Violent video games touted as learning tool

May 28, 2010 By KAREN MATTHEWS , Associated Press Writer
In this undated computer generated image released by Electronic Arts, Inc., animated solders attack a building in the "Medal of Honor" video game. Some researchers have credited first-person shooter games like "Medal of Honor" with the improving vision, attention and cognition. (AP Photo/Electronic Arts, Inc.)

(AP) -- You're at the front lines shooting Nazis before they shoot you. Or you're a futuristic gladiator in a death match with robots.

Either way, you're playing a - and you may be improving your vision and other brain functions, according to research being presented Thursday at a New York University conference on games as a learning tool.

"People that play these fast-paced games have better vision, better attention and better cognition," said Daphne Bavelier, an assistant professor in the department of brain and cognitive science at the University of Rochester.

Bavelier was being a presenter at Games for Learning, a daylong symposium on the educational uses of video games and computer games.

The event, the first of its kind, was an indication that electronic games are gaining legitimacy in the classroom.

President Barack Obama recently identified the creation of good educational software as one of the "grand challenges for American innovation," and the federal Department of Education's assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Innovation and Improvement, Jim Shelton, was to attend Thursday's conference.

Panelists were to discuss how people learn and how games can be engineered to be even more educational.

"People do learn from games," said J. Dexter Fletcher of the Institute for Defense Analyses.

Sigmund Tobias of the State University of New York at Albany said an Israeli air force study found that students who played the game "Space Fortress" had better rankings in their pilot training than students who did not.

He added that students who played "pro-social" games that promote cooperation were more likely than others to help out in real-life situations like intervening when someone is being harassed.

Bavelier's research has focused on so-called first-person shooter games like "Unreal Tournament" and "Medal of Honor," in which the player is an Allied solder during World War II.

"You have to jump into vehicles, you have to crouch and hide," said Tammy Schachter, a spokeswoman for game developer Electronic Arts Inc.

Bavelier said playing the kill-or-be-killed games can improve peripheral vision and the ability to see objects at dusk, and the games can even be used to treat amblyopia, or lazy eye, a disorder characterized by indistinct vision in one eye.

She said she believes the games can improve math performance and other brain tasks.

"We are testing this hypothesis that when you play an action video game, what you do is you learn to better allocate your resources," she said. "In a sense you learn to learn. ... You become very good at adapting to whatever is asked of you."

Bavelier believes the games will eventually become part of school curriculums, but "it's going to take a generation."

Schachter said the purpose of "Medal of Honor" and other games is to have fun, and any educational benefits are a bonus.

"Through entertainment these games test your memory skills, your eye-hand coordination, your ability to detect small activities on the screen and interact with them," she said.

Not everyone is a fan.

Gavin McKiernan, the national grassroots director for the Parents Television Council, an advocacy group concerned about sex and violence in the media, said that when it comes to violent video games, any positive effects are outweighed by the negative.

"You are not just passively watching Scarface blow away people," McKiernan said. "You are actually participating. Doing these things over and over again is going to have an effect."

Bavelier said games could be developed that would harness the positive effects of the first-person shooter games without the violence.

"As you know, most of us females just hate those action video games," she said. "You don't have to use shooting. You can use, for example, a princess which has a magic wand and whenever she touches something, it turns into a butterfly and sparkles."

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8 comments

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kevinrtrs
3 / 5 (2) May 28, 2010
Seems like the department of brain and cognitive science is bent on only looking at the physical side.
Are they also going to look into the mental and moral effects of participating in violence vs. not doing so?
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) May 28, 2010
Are they also going to look into the mental and moral effects of participating in violence vs. not doing so?
You aren't participating in violence. You're playing a game. There is no morality involved in dissolving a pixelated image on a tv screen, this is why the technological progress of war allows for veterans to be more nonchalant today than they were as little as 20 years ago.
jwalkeriii
not rated yet May 28, 2010
Video games are training tools. I find my eye hand coordination is improved after a month of playing, and I definitely feel more responsive to physical situations around me because my awareness of physical details increases in the real world.

The downsides are that because it's more intense than the real world, like anything "intense" it lends itself to adiction (be it Tetris, Violent video game, sex, drinking, etc.).

As for morality... well if you are predisposed toward violence, video games are not going to make you meaner. A lot of fun loving, never hurt a fly folks play video games and the opposite is usually the result.

After you play a while you are amped for a bit afterward, but then you are actually more calm later. I'm the calmest person you'll ever meet. You would never know I just finished off "killing" 30 virtual people 5 minutes ago... Reality check. Games dont' kill people, violent people kill people.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) May 28, 2010
The downsides are that because it's more intense than the real world, like anything "intense" it lends itself to adiction
As someone who has both fought in a war and played Modern Warfare I can say you are decidedly wrong.

The real world is far more intense than any videogame ever will be. There is a tangible and palatable difference. I can remember everything from the first time I lined sights up on a civilian and made a split second decision (lucky for both of us I made the correct decision). I can tell you the color of the leaves on the trees, the smell of cut wood, sweat, and gun powder. I can not remember anything about any time I've played Modern Warfare.

The two are not alike by any measure and if you think videogames are intense, get outside more often.
MarkyMark
not rated yet May 29, 2010
The downsides are that because it's more intense than the real world, like anything "intense" it lends itself to adiction
As someone who has both fought in a war and played Modern Warfare I can say you are decidedly wrong.

The real world is far more intense than any videogame ever will be. There is a tangible and palatable difference. I can remember everything from the first time I lined sights up on a civilian and made a split second decision (lucky for both of us I made the correct decision). I can tell you the color of the leaves on the trees, the smell of cut wood, sweat, and gun powder. I can not remember anything about any time I've played Modern Warfare.

The two are not alike by any measure and if you think videogames are intense, get outside more often.

Agreed

tho i should say i have never served myself it just makes sence to me.
bredmond
1 / 5 (1) May 30, 2010
The downside is the opportunity cost in lost verbal skills and academic knowledge. But if one doesnt care about those things, then it doesnt matter.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Jun 01, 2010
The downside is the opportunity cost in lost verbal skills and academic knowledge. But if one doesnt care about those things, then it doesnt matter.

Verbal skills and academic knowledge would be why PARENTING is important.

If you think videogames are a teaching tool, you're partially correct and partially incorrect.

Just like a physics book is a teaching tool, you wouldn't exactly hand it over with no background information on how to use it, would you?
mollygray
not rated yet Jun 15, 2010
Hi guys...
I can remember everything from the first time I lined sights up on a civilian and made a split second decision (lucky for both of us I made the correct decision). I can tell you the color of the leaves on the trees, the smell of cut wood, sweat, and gun powder....

http://www.puzzle...ter.html

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