First published in the Strathclyde Telegraph 01/04/15 (available online here)
Video games are one of the fastest expanding industries and, according to recent research, an estimated 69% of the British public play games with 8-15 year olds playing the most with an average of 20 hours per week. It can therefore be seen that research into their effects on the individual need to be continued.
Games have often been seen as having a detrimental effect on individuals’ performance in some areas; especially in area such as course work for school or university and others accused of instigating violent behaviour too. To accept this fully as fact may actually be a rather naïve view to take as some research has shown that games can actually help to improve cognition and even boost the players mood.
A review of recent research published on the American Psychological Societies website provides evidence to help support the view that playing games can be related to improvement in spatial navigation, reasoning, memory, perception and even problem solving.
Dr William McGeown, a lecturer from the Psychology department at the University of Strathclyde, offered some insight into the research of video games and how improvements could be made in order to enhance to results of previous research. Dr McGeown suggests that more deception may be necessary so that participants involved in research on games (which usually consists of two groups; gamers vs. nongamers) are unable to guess what the research is about and to reduce the likelihood of gamers trying to compete and outperform the non-gaming group. This is the approach currently being used by Dr McGeown’s PhD student, Mr Alex Spence, whose research findings will be available in the public domain soon.
Games are now even being used in a variety of environments where ‘hands on experience’ may be limited; these are known as serious games. So far serious games have been used to help improve areas such as health care where student nurses are able to develop skills and clinical knowledge in a safe environment (Darielet et al. 2012). It can be seen that this could become a large market for game developers and may even result in serious games becoming a regular part of training in the future, as research by Connolly et al. (2012) has found that when a game-based approach to learning was used it made the players feel more motivated and made learning a more enjoyable experience. It was suggested by Dr McGeown that this would be an excellent area for research for future Msc, PhD students and future researchers.
Overall it can be seen that a more balanced view of research into videogames has to be taken and is slowly starting to emerge.