For most people, video games mean either violent or nonsensical games that are negative influence on kids.
However, according to a research (discussed at last year’s Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association) certain types of video games can have positive effects on game players such as improving dexterity and problem solving abilities. These attributes, according to the research, "have proven useful not only to students but to surgeons" as well.
Fran C. Blumberg, PhD, a Fordham University psychologist, and Sabrina S. Ismailer, MSED, analyzed 122 fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders’ problem-solving behavior while playing a video game that they’ve never played before. The researchers’ goal is to show that playing video games can improve cognitive and perceptual skills.
The kids were asked to think aloud for 20 minutes while playing. The researchers evaluated their problem-solving skills by analyzing the types of cognitive, goal-oriented and 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 another study, Douglas Gentile, PhD, an Iowa State University psychologist, and William Stone, BS, described a number of studies involving high school students, college students and laparoscopic surgeons that looked at their video game usage and its effects.
The student study findings confirmed earlier research on the effects of playing violent games: those who played violent games were "more hostile, less forgiving and believed that violence is normal: compared to students who played nonviolent games. On the other hand, players or "prosocial" got into fewer fights in school and were more helpful to their fellow students.
Other studies involving students showed that those who played more "entertainment" games did worse in school and were at an increased risk for obesity.
In a study involving 33 laparoscopic surgeons, it was found that those who played video games were 27 percent faster at advanced surgical procedures and made 37 percent less errors than their counterparts who did not play video games, Gentile says.
The researchers found that advanced video game skill and experience are important predictors of suturing capabilities "even after years of controlling for sex, years of medical training and number of laparoscopic surgeries performed."
A second study involving 303 laparoscopic surgeons (82 percent men; 18 percent women), also indicated that those who played video games which required spatial skills and hand dexterity, and then performed a drill testing these skills, were considerably faster at their first try and across all 10 trials, than the surgeons who did not play video games first.
"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 another study, researchers Constance Steinkuehler, PhD, and Sean Duncan, MA, of the University of Wisconsin at Madison observed how game-based learning can append textbooks and science labs in nurturing scientific thinking. The researchers examined a random sample of around 2,000 discussion posts where participants talked about various game-related topics.
The researchers examined discussions of the game World of Warcraft using codes based on national benchmarks for scientific literacy. They examined what typed of conversations that classified as scientific reasoning went on, such as social bantering versus problem-solving.
The multiplayer, online fantasy game had players of different classes hunt, battle, gather and craft to strengthen their characters and/or move them up ranks or levels. Characters improve faster when they work together.
The codes that the researchers used addressed a different facet of scientific thinking which included "reasoning using systems and models, understanding feedback, predicting and testing and using math to investigate a problem."
"These forums illustrate how sophisticated intellectual practices to improve game play mimic actual scientific reasoning," said Duncan. "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."