Video games have been growing in popularity since the 1970s and are now a dominant social pastime for many adolescents. Consequently, the ramifications of playing video games by high school students have in recent times become a source of concern for educators and parents alike. This paper examines the existing literature on the effects of video games on society in general, and on high school students in particular. This paper specifically examines the positive effects on video games on students.
The research approach was employed in this study where various materials were collected and analysed on determining the advantages of online video gaming on children. The secondary research was adopted since it’s an easy method for finding research materials. Secondary research is also essential as through it various scholars’ work on a given phenomenon can be compared and contrasted.
Based on various scholar articles and journals, majority concur that video gaming is essential for improving visual attention, intelligence, stress reduction, Insight and problem-solving skills, and memory consolidation.
Although various research have shown that video game play is associated with inattention and ADHD symptoms, this specific type of attention – visual attention – is seen to be enhanced by playing video games according to studies. Green and Bavelier (2006) have seen that gamers did better than those who do not play video games in tasks such as serial counting of stimuli and identifying stimuli using peripheral vision, both tasks that measure visual attention. Video game players were also seen to recognize stimuli faster than those who are not. Action video games that require rapid attention shifts were also seen to help elicit improved scores in the three measures mentioned as compared to games that require a singular focus or target (Green and Bavelier, 2003). These findings suggest an increased cognitive development that might be related to other cognitive functions that are associated with learning.
Spatial ability, involving perception and cognition, is the ability of a person to mentally generate, arrange, rotate and transform visual images. An increased ability to do these tasks indicates general intelligence. This ability is measured in several standardized intelligence tests including the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). Quantitative and verbal abilities are seen to be correlated with visual abilities, thus indicating that people with high visual ability scores tend to have high scores on verbal and mathematical assessment tests.
Playing video games was seen to help improve spatial abilities (Passig & Eden, 2001). Lisi and Wolford (2002) studied the effect on spatial abilities to play video games that involve mental rotation skills among third graders. They found that those who played video games that involve mental rotation skills scored significantly higher than those who played video games that did not make use of their mental rotation (MR) skills. These MR skills were measured using an MR test. Those with a high MR ability were measured at 24; those with a low MR ability were 23. A marked improvement was seen in the pretest and posttest scores of the students in the group that played mental rotation related games. This suggests that in order to elicit this effect on a gamer, the choice of video game is also important. Greenfields, Brannon, and Lohr (1994), looked at the relation of playing a violent video game on spatial abilities and found that video game performance is correlated to scores on the rotational task, that is, those who did well in the game also did well on the tests. This study, however, is does not directly show that playing the video game causes the increase in the scores in spatial ability measure.
The studies that showed significant results favouring the use of video games as predictors of heightened spatial abilities imply that playing certain types of video games may have an effect on or at least a relation with the player’s skills that could possibly result in improved school performance. Spatial ability and its relation to other educational domains were studied longitudinally for more than ten years among high school students by Wai, Lubinski, and Benbow (2009). They found that high spatial ability among adolescents is indicative of expertise, achievement, advancement in education and occupation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the future. This result suggests that the students who scored high in spatial ability assessment are likely to excel in these domains, which implies a positive academic performance.
Several studies had compared the reaction speed of video game players with non-players. Orosy-Fildes and Allan (1989) found that players have a significantly faster reaction time to visual stimuli than those who do not play video games. Similarly, Goldstein and his colleagues (1997) showed that playing video games significantly improved the reaction speed of elderly participants, comparing their pretest and post test scores after playing a video game for five weeks and comparing these scores to control subjects. Yuji (1996) showed similar results among kindergarten students who play video games; however, although video game players were found to react faster, their accuracy was not significantly different from those who did not play. Expert gamers were also found to have a more quick and accurate response to several tests of visual attention, mentally arranging objects, and short-term memory (Boot, et al., 2008). These studies show that video games cause a marked improvement in the player’s reaction time on several tasks.
Strang-Carlson, et al., (2010) studied reaction time in neurocognitive abilities such as associated learning, working memory and visual attention among adults who were prematurely born. They hypothesized that prematurely born infants were deprived of weeks of rapid brain development during infancy after their birth, thus, they are expected to have less cognitive abilities than those that were born at term. Results showed that preterm subjects showed significantly slower reaction times in all test domains including associated learning and even showed lower associated learning scores. Several other studies showed that preterm individuals have significantly lower mean IQ scores and lower academic achievement compared to full-term born individuals (Bhutta, 2002). This suggests that reaction time and learning abilities are related and that fast reaction time is a function of a healthier, and more developed brain. Another observation from this study is that faster reaction speed and learning and scholastic performance could be related somehow, and this association could be clarified in further research.
Insight and problem solving skills
Blumberg, Rosenthal & Randall (2008) studied insight, game strategy, and problem-solving skills of video game players. The study required the subjects to play a video game with an obstacle in the course of the game, and they were asked to comment aloud about their progress throughout the game. They found that subjects who played video games more frequently showed significantly more insight and strategies as compared to those who played less frequently. As the game progressed, all participants showed increased problem-solving skills along with increased insights, game strategies, and goal achievement. This suggests that playing video games might increase a person’s ability to solve problems and direct their observations and insights and actions towards achieving a specific goal. It also implied that the participants learned to utilize certain abilities as the course of the game progressed. This ability might prove to be useful in learning and in a school setting and could possibly help a student perform better in certain school tasks.
Computer games has been seen to elicit strong emotional experience and physiological responses with their thrilling and exciting nature characterized by the increased heart rate and respiratory rate found among video game players during and immediately after playing (Wang and Perry, 2006). These strong emotional experiences are theorized to facilitate memory consolidation and learning. Neuroscientific theories suggest that emotional experiences during the hours of learning strengthen consolidation of information in memory. Neurotransmitters in the brain that were believed to be involved in learning, behaviour reinforcement and emotions such as dopamine and norepinephrine were seen to be released in significant quantities during gameplay (Koepp, 1998). The consolidation period right after playing video games when the player’s emotions are still strong; the level of these neurotransmitters is believed to facilitate learning among those who play video games (Stickgold, et al., 2001). Blumberg, Rosenthal & Randall (2008) studied insight, game strategy, and problem solving skills of video game players. The study required the subjects to play a video game with an obstacle in the course of the game, and they were asked to comment aloud about their progress throughout the game.
In conclusion, the study has revealed that video gaming aside from its advantages is essential in developing a student’s learning progress. They found that subjects who played video games more frequently showed significantly more insight and strategies as compared to those who played less frequently. As the game progressed, all participants showed increased problem-solving skills along with increased insights, game strategies, and goal achievement. This suggests that playing video games might increase a person’s ability to solve problems and direct their observations and insights and actions towards achieving a specific goal. It also implied that the participants learned to utilize certain abilities as the course of the game progressed. This ability might prove to be useful in learning and in a school setting and could possibly help a student perform better in certain school tasks.
Bhutta, A, T., Cleves, M. A., Casey, P. H., Cradock, M. M. & Anand, K.J. (2002). Cognitive and behavioral outcomes of school-aged children who were born preterm: a meta-analysis. Journal of the American Medical Association. 288 (6):728– 737 Retrieved from http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/289/6/705.
Boot, W. R., Kramer, A. F., Simons, D. J., Fabiani, M. & Gratton, G. (2008) The effects of video game playing on attention, memory, and executive control. Acta Psychologica, 129, 387-398.
De De Lisi, R., &Wolford, J. L. (2002). Improving children’s mental rotation accuracy with computer game playing. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 163, 272-282.
Green, C. S., and Bavelier, D. (2006). Enumeration versus multiple object tracking: The case of action video game players. Cognition, 101, 217-245.
Goldstein, J., Cajko, L., Oosterbroek, M., Michielsen, M., van Houten, O., & Salverda, F. (1997). Video games and elderly. Social Behavior and Personality, 25, 345-352.
Passig, D. and Eden, S. (2001).Virtual reality as a tool for improving spatial rotation among deaf and hard of-hearing children. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 4, 681-686.
Greenfield, P. M., Brannon, C., & Lohr, D. (1994). Two-dimensional representation of movement through three-dimensional space: The role of video game expertise. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 15, 87-103.
Koepp, M. J., Gunn, R. N. & Lawrence, A. D. Evidence for striatal dopamine release during a video game. Nature.1998;393 :266– 268.
Stickgold, R., Hobson, J. A., Fosse, R. & Fosse, M. (2001). Sleep, learning, and dreams: off-line memory reprocessing. Science. 294, 1052– 1057.
Strang-Karlsson, S. (2010). Slower Reaction Times and Impaired Learning in Young Adults With Birth Weight <1500 g. Pediatrics. 125 (1) e74 -e82.
Orosy-Fildes, C. & Allan, R.W. (1989). Psychology of computer use: XII.Videogame play: Human reaction time to visual stimuli. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 69, 243-247.
Wai, J., Lubinski, D. and Benbow, C. P. (2009). Spatial ability for STEM domains: Aligning over 50 years of cumulative psychological knowledge solidifies its importance. Journal of Educational Psychology. 101(4), 817-835.
Wang, X. & Perry, A. (2006). Metabolic and Physiologic Responses to Video Game Play in 7- to 10-Year-Old Boys. Archive of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine.160, 411-415.
Yuji, H. (1996). Computer games and information-processing skills. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 83, 643-647.
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