.

The way the experiment worked was, the player would first play two rounds of my game using a mouse. After that, they would then play another two rounds of the same game using the Wiimote. Running two rounds was key to give people a chance to become accustomed to the game, and the Wiimote.

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Sample set of data from the program

During the experiment, I had also asked participants if they had prior experience with a Wiimote. Reason for this is to see if any difference could be found between people who had used the device before versus those who had not. I also asked if they were someone who specifically plays first person shooters, to see if them being experienced with such a genre of gaming would show any meaningful results.

Once all was done, to no ones surprise, the mouse was far more accurate and quicker to use than a Wiimote, even for experienced players. Who would have thought? The results showed to run through 30 targets, the Wiimote users took nearly double the time to complete the trial. Wiimote users also were 3 pixel further away from the center of the target when using a Wiimote. The number of bulls eye hits also heavily favoured the mouse, along with the number of misses. It was a one sided battle.

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A one sided battle indeed…

What did stand out, based on the two questions, FPS players didn’t show any patterns, but those who has prior experience using a Wiimote overall performed better for their overall completion time. Through this I was able to conclude, although the Mouse is far more faster and accurate than a Wiimote, it could be argued that Wiimote users can come closer through practice. But of course the mouse would ultimately still win.

Well there you have it. I had tons of fun doing this as it was about a topic I truly loved and am passionate about. Seeing the results unfold before my eyes was quite fascinating, even though going into this I knew it was a one sided battle. Either way, I was proud of how I conducted the experiment and how I designed the controls to what I felt, fairly captured the performance of each participant. In the end, this helped nail me an A+ in a program that was very hard to achieve such grades.

For those interested, below is the actual paper I had submitted for the project. There’s quite a bit of references to other research papers doing similar results, as part of this required us to find similar research. Hope you had fun reading this, and of course, let me know what you thought in the comments below!

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18 thoughts on “How Gaming Helped Me Score an A+ In School

  1. Very cool and interesting! I was actually kind of surprised that the mouse controls resulted in more accuracy than the Wiimote in your study – I always preferred pointing and shooting stuff in Resident Evil 4 and Metroid Prime with the Wii controller, it just felt right!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea, although I feel the mouse is easier to use, I simply found motion controls fun. I know I’m a minority when it comes to this but I liked playing Metroid Prime 3 and Skyward Sword with motion controls. The mechanics have to be tweaked right so it’s highly dependent on things like that, but it can work very well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A+ work! This is superb! I’m very impressed by all the work that you put into this project. Thanks for sharing this. Wow, I’m stunned! So you’re saying I shouldn’t be using a Wiimote for Link’s Crossbow Training? Haha. It makes me happy to see you found success by combining your passion for gaming with academics. Well done! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

  3. How fantastic! I’m impressed with your programming ability (especially since I have none outside of basic HTML), and I’m sure the little guy peeking in through the window after you hooked up your Wii in the lab was very impressed as well (he certainly looked it! haha).

    I’m not surprised at the time difference between the mouse and controller, really, because you can move a mouse cursor with a much smaller wrist/hand movement than what is needed (usually) for a Wiimote (I call it that too, and Nintendo missed the boat on a cute controller name). My question is whether or not the Wiimote provided the same level of visual feedback as the mouse. Was the “cursor” that the people saw the same size, etc? If it was, that’s definitely interesting because then the cause of the different results could begin to be limited to the motor aspects of playing.

    …I just re-read my comment and I’m so sorry. I just finished writing my thesis and reading the theses of a few friends and am apparently in full-blown “academic mode.” I’ll stop before I subject your poor blog to more of my nerdy rambling.

    Anyway, do you think this “settles” the debate between console and PC, or is this just showing that PC machines are maybe more powerful or accurate without much practice?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea it was using the same cursor. Unfortunately due to my limited programming skills, and more so because of my forgetfulness, I didn’t consider using a different crosshair until now. And actually it’s good you bring that up. It’s a very key thing. When using the mouse, the user got to sit pretty much right up the screen. When using the Wiimote, they stood a few feet back so factoring in things like a small cursor and that it was only a 15″ screen, that probably played a factor, it would be hard to see. Although from when I used it, I felt I could see the screen fine. But I’m sure there may be people who would disagree had I asked.

      As for if this settles the what’s superior? It depends. I do feel for FPS, that mouse is more precise, but with my experiences with things like the steam controller, I think motion controls on a standard controller kind of like what Splatoon did, can work wonders in the right hands. It would be neat to re-run this using a motion based console style controller, the PS4 controller would be a great candidate.

      Although I feel mouse has an advantage in FPS, I can think of several genres from personal experience that play better with a controller. Each has their pros and cons

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you found your follow-up study!! haha (just kidding…?)

        I hope I didn’t put you on the spot with that question! I agree that they both have pros and cons. I usually play on console, but growing up we had a few computer games, too, so I’ve never been in one camp or the other. I can understand from the perspective of a FPS that the mouse precision would be a lot better for accuracy! Much better than my preferred method of flailing around trying to hit something (of course, I’m not a big FPS person so that might explain the flailing haha).

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Motion controls didn’t turn out to be revolutionary in the long run, but I would say the most critically acclaimed Wii games (i.e. Metroid Prime 3 and both Super Mario Galaxy games) undeniably rank among the best of that console generation.

    This must’ve been a fun study to conduct! I figured the mouse would be quicker and more precise, but it’s interesting seeing the actual data to back up that supposition while detailing the extent to which the experiences differed. I find some games work better with a controller while others work better with a keyboard and mouse. I have difficulty playing platforming games with a keyboard, yet I couldn’t imagine playing an adventure title (especially one with a text parser) with a controller.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is awesome! I love seeing how gaming can be incorporated into things like academics or professional careers. It shows how the medium has evolved.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I really enjoyed seeing this, and it’s remarkable to see someone else using what I’m assuming is the IEEE format for a paper. I’m not terribly surprised that the mouse is more accurate though. The Wii Remote has the same stabilization issues that firearms users have when aiming.

    For instance, inexperienced firearms users have a tendency to cause their aim to drift when attempting to pull the trigger, with shots drifting to the right with right-handed shooters, and drifting to the left with left-handed shooters (due to the pressure of the trigger being pulled). I’d guess that the issue with the accuracy of the Wii Remote would see the majority of accuracy issues being centered around a vertical drift from users pressing the “A” button on the remote, and if you were to change the control to “B”, you’d likely see results similar to the ones I described with firearms.

    That said, it’s clear that you did your homework on this. Everything was presented clearly and it was simple to follow the train of thought.

    Thank you for posting this!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha yeah I suppose so, I will say I can proudly hold a fork after my years there πŸ˜‰

        Thanks I’m glad you enjoyed this write up, I had a fun time summarizing my time doing it. And likewise with you blog πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

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