Dr. Ken Manges, Ph.D. Forensic Psychologist

Both adolescents and adults have been caught up in the thrill and entertainment value of online video games. Some think these are a waste of time. Others see some inherent value in spending their leisure time as we used to spend it outdoors or with board games. The scientific literature has focused on the negative aspects including the supposed problems they raise with aggression, depression, social isolation and addiction.

Research by Granic, Lobel, and Engels is trying to balance the negative with the positive and surveying the literature for those cognitive benefits of gaming including; the motivational, emotional and social benefits of games on the internet.

Motivation benefits

They suggest that games, when played with respect for one’s time and the appropriateness of content (think free time and non-sexually biased characterizations), can generate meaningful intrinsic support for motivation i.e. getting a task completed. Immediate and specific feedback in video games via their point system and achievement of higher levels of play can balance a player’s optimal level challenge and frustration with sufficient experiences of success and accomplishment, which promote a players’ pursuit of their ultimate level of success. (Dweck & Molden, 2005)

Emotional benefits

We all know how success breeds success and its corollary happiness. As it turns out studies show that playing puzzle video games-games with minimal interfaces, short term commitments, and a high degree of accessibility (e.g. Angry Birds, Bejewled II) can improve a gamer’s mood, promote relaxation and ward off anxiety. (Russoniello et. al. 2009).

Social benefits

Games have changed over the years, just ask any 10-year-old. Contrary to popular myth, gamers are not social isolationists. The research supports an alternative perspective. It turns out that over 70% of gamers play their games with a friend, either cooperatively or competitively (Entertainment Software Association, 2012). Much more specifically and of value is the finding that players acquire important prosocial skills when they play games that are specifically designed to reward effective cooperation, support and helping behaviors (Ewoldsen et. al. 2012).

Dweck, C.S., & Molden, D.C., (2005) Self-Theories: Their impact on competence motivation and acquisition. In A.J. Elliot & C.S. Dweck (Eds.) Handbook of competence and motivation (pp 122-140) New York, N.Y: Guilford Press.

Entertainment Software Association, 2012. Essential facts about the computer and video game industry. Retrieved from www.thesa.com/facts/pdf/ESA_EF_2012.pdf.

Ewoldsen, D. R., Eno, C.A., Okdie, B.M., Velez, J.A., Guadagno, R.E., & DeCoster, J. 2012 Effect of playing violent video games cooperatively or competitively on subsequent cooperative behavior. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15, 277-280. Doi: 10.1089/cyber.2011.0308.

Granic, I., Lobel, A., and Engels, C.M. in American Psychologist, Vol. 69, No. 1. 66-78, 2014.

Russoniello, C.V. , O’Brien, K., & Parks, J.M. (2009) EEG, HRV and psychological correlates while playing Bejeweled II: A randomized controlled study. In B.K. Wiederhold & G. Riva (Eds.), Annual review of cybertherapy and telemedicine 2009: Advance technologies in the behavioral, social and neurosciences (Vol. 7, pp 189-192). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Interactive Media Institute and IOS Press. Doi:10.3233/978-1-60750-017-9-189.

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