Just how addictive are videogames?

So here is a funny/scary little anecdote about how addictive video games could be for young children.

I work at a preschool. On Monday a parent came to pick up his 4-year-old son and he told me the trouble he was having with his son and video games. His son, who is playing Little Big Planet 2, spends hours every night playing the game. So much so that he is beginning to neglect other things: eating dinner, going to bed on time…and even using the bathroom. His once potty trained son has regressed back to forgoing the restroom facilities to get his game time in.

Have you ever felt that addicted to a game??

It’s a good thing I brought my daughter to Digital Ops…

Check this out: “girls ages 11 to 16 years old who played videogames with a parent behaved better, felt more connected to their families and had better mental health than girls who played with friends or on their own.” Read all about it in the Wall Street Journal, who is citing a a study by researchers at BYU that just appeared in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Now I’ve got that smug “good parent” feeling. The family that kills zombies together…

NYT review of Dead Space 2

Somehow, reading a video game review in the “Old Grey Lady” (that’s an apt nickname for the New York Times) feels a bit like hearing your grandmother drop the f-bomb at the Thanksgiving table (funny story, ask me some other time…) But the NYT just loves Dead Space 2!

You may have noticed this game from its clever “Your mom hates this.” marketing campaign.

This is a game in the “action-horror” genre. Did you play the original? Do you play action-horror games? If so, do you find them scary in the same way you find horror movies scary? I generally don’t play this type of game, but I am curious. There’s also a version out for iPhones and iPads that is getting good reviews.

The New York Times reported a couple of days ago (1/29/2011) that “LittleBigPlanet 2, Sony’s stunning new entertainment ecosystem for the PlayStation 3” is “allowing players to assume the ultimate role: game creators“. (This is interesting for us in the light of this week, as Gamestar Mechanic, in a way, is a game for creating games….)

Driving games make you worse at driving

A new study has shown that people who play video games that include driving are actually more likely to be worse drivers on the road.  A study by British tire manufacturer Continental Tyres, based in West Drayton in Middlesex, southeast England shows the people who play driving video games in their spare time are more likely to attempt risky maneuvers when behind the wheel and could be more dangerous.

The study studied Gran Turismo and Grand Theft Auto and showed that people who play them are more likely to take their risky driving in the video games into the streets.  This could include taking risky turns, turning red lights or attempting more dangerous activity while driving.  Finally, the study concluded that players who play these games are more likely to crash in the real world.

I found this report very interesting and I would tend to believe it to some extent.  Having experienced playing these types of games they do tend to give you a feeling of empowerment and that you can do anything while driving without getting hurt.  While this is simply a theory, the study has apparently shown correlation between the two activities.  It could introduce a problem for video game developers if this theory is given more light.



Math Education Replaced by Video Games?

Some aspects of education — especially mathematics, which requires repetitive practice — seem like they could easily be adapted to the video game format, where players are encouraged to play over and over again until they master new skills.

A study of the effectiveness of one video game designed to teach linear algebra, called DimensionM, revealed a significant difference between a control group, who received traditional mathematical instruction, and a treatment group, who played the DimensionM game.

Owing perhaps to the limited statistical power of their study (which included about 200 kids), the researchers don’t make any attempt to quantify the difference that the game made, other than to say that the students who played it in school did better. Past studies have revealed mixed results for the use of games in the classroom, but the authors argue that this is precisely the point — any game that’s to be used in school should be evaluated in a controlled study first.

In terms of the larger implications for education, it’s worth noting that this school district, which was somewhere in the Southeast U.S., was relatively low-achieving to begin with. So arguably the study’s results are more likely to generalize to similar districts. In fact, a growing body of educators are already arguing that the world’s worst-off children are better off being educated by machines.

Educational games have come a long way since the Cave of the Word Wizard and Dungeon of the Algebra Dragon, and DimensionM typifies the changes that have taken place. Not only does it take place in a three-dimensional world, but it’s also multiplayer, tapping into kids’ natural inclinations to both compete and cooperate.

Given the level of math phobia present in American schoolchildren and the sorry state of financing for education, it’s worth asking whether or not the trend lines of declining quality in education and increasing quality of educational games have already crossed for a significant portion of American students.