With Christmas almost upon us we are seeing the usual raft of big name video game releases. With that in mind it seems timely to take a look at a recent TED talk by Daphne Bavelier exploring the effect of video games on the brain.
Professor Bavelier is a researcher into the brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. Her talk avoids the more difficult question of whether violent video games promote violence, instead drawing on her research to look at the benefits of playing fast paced games (such as first person shooters) on brain development. Her insights into the development of eyesight, multi- tasking and cognitive abilities of gamers might surprise many. You can even test your own abilities in some of the fields during her talk.
Professor Bavelier also touches the question of why educational games tend not to be as popular as traditional video games. Her analogy of ‘chocolate covered broccoli’ is a good reminder of the fundamental mistakes many game designers make when designing educational games.
On a related note, the Sydney Morning Herald recently published an interesting article about game designer Jens Stober, who is aiming to change attitudes towards asylum seekers with an upcoming game. It’s an interesting exploration of the topic of whether games can be used for change.