While researchers gathered at last week’s American Psychological Association conference discussed the conventional- the relationship between violent games and aggressive behavior, this dialogue was dwarfed by more atypical news. Dr. Douglas Gentile, of the Iowa State Media Research Lab, took a different approach. “We’re trying to get beyond the question of whether video games are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and instead put all the pieces of the elephant together in terms of what video game users actually learn during play”, he stated.
Gentile highlighted a relationship between the amount of time a game is played (along with the context, content and structure) and learning and skill development. Gentile used the example of an adventure game that demanded quick reactions and alternative solution methods to help improve a player’s problem solving skills. Additionally, Forham University Researchers, Dr. Fran Blumberg and Sabrina Ismailer, found that video games could assist fifth, sixth and seventh graders in cognitive and perceptual skills.
The most practical piece of research may have come from two research groups- surgeons who played video games were 27 percent faster at surgical procedures, and made 37 fewer errors than their non-gaming counterparts. Video gaming proved more of a measure of success than examining the amounts of training, experience, or gender in these doctors.
The direction of this research and its outcome shouldn’t surprise anyone- Steven Johnson in his 2005 book, Everything Bad is Good for You, detailed how the structure of games stimulates the reward centers of the brain and encourages methodical thought processes. However, it is refreshing to see a major research entity mature in their understanding of interactive media.