Report issued as total of gamers worldwide reaches more than 1.2 billion

Violent video games can make children smarter, says study

Playing video games may increase children’s “learning, health and social skills”, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

The report stated that the study included observation of the effects of “violent shooter games”, and opposes many commonly held beliefs about how video games can affect the behaviour of children.

"Important research has already been conducted for decades on the negative effects of gaming, including addiction, depression and aggression, and we are certainly not suggesting that this should be ignored," said lead author Isabela Granic PhD of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

"However, to understand the impact of video games on children’s and adolescents’ development, a more balanced perspective is needed."

The report explained: “While one widely held view maintains playing video games is intellectually lazy, such play actually may strengthen a range of cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception."

"This is particularly true for shooter video games that are often violent.”

Interestingly, puzzle and role-playing games – including self-proclaimed ‘brain training’ games – were not found to provide the same level of “enhanced thinking”.

Strategy-based games such as StarCraft had previously been found to offer considerable cognitive benefits by a separate study.

While not all games will provide an improvement in cognitive ability, most will offer the simple benefit of happiness.

“Simple games that are easy to access and can be played quickly, such as ‘Angry Birds,’ can improve players’ moods, promote relaxation and ward off anxiety,” the study said.

"If playing video games simply makes people happier, this seems to be a fundamental emotional benefit to consider," added Granic.

Another stereotypical assumption about video games challenged by the study was the view of the socially inept ‘lone bedroom gamer’.

“More than 70 per cent of gamers play with a friend and millions of people worldwide participate in massive virtual worlds through video games such as ‘Farmville’ and ‘World of Warcraft,” the report detailed.

“Multiplayer games become virtual social communities, where decisions need to be made quickly about whom to trust or reject and how to lead a group.”

The video game developer Spilgames recently released statistics claiming that the total number of gamers worldwide will reach over 1.2 billion by the end of 2013.

A previous study from 2011 had found that “people who play video games, even if they are violent, that encourage cooperation are more likely to be helpful to others while gaming than those who play the same games competitively.”

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