Every now and then I’ve come across a post talking about video games, and how it has shown positive results in plethora of studies. There have been some reports criticizing the video games as well. I decided to investigate this further and see if the positives outweigh the negatives in the recent rush of studies examining the video gaming industry. Why the sudden rush of focusing on the video games you ask? The industry has proven to be recession proof, and certain franchises have gone on to shatter records set by film studios generating well over a $1 billion each release. Such staggering numbers raise an eyebrow –
- What makes video games so special?
- Why are they so addictive?
- Why would anyone spend a monthly fee playing the same game over and over again?
- What do you really benefit (if anything at all) from gaming?
Let's find out!
Majority of the articles that I came across (there are well over a few hundred studies that have been scrutinizing gaming to identify it’s cognitive benefits or detrimental effects. Here’s one of the most recent publications titled “Neural basis of superior performance of action videogame players in an attention-demanding task”. Interesting title? I think so. From the title alone, one should be able to guess it’s going to talk about the positives of videogames, and after reading the abstract I gathered – Gamers are ‘superior’ in target detection compared to non-gamers(PubMed). I guess playing a sniper in Modern Warfare 2 has its perks, or not? Another article talked about video games and audience engagement, and how a successful video game keeps a gamer motivated to continue playing in the virtual world. For example, look at W.o.W players – I’m surprised at how brilliantly Blizzard has set up the game with a monthly fee to live in the online world as an ‘avatar’.This is perhaps one of the most interesting phenomenon’s in today’s games.
The virtual worlds created by utilizing some of the most powerful 3D engines are replicating realities as perfect as possible. Don’t believe me? Pick up Gran Turismo 5 (which only took eons to develop and launch) and test drive a hyper-car. The game has been awarded the ‘most realistic driving simulator’ ever, and after playing it on the PS3 on an HDTV, I was completely immersed in the driving experience. The game did a fantastic job of helping me escape from my reality (pathetic I know, but that's the entire objective of a good game anyway). The surroundings, the dynamics of the car and the sound effects were shockingly real. However, the game couldn’t really keep me engaged for extended periods of time. I will however talk about what an addict Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 made me. I picked up the game in November of 2009, and played the game religiously every day for the next 10 months or so, and I surprised myself when I looked at my total game time played. The game employs a perfect positive reinforcement model, part of Operant Conditiong (an EXTREMELY popular topic in Psychology) that forces the gamer to keep going on and on. Every game I ever played, every shot I ever took, every gun that I ever used – I was rewarded for it in terms of XP (eXPerience) points.
This not only made the game fun, it forced me to play the game like a mouse stuck in a maze till I achieved my objectives, or completed the challenges to get more XP, and before I knew it I was part of an infinite loop with no end in sight. I'm not going to bring up COD: Black Ops because it's probably going to really just enrage me and I'll go off tangent talking about what a poor job Treyarch did on the game. I'll talk about some detrimental effects that have been psychologically and medically documented in a follow-up post.
There are quite a few other games that follow the positive reinforcement technique such as Halo series, SC2 – so on and so forth. Next time you sit down and play a game that keeps rewarding you, switch offthe console and step outside for fresh air. You’ll thank me later.
Thanks for reading!