A Look at Games and Their Beneficial Effects: Part 6

Whew, what a week! My classes are picking up, keeping me busy, but I've still got time to bring you the next to last installment of the Benefits of Video Games. Also, I had enough time to go see Avatar, for the second time, in Imax 3D. Just my personal bent on it, if you'd like to see one of the most incredible movies of all time, watch Avatar ASAP. There you have it, that's my two cents on Avatar.

Now on the the show!


      Motor skills development is often associated with hand-eye coordination to many people, although this is not the case. Motor skills actually refers to the smooth and efficient movement of the body, and includes things such as precise hand movement and interaction of the hands with regards to manipulation of objects in addition to hand-eye coordination. Motor skills can therefore relate to reflexes and movement as well as mental skill.

      Significant study has been done and summarized in reports by researchers such as C. Shawn Green and Daphne Bavelier on whether or not video games have an influence on the development of young childrens motor skills, and such research has met with positive results. Green and Bavalier, for example, refer to video games as a "more then normal" cognitive experience, and point out that since a "less then normal" cognitive experience can lead to "deficits in perception and cognition" a "more then normal" experience provides advantages to cognitive abilities, advantages which are extremely beneficial in day to day life. They cite one study, for example, where two groups of non-video game player were asked to press a button when a light flashed on a screen. After testing both groups, one group was asked to spend 15 minutes playing a video game console. The two groups were then submitted to the flash test again, and the researchers found that "Those that received the video game experience showed a reduction in reaction time of approximately 50 milliseconds not observed in the control group that received no game experience." Green and Bavalier then go on to point out the advantages in such situations such as driving a car, where sudden braking can mean the difference between life and death (Green et al., 2004)

      In another study, a series of elderly adults were tested with regards to manual dexterity. The researchers reported that those who played video games showed a manual dexterity improvement that was "quite significant." Other studies on the various motor skill advantages of video gaming have reported similar findings. In another report referenced by Green and Bavelier, researchers found that "surgeons who played video games more than 3 hours per week committed 37% fewer errors, were 27% faster at laparoscopic drills, and were 33% better at suturing tasks than non-video game playing surgeons." Additional study found that "a surgeon’s video game experience is a better predictor of surgical skill than number of years of practice or number of operations completed!" (Green et al., 2004)

First in most people’s worries about video gaming, is the fear of increased violence and addiction in children.  In the past studies researchers have tied violent video games to aggression.  However, recent research has “concluded that there is no link between video game use and aggressive behavior in children” (Ang et al., 2006). 
In a study specifically designed to test increased aggression in non-gamers as they played an online video game, specifically a massively multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG), researchers failed to find a correlation between aggression and video game playing (Williams et al., 2009).   The participants were recruited via internet sites, and were selected because they did not have any prior experience.  They were then divided into a control group and a treatment group.  The treatment group was required to play online for at least five hours a week, although most of them exceeded this amount.  Results were collected via pre and post tests online, with demographic, behavior and personality variables.  In order to increase the integrity of the test, the testing variables were used as “less than 10% of the total questions” (Williams et al., 2009).  They used questions from the Normative Beliefs in Aggression General Scale (NOBAGS), a commonly used standard for television and video game violence studies, which ranges from eight to thirty two, “with higher values indicating larger normative beliefs about violence” (Williams et al., 2009).    The participants were also “asked if they had had a serious argument with a friend” and “if they had had a serious argument with a spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend,” in order to track aggression in social interactions (Williams et al., 2009).
 The study found that exposure to video gaming did not change participants’  attitude toward violence.  Additionally, the amount of video game exposure did not correlate to aggression.   Neither had a statistically significant correlation (Williams et al., 2009).  Small effects could not have been detected in the study, however, any large or medium effects would have been (Williams et al., 2009).  These results were corroborated in another study, which stated that low level players had lower aggression levels than non-players.  However, they did find that high level users did have an almost statistically significant increase in aggression (Durkin et al., 2002).  These results suggest that video gaming does not have a significant influence on aggression, despite popular opinion.

Whew! Next week is the last of these. What a long run!

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