Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Videogames for Christmas?

Do your children have videogames on their Christmas gift list? Are you asking yourself the question whether or not to buy them the game they would like to have? Videogames are often linked to violence. However, they also seem to be beneficial for children to some extent. Researchers have found interrelations between videogame playing and creativity.

Linda A. Jackson and her colleagues Adward A. Witt, Alexander Ivan Games, Hiram E. Fitzgerald, Alexander von Eye, and Yong Zhao from Michigan State University had 491 children complete a creativity test and assessed their videogame, computer, internet, and cell phone use. There was no link between computer, internet and cell phone use. However, the authors found videogame use to be significantly correlated to different categories of creativity, for example, fluency and originality of ideas in drawing and writing tasks. They found the effect for action-adventure games as well as interpersonal, racing, sports, and even violent videogames.

The original article will be published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, and there is an outline of the study on USA Today.

The fact that there is a correlation between videogame use and creativity does not imply that video game use really causes children to be creative. It might as well be the other way round, or there might be a third factor that impacts both. In order to prove a causal relationship, an experiment will be necessary. If a causal relationship is found, what might be the mechanism behind it? Dipping into the videogame world might exalt the imagination. Some games even require finding solutions for problems, like for example adventure games, which might enhance players’ creativity.

Thus, videogames are likely to be beneficial for children’s creativity. Furthermore, C. Shawn Green and Daphne Bavelier demonstrated that videogames improve players’ visual-spatial skills, skills that are important for mathematics and engineering. From this point of view, it is probably not the worst thing to buy your children the game they would like to have for Christmas. However, it is important to keep in mind that social contacts, physical exercise, and playing in the “real world” is just as important for kids. It’s all in the mix!

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