Many people love playing video games and they play them a lot. According to an article published online in Nature on February 27, 2013, some scientists are now asking how this passion can be channeled to achieve positive effects on the brain.
In the wake of Sandy Hook, many Connecticut residents (as well as Americans throughout the United States), are questioning the effects of violent video games on behavior. In Connecticut, lawmakers held a public hearing yesterday (Feb. 26) related to several proposed bills to deal with video game violence, including a bill that would prohibit minors from playing violent games in arcades.
The authors of the Nature article urge game designers and brain scientists to work together to design games that train the brain and produce positive effects on behavior (instead of aggressive behavior and violent acts like the Sandy Hook shooting) — such as decreasing anxiety, sharpening attention, or improving empathy and positive social interactions.
There are already some video games that are designed to treat depression and to encourage cancer patients to stick with treatment. For example, the video game Re-mission aims to treat depression by introducing cognitive behavioral therapy while users fight off negative thoughts in a fantasy world. In this game, young cancer patients blast cancer cells and fight infections and the side effects of therapy — all to encourage them to stick with treatment. Also, according to an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, after playing a version of the game Lemmings (which was designed to encourage positive behavior), players were more likely to help another individual after a mishap, or more likely to intervene when someone is being harassed in simulated scenarios.
“Gradually, this work will begin to document the burning societal question of how technology is impacting our brains and our lives, and enable us to make evidence-based choices about the technologies of the future, to produce a new set of tools to cultivate positive habits of mind.” — Daphne Bavelier and Richard J. Davidson, authors of the Nature article.