American Psychological Association Names Videogames "Powerful Learning Tools"

An optimistic look at the effects of videogames on players has been offered by the American Psychological Association via the Associated Press. The APA goes as far as to refer to videogames as “powerful learning tools.”

Researchers gathering in Boston for the American Psychological Association convention detailed a series of studies suggesting that video games can be powerful learning tools — from increasing the problem solving potential of younger students to improving the suturing skills of laparoscopic surgeons.

Evidence that playing videogames improves surgical skills is so strong, surgeons may just want to start listing their playtime experience on their resumes.

“The single best predictor of their skills is how much they had played video games in the past and how much they played now,” said Iowa State University psychologist Douglas Gentile. “Those were better predictors of surgical skills than years of training and number of surgeries performed,” Gentile said. “So the first question you might ask your surgeon is how many of these [surgeries] have you done and the second question is, ‘Are you a gamer?’”

However, the APA isn’t just talking about edutainment and simulators put purely entertaining videogames as well. The article cites studies on players of MMOs, particularly World of Warcraft.

Researchers looked at a random sample of 2,000 discussion posts about the popular multiplayer online game World of Warcraft to see what the players were talking about. The game is set in a fantasy world where players hunt, gather and battle to move their characters to higher levels. Players who work together succeed faster.

The study found the game encouraged scientific thinking, like using systems and models for understanding situations and using math and testing to investigate a problem.

Not all of the studies show videogames in such a positive light. Behavioral studies on subjects who played violent videogames are still grim.

Other studies confirmed earlier research that found students who played violent games tended to be more hostile, less forgiving and believed violence to be normal compared to those who played nonviolent games.

Still I wonder if the studies in question prove that violent videogames make players more aggressive, or that people with more aggressive personalities chose to play violent videogames. I would like to see personality profiles of the subjects before and after exposure to violent videogames. that would be more convincing proof that these games are actually changing the players’ natural tendencies.

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3 Comments on American Psychological Association Names Videogames "Powerful Learning Tools"


On August 18, 2008 at 2:19 pm

Metal Gear Solid (1st gen PS) taught me how to sneak around my High School and evade the school guards. So yeah, they are learning tools. Even GTA. A life of crime = you’ll inevitably get shot in the buttocks. Not that I know from experience, that is, because I happen to have a very justifiable fear of getting shot in the buttocks.


On August 18, 2008 at 3:24 pm



On August 18, 2008 at 9:25 pm

lol @ moo.
What the studies fail to notice is that most video games are just interactive forms of other learning methods. An average WoW player probably reads a novel a week via chat. Although, none of it is proper english, but it is still reading and hopefully building a kids vocabulary at the same time. Wow (and other games) can teach a wide form of deductive reasoning skills and active thinking. Amazing that just now the media isn’t looking at GTA4 and ting themselves over what our youth is playing and seeing the potential behind letting your kids spend their free time playing games instead of whining about how they should be playing football or baseball, cause that really teaches them things.