As some of you guys might know, I have a degree in psychology (and a legitimate job related to it, thank you very much), so I always get excited/interested whenever people do studies on video games and how they affect people.
It was announced today that Sunderland University, a school in the UK, just awarded it's 2008 prize in psychology to a senior named Chris Whitehead. Chris did his thesis on video games, and through his research claimed that various violent video games, rather than teaching people to commit crimes, drive drunk, and behave like a shithead, actually teach people skills they need to successfully function in the real world.
Chris argued that games like GTA, Halo, and CoD not only help to improve visuospatial skills and hand-eye coordination (two things that are generally accepted by the scientific community), but also improve your leadership, communication, and teamwork skills, particularly in multiplayer modes. He also goes on to say that most of the problems that are attributed to gaming are really a result of back parenting and a lack of monitoring of children.
Of course, the article ends by listing all the various ways you can murder people in GTA and all the crimes you can commit, but the fact that this kid's thesis won a research award is promising and shows that academia isn't blinded by all of the "OMG VIDEO GAMES WILL MAKE YOU KILL PEOPLE HYPE." (As a sidenote, violent video games do affect us, but for most of us that effect is moderated by something else, like good parenting, or the effect is small enough that it's not a huge deal.)
While he's not saying anything particularly new or innovative, it's nice to see that attitudes and opinions like his are being rewarded instead of being punished or ignored. To be honest, from the UK I would have expected his research to get the smackdown from his school or advisers. It would have been nice to have seen the actual study, but unfortunately they didn't give it, so it's hard to tell if he had any evidence to actually back this up, or if he was just making claims and generalizations.
Do you think this guy has a legitimate point? Can you actually point to any concrete examples of where playing video games made you a better leader or communicator? The teamwork and leadership skill argument I can understand, but I'm a bit wary of the communication claim since most games I play with random people are just kids screaming racial slurs into the microphone and calling everyone fags.
[Via some press website