From the perspective of a conventional grown up, video games may be fun but they are a waste of time. They cause young men and women to sit on the couch for hours on end staring at a screen, completely immersed in another world devoid of all useful (i.e. productive) benefit. Players become addicted to these games while slovenly sliding into obesity, overall laziness, and unproductive lifestyles. They might even become aggressive and antisocial. Gasp!
However, if you have been following this blog, you are probably well aware by now that there are many examples where games are being used for good and healthy purposes. Other game designers have noticed this as well: brain games for the elderly may indeed have many benefits. In general, for every negative in life, there is usually a positive, a silver lining so to speak. It may not be immediately obvious but if you dig around a bit and look at it from a different perspective, the benefits can usually be found.
Although video games are a form of self indulgence, they often provide unique and engaging environments that train players to think fast and resourcefully. With the right design and mechanics, they can facilitate learning and tap into diverse levels of cognitive thinking and problem-solving in ways that are not as easy to achieve with books and other forms of media. Research has recently come out investigating the positive potential of video games to better harness our cognitive capabilities to shape the brain in new and powerful ways.
Exploring New Ways to Harness Video Games
Last year, Nature published an article by two researchers, Daphne Bavelier of the University of Rochester and Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who were exploring new possibilities within game development to improve mental functioning, learning and to even strengthen emotional intelligence.
Their work was welcomed with open arms- Bavelier and Davidson even led a meeting at the White House attended by entertainment media experts and neuroscientists to discuss applications in interactive technology to better understand brain functioning and to enhance the overall well being of individuals, young and old alike.
Within the Nature article, they implored game designers and neuroscientists to develop new types of games that would improve overall psychological health. They specifically were keen to focus on these areas:
- Lowered anxiety
- Heightened attention
While game enthusiasts and proponents of gamification believe in the power of well designed applications to do extraordinary things (e.g. enhance enterprise efficiency and creative learning for kids; garner tangible support for charity causes; and even help rescue teams with natural disaster rescue efforts), it is exciting to see that the scientific research community is also embracing the idea of redefining society’s negative perceptions of games by advancing innovative design. In doing so, they are coming up with some interesting results on the ability of games to increase intelligence (within specific areas). Here are a few examples:
Continue reading Can Playing Video Games Increase Your Intelligence?