Video Games and Aggression?

Last class, we talked about previous experiments where people would play a violent video game or watch a violent movie, and researchers would attempt to determine how it affected their immediate actions. In a 2010 study, research shows that violence may increase aggression long after you’ve played the game. Researchers assigned people to play certain video games, some were violent (Mortal Kombat, etc) and some were non-violent (Guitar Hero, etc). They told them to think about ways to improve their respective games, and they performed a survey to test for aggression levels.

Men who played the non-violent games showed less aggression than men who played the violent games. However, women did not show an increased level of aggression despite playing a violent video game. Researchers told the members of the study to think about their games for the next 24 hours. Men who admitted not thinking about their violent game still performed the same as men who played non-violent games. However, men who actually did think about the game showed a higher level of aggression based on test results.

Check out the article here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100920094620.htm

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More about Serious Games

We were recently assigned a reading reaction about serious games, but I’m extremely interested in this topic and want to cover it more in depth, particularly the applications of video games to the real world.

Many of the additional uses of video games are pretty simple and straightforward. For instance, the use of the Xbox Kinect, Wii Fit, or Playstation Move to exercise and lose weight, or educational games such as math blaster to increase one’s knowledge.

However, games are also used in training. A recent study at the University of Colorado Denver Business School found that individuals trained with video games for their jobs perform much better, “have higher skills, and retain information longer” than other workers trained with the usual methods. In a study with over 6,000 trainees, people that were trained using video games also had a significant “11% increase in factual knowledge, a 14 percent higher skill-based knowledge level and a 9 percent higher retention rate than trainees in comparison groups.” See the article here: http://www.livescience.com/10022-military-video-games.html

One particular example that intrigued me was the use of video games for training at Cold Stone Creamery. The company discovered that the employees were scooping too much ice cream per serving, and they were losing money because of it, so they developed a game to show exactly how much ice cream should go in each scoop. Furthermore, Miller Brewing Company also developed a game to show bartenders how to pour the perfect beer.

Why are these video games so successful in job training? Because they are much more interactive and engaging compared to the conventional methods of training. They give trainees much more practice and can hold their attention better.

Video games can also be used for military training. They teach recruits how to use certain weapons and how to respond to certain conditions. But you may not know that they are also used to help soldiers cope with the mental and emotional toll that serving in the military takes. This type of training is called “stress-resilience or emotional coping” and takes players step-by-step through what they should expect to see and how to deal handle the situation in a virtual manner before experiencing the real thing. See the article here: http://www.livescience.com/10022-military-video-games.html

Video Gamer Stereotypes

In one of my other classes, a guest speaker lectured us about some of the stereotypes behind video gamers – they are mostly nerdy, overweight, violent, socially awkward, and almost certainly male. I’m sure each of us has heard at least one of these stereotypes, but none of them are true. In fact, roughly 40% of the gaming population consists of female players.

These characteristics attributed to video game players have started to drop off as the industry exploded in the past decade. More people are playing games and they’ve been incorporated into other types of media including television. For instance, South Park intertwined World of Warcraft within its cartoon in a show called, “Make Love, Not Warcraft”. The way games have been incorporated into mainstream society may have caused the decline in stereotyping video game players. However, a question popped into my mind: “How and why did these stereotypes ever get attributed to video gamers”?

Perhaps for the “violence” stereotype, our society was just searching for reasons why certain people committed violent acts, and after realizing they played violent video games, automatically associated the two without any real evidence. Maybe the casual gamer in the past played much more in comparison to the present leading to stereotypes of being socially awkward or nerdy. And as for the male stereotype, perhaps there was a much smaller female gaming population a couple decades ago and it was actually true in the past.

A recent study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that many male players have a higher body mass index and more female players reported greater levels of depression. Many gamers were angered by this study as researchers admitted it wasn’t conclusive. Perhaps these types of studies also lead to various stereotyping of gamers despite the lack of conclusive evidence.

I’m not too sure about how these stereotypes came to be associated with video gamers, but I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.

Video Games and Exercise

This past Winter Break, I was over at my cousin’s home. I knew that she had recently purchased a Wii, and I was excited to try it out. One of the games we played that day was Wii Fit. I was surprised at how well physical fitness was incorporated into a video game. Before I could start playing, my center of balance and body mass index was calculated. Additionally, Wii Fit kept track of the number of calories I burned during each of the mini-games included.

As technology gets more and more advanced, motion-detecting hardware seems to be a focus in game consoles. This current generation of systems – the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii – all have some sort of motion-detecting ability, from the Xbox Kinect to the PS3 Move. Could this type of technology allow people to exercise more efficiently because they’re having fun at the same time? A common complaint that many adults have is the lack of exercise by their children. They seem to spend more of their days inside by watching TV, using the computer, or doing homework. I decided to find out how effective exercise from video games could be. I thought to myself, maybe they could even be incorporated into gym classes in the near future.

Currently, a $2.5 million research project is taking place in Rhode Island that compares playing physical video games to going to the gym. Recent research shows that an intense session of video game exercise can offer the same benefits as other physical activity. Additionally, playing movement based video games are considered more fun than traditional workouts, so perhaps participants would even exercise more. More information can be found at: Thebostonchannel.com/r/30244563/detail.html

Recently, video game exercises have also been incorporated into the classroom, specifically at Conlee Elementary School. As the Wii Fit was incorporated into the regimen, tardiness went down. The kids were excited to be playing a game and didn’t even realize they were really exercising at the same time. More information can be found at: Usatoday.com/yourlife/fitness/2010-10-11-justdance11_cv_n.htm I feel that physical video games will continue to get more attention as their benefits are shown through research. They can be a great tool to get kids and adults to exercise more while also having fun.

Another Benefit of Playing Games

New research has shown the benefits of playing games – they can improve your memory or even prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Many of your favorite smart phone games are “brain-training” ones, which are designed to increase cognitive activity and memory. The market for these games continues to grow as new research shows their benefits. One of the largest companies involved in this market is Lumosity, you can check out some of their games here: http://www.lumosity.com/brain-games

Even games that aren’t “brain-training” ones also help keep the mind active because the majority of them still require a lot of focus to play. Some examples of these types of games include Angry Bird, Tower Defense, and more. Research has shown that these types of games slow the growth of a specific brain protein that contributes to memory loss.

Kathleen Connell, a 100-year old woman from the United Kingdom, is an avid supporter of games. She believes they have helped contribute to her healthy lifestyle and have allowed her to keep mentally sharp even through the test of time. She spends at least a couple hours a day playing video games.

As more research continues to come out about the benefits of video games, I wonder what type of impact it will have going forward. Will more companies get involved in the “brain-training” market? We know from our lectures and readings that video games can potentially benefit how schools teach younger students, but will a large market emerge for video games targeted at older folks?

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