Washington, Aug 18 : A collaborative study has found that certain types of video games can have beneficial effects, improving gamers' dexterity as well as their ability to problem-solve - attributes that have proven useful not only to students but to surgeons.
In one study, Fordham University psychologist Fran C. Blumberg, PhD, and Sabrina S. Ismailer, MSED, examined 122 fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders' problem-solving behaviour while playing a video game that they had never seen before to show that playing video games could improve cognitive and perceptual skills.
As the children played the game, they were asked to think aloud for 20 minutes.
The researchers assessed their problem-solving ability by examining the types of cognitive, goal-oriented, game-oriented, emotional and contextual statements they made.
"Younger children seem more interested in setting short-term goals for their learning in the game compared to older children who are more interested in simply playing and the actions of playing," Blumberg said.
"Thus, younger children may show a greater need for focusing on small aspects of a given problem than older children, even in a leisure-based situation such as playing video games," Blumberg added.
In the second study, Iowa State University psychologist Douglas Gentile, PhD, and William Stone, BS, described several studies involving high school and college students and laparoscopic surgeons that looked at their video game usage and its effects.
Results of the student studies confirmed previous research on effects of playing violent games.
The researchers found that those playing violent games were more hostile, less forgiving and believed violence to be normal compared to those who played non-violent games.
Players of 'prosocial' games got into fewer fights in school and were more helpful to other students.
Other studies involving students showed that those who played more entertainment games did poorer in school and were at greater risk for obesity.
A study of 33 laparoscopic surgeons showed 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.
The researchers found that advanced video game skill and experience are significant predictors of suturing capabilities, even after controlling for sex, years of medical training and number of laparoscopic surgeries performed.
A second study of 303 laparoscopic surgeons 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.
"The big picture is that there are several dimensions on which games have effects, including the amount they are played, the content of each game, what you have to pay attention to on the screen, and how you control the motions," said Gentile.
"This means that games are not 'good' or 'bad,' but are powerful educational tools and have many effects we might not have expected they could," Gentile added.
The study was presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.