Playing Video Games Has Benefits

    August 18, 2008

Some video games can have beneficial effects, improving gamer’s dexterity and their ability to problem solve according to research from the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.

Fordham University psychologist Fran C. Blumberg, PhD, and Sabrina S. Ismailer, MSED, looked at 122 fifth, sixth and seventh-graders problem solving behavior while playing a video game they had not been previously exposed to. They found that playing video games can improve cognitive and perceptual skills.

As the children played the game, they were asked to think aloud for 20 minutes. Researchers looked at their problem solving ability by examining the types of cognitive, goal-oriented, game oriented, emotional and contextual statements they made.

"Younger children seem more interested in setting short-term goals for their learning in the game compared to older children who are more interested in simply playing and the actions of playing," said Blumberg. "Thus, younger children may show a greater need for focusing on small aspects of a given problem than older children, even in a leisure-based situation such as playing video games."

In a separate study, by Iowa State University psychologist Douglas Gentile, PhD. and William Stone, found that laparoscopic surgeons who played video games were 27 percent faster at surgical procedures and made 37 percent fewer errors compared to those who did not play video games.

"The big picture is that there are several dimensions on which games have effects, including the amount they are played, the content of each game, what you have to pay attention to on the screen, and how you control the motions," said Gentile. "This means that games are not ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but are powerful educational tools and have many effects we might not have expected they could."

In a third study, based on nearly 2,000 World of Warcraft players, found that 86 percent shared their game knowledge, in discussion posts with other gamers. More than half (58%) used "systematic and evaluative processes indicative of scientific reasoning."

"Gamers are openly discussing their strategies and thinking, creating an environment in which informal scientific reasoning practices are being learned by playing these online video games," said Sean Duncan, co-author of the study.