When Gaming Is Good for You

Robert Lee Hotz writes about when gaming is good for you and how video games can change a person’s brain for the better. Research has shown that gaming improves creativity, decision making and perception. Multiple benefits range from improved hand-eye coordination to vision changes that boost night driving vision. Another interesting piece of information regarding video games is that people who play games that are action based make decisions 25% faster than people who do not. With that said these people also do not decrease in accuracy while making these decisions. I find this fact extremely interesting and could definitely see how this is possible, as video gamers are constantly having different challenges thrown at them and have to make decisions quickly while playing. Research has shown that gamers make decisions up to four times faster than those that do not play games.

In addition, gamers also are better at multitasking due to various challenges and obstacles presented at once during a video game. Most people can only keep 4 concepts in mind at a time. Additional research shows that 42% of computer and video game players are women and they are  better at manipulating 3D objects. This was interesting to researchers because most of the time men are better at manipulating 3D images. The studies conducted observe adults overall. Although there are many advantages gained through game play, the article also addresses negative impacts associated with violent game play. Many studies show that violent video games show changes in brain function in young men after only a week of playing. The changes are associated with depressing activity related to emotional control.

There is also an association, according to the article and the researchers at Indiana University, between gaming and being overweight, introverted and depressed. Violent games often worry parents, however the advantages and disadvantages are both explained in the article. Hotz explains that gaming has become an expensive investment in the entertainment business. All game design, including educational game design is expensive. Other interesting facts about the income of video games includes computer games becoming a 25 billion dollars a year business and not only that but in 2010 gaming companies sold 257 million video and computer games. These figures were estimated by Entertainment Software Association. I believe this number of video game usage is enormous and much larger than i would have expected. Because video games are clearly widely used among students, educational video games with unique and engaging game design would also bring in this type of revenue as well. Educational video game design could definitely be another large source of income in the video game world.

Research has increased the amount of game play through mass experimentation discussing the neurobiology of learning. Many of these games have been played over 1 billion times since their creation. C. Shawn Green, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, explains that video games change your brain. He also explains that other interactive activities also change your brain as well. Learning to read, play the piano, and traveling are all examples that Green uses to describe how the brain’s structure is altered through games. Just as exercise builds muscles, Hotz explains, concentration strengthens neural circuits. “Games definitely hit the reward system in a way that not all activities do,” says Green. I definitely agree with this statement by Green because i think that immediate feedback is important for motivation when participating in interactive activities. The reward system in many other activities such as learning to play the piano is rewarded later on after a lot of practice. With games, there are rewards constantly because there are continuous challenges and different ways to practice and receive feedback quickly.

Joshua Lewis, an analyst at the University of California explains that “not enough attention has been paid to the unique and interesting features that video games have outside of the violence.” I agree with this statement because i think that the violence is just the surface level engagement. The deeper motivational and attention grabbing engagement is within the strategy and structure of the game. Structures that involve immediate feedback and multiple challenges that allow the player to succeed with room for challenge are the most successful. Behind the violence, many games could have any surface level design and attract students to play the game, especially in an educational way. I also found it interesting in this article that the average gamer is 34 years old. I also could not imagine anyone playing video games for up to 18 hours, however i guess they are just that engaging. It is crazy to imagine people playing video games that could educate them for 18 hours a week. Students would be able to retain so much more knowledge in an easier way and more practice with educational topics would be introduced.

Research specifically has discussed the effects of video games on cognition and behavior. Many game companies such as Blizzard Entertainment, do not comment on whether or not studies have been done on their games towards cognitive studies or behavioral studies. All computer games, however, do show changes in mental capabilities, specifically a child’s creativity. Studies now need to be compared to other mental activities such as solving math equations. Another interesting fact addressing standardized tests explains that one study for middle school students found that the more children play computer games, the more these children increase their standardized test scores. I find this correlation extremely interesting and would love to have heard more explanation as to why that is.

Although many video games had an effect on creativity, Hotz explains that using cell phones, the internet or computers for other purposes did not have an effect on creativity. Although this research has been done to discover the engaging aspect associated with video games, Hotz explains that education software has not been created so far as engaging as most action games currently are. Researchers question how important the violence in the video games are when creating educational video games. Up until recently, small groups of students had been experimenting new educational video games, now the studies are within the video games that are being distributed to students all around the country.

This article can be found here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203458604577263273943183932.html

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