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The Upside of Games

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.     

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.


  1. Wow, this reads like a college text. Too hard, I guess I’ve played too many games! LOL.

  2. Funny pic. You guys are too smart for your own good.

  3. What game is that? Is that real?

  4. Tech-Gaming educating gamers since 2007!

  5. Good to know. Ammunition for the parent, teachers, and know it alls.

  6. I feel smart already— after reading that article.

  7. So the guy is trauma center wants to play trauma center. How is that possible?!?!

  8. This article just proves my point that a “Juno” inspired game called Teen Pregnancy would be a perfect game. Then doctors could do studies and blame the percent rise for pregnancy/abortions on the game thereby stimulating more copies purchased by people wondering what all the hub bub is about.

    And if it was created for the Wii? Man, I can just guess what that Wii remote could be used for!


  9. Playing games makes me smarter. Let me get to it!!!

  10. Why simulate sex with 16 year olds, when their bodies are begging for it anyway?

  11. Heady stuff.

  12. Could this game work with the plastic cover that fits over the Wiimote? 😉

  13. I don’t know, I don’t want a surgeon who plays games 24/7.

  14. Cool, playing games can make you smart! I always knew this.

  15. Good to know.

  16. Johnson’s book is a steel at 5.99. I paid $22 for it a few months ago.

  17. LOL! Someone’s smart and funny!

  18. You need to play some Trauma Center with that score, doctor. Jeez!

  19. Are the surgeons playing casual or hardcore games? Thinking or reflex based. More data please.

  20. Not everything bad is good for you, Mr. Johnson. Junk food, ex-girl friends, and speeding tickets are but three examples.

  21. Did both groups of surgeons do the same medical procedures? The 27 % faster than those that did not play does not really mean anything, unless every single procedure was exactly the same.

  22. A study of 33 laparoscopic surgeons found that those who played video games were 27 percent faster at advanced surgical procedures and made 37 percent fewer errors compared to those who did not play video games, said Gentile.
    From the original:

    Advanced video game skill and experience are significant predictors of suturing capabilities, the researchers found, even after controlling for sex, years of medical training and number of laparoscopic surgeries performed.

    So suturing was the skill.

    A second study of 303 laparoscopic surgeons (82 percent men; 18 percent women) also showed that surgeons who played video games requiring spatial skills and hand dexterity and then performed a drill testing these skills were significantly faster at their first attempt and across all 10 trials than the surgeons who did not the play video games first.

    Double blind and games FTW 😉

  23. Hey Sr. Styles. I love that guy!

  24. Nice article! I’ll be sure to request a surgeon who plays games next time I need it. 🙂

  25. I hope my doc is a gamer, haha. Pretty interesting read, but it makes sense when you think about it.