A Look at Games and Their Beneficial Effects: Part 5

Whew! I'm back after a nice Christmas vacation spent with my family, and back with another look at games and their effects. But before I get into the next part in that series, I just wanted to give everyone a heads up. This year the goal is to build up the game critic. Add some more articles, some more features, and make it more of a site you would check daily then once a week. I really enjoy running The Game Critic, but I'd like to see it become something more then what it is so far. That, and I'm going to do my best to keep any breaks from popping up. At least ONE update per week minimum. That in mind, this Wednesday they'll be another new weekly feature showing up. This last semester, one of the two projects that kept me busiest was a large interview series and report on none other than Overclocked Remix, which I am glad bring to The Game Critic starting this Wednesday for all to read. We'll be seeing the introduction to the report this coming Wednesday, followed by various interviews with contributors and listeners of OCR in following weeks.

Anyway, that's all to come, for now, enjoy taking a look at the next installment of Games and their Beneficial Effects. This week we're looking at the first part of mental effects of gaming, written by Jessica. Hit the break for more!


      Recently many claims concerning increased violence and aggression have been refuted and replaced with findings of improved memory and mental activity, greater hand-eye coordination, and faster reflexes in children who play video games.  For example, Kevin Durkin and Bonnie Barber studied a group of 16-year-old high school students classified as low-playing, high-playing, and non-playing.  The low-playing students played only one hour each day, while the high-playing played for more than one hour each day.  Their results showed that those students who were low-playing received higher grades than both those that played heavily and those who did not play at all (Durkin et al., 2002).          
Next, in the article "Multiplayer online games as educational tools: Facing new challenges in learning,"  Fotini Paraskeva and his colleagues suggested that video games would benefit childhood development and education (Paraskeva et al., 2009).  Since video games do not recognize gender differences, no biases would affect psychological growth.  Paraskeva et al cited others' research saying that video games can assist those who are apathetic or have low self-esteem (2009).  Mitchell and Savill-Smith (2004), cited in Paraskeva et al's article, "state that complex games, in particular, have the potential to support cognitive processing and the development of strategic skills" (2009).  

      Also cited in Paraskeva's article is Natale (2002), who stated " that brain oscillations, associated with navigational and spatial learning, occur more frequently in more complex games, and this increases users' learning and recollection capabilities and encourages greater academic, social and computer literacy skills" Paraskeva et al., 2009).  This will ensure that children are mentally and educationally prepared to face a future full of unimagined technological advancements.  Children will also have a greater advantage in their schooling and careers as they better retain what they have learned.


Your browser may not support display of this image. Your browser may not support display of this image.       Another study by Matthew W.G. Dye and Daphne Bavelier indicated that avid video game players showed enhanced skills in all aspects of attentional processes.  Dye et al categorized such attentional processes as “spatial, temporal, and object-based” (Dye et al., 2009).  The tested subjects were aged 7-17 years and 18-22 years and were first tested on their useful field of view.  This test included the subjects viewing a touchscreen monitor and determining whether the face on the screen had long hair or short hair (see Figure 4).  

      They then indicated where a “sheriff’s star” was located, which tested the subjects’ peripheral vision.  Subjects who played video games in each age group (7-10 years, 11-13 years, 14-17 years, 18-22 years) had noticeably “improved selective visual attention” (Dye et al., 2009).  In other words, the players could more easily and quickly point out the sheriff's star while focusing on the face in the screen's center.  Even with other similarly colored shapes crowding the screen, the video gamers found that star with quick precision.  

Your browser may not support display of this image.             The second procedure tested attentional blink which is “the inability to detect a new target for a short time after the first target is presented” (Ruthruff, 1998).  Dye et al split the subject groups in half and showed one half a red isosceles triangle “pointing either left or right” in a sequential midst of other shapes (Dye et al., 2009).  The other half of the subject group viewed a blue isosceles triangle “pointing either up or down” in the midst of other sequentially shown shapes (2009).  In a second session, the red and the blue triangles swapped group half places, and the opposite group half viewed the red triangles while the other half viewed the blue triangles all in mixed sequence with other shapes (See Figure 5). 

      Your browser may not support display of this image. After that session was over, each half of the subject group had to indicate which direction the triangles were facing by “touching corresponding isosceles triangles”  on the touchscreen (Dye et al., 2009).   Within each age group the video gamers recovered from attentional blink significantly faster than the non video game players; in other words, they more quickly shook off the inability to correctly identify the triangle’s position.
   The third experiment measured the speed of "multiple object tracking" within each age group (Dye et al., 2009).  The subjects needed to track the blue "sad faces" moving among the yellow "happy faces" moving around in a gray circle on the screen (2009).  The faces ricocheted off of each other and off the circle's walls.  After two seconds, the blue faces changed to yellow faces.  After five seconds, a question mark appeared randomly over one of the faces.  The subjects had to discern whether the face with the question mark was originally a blue "sad face" or a yellow "happy face" (2009).  As with the previous experiments, the action video gamers tracked the faces more quickly than the non-video gamers.  Overall, action video game players displayed markedly enhanced "spatial, temporal, and object-based" mental skills.

      In "The Cognitive Neuroscience of Video Games," C. Shawn Green and Daphne Bavelier discussed another study's results of spatial skill improvement in people who played video games (Green et al., 2004).  These players, however, would not be the only people harnessing these abilities.  Older video games such as Zaxxon, where the player pilots a spaceship in a three-dimensional environment and must shoot other three-dimensional spaceships while dodging collisions and steering clear of enemy fire, trained and improved non-players' spatial skills (2004).  This suggests that with improved graphics and increasingly realistic surroundings, recent video games may enhance the gamers’ experience and may therefore enhance the training experience.  This is not all; real life situations improved as children who played these video games were more aware of the traffic as they crossed the street (2004). 

     Not only does playing video games improve spatial skills, but also they decrease gender differences in those enhanced skills.  For example, Jing Feng et al claims that females are not as fond of "first-person shooter action games" as males are (
Feng et al., 2007).  Feng et al created this particular study to diminish the gender differences so that females could obtain the same amount of spatial skills the males had.  In their first experiment, Feng et al studied the subjects' field of vision using the same methods as Dye and Bavelier used, and a mental rotation task (See Figure 6) that tested the subjects' Your browser may not support display of this image. ability to select which of the four shapes matched the original, only rotated in a different 3-dimensional position (2007).  The results indicated that the non-video game players performed much better than the video game players.  However, "males made Your browser may not support display of this image. more correct responses than females (71% vs 64%), which in all actuality is not very remarkable (2007).  The mental rotation results indicated that both males and females performed equally.  

      In the second experiment, Feng et al combined both field of vision and mental rotation techniques, training the subjects on the first-person shooter game, Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault, which presented a lifelike scenario full of missions to perform in a war-zone, causing all the players to use their attentional skills to avoid detection and enemy fire (Feng et al., 2007).  The subjects trained for one to two hours each day for four weeks in the laboratory (2007).  Feng et al successfully contacted and retested all of the trained subjects after five months to compare their results and to see if the skills remained with them still.  Of course, the subjects' shooting accuracy vastly improved after their training.  Most importantly, "both groups achieved substantial mastery of the games" and reached the highest levels obtainable, thus "virtually [eliminating] or [reducing]" gender differences in spatial skills (2007).

See you on Wednesday!

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