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Game as Animal, Mineral, Vegetable on Game and Player

Game as Animal, Mineral, Vegetable

Michael Ubaldi  //  June 2, 2010


Two very interesting claims about electronic entertainment.

H

er material research first published seven years ago, University of Rochester's Daphne Bevalier earned a place in the ledes of articles covering last week's Games for Health conference. "People that play these fast-paced games" consisting of violent action titles and shooters, Bevalier stated in her winning bite, "have better vision, better attention and better cognition."

She has proof. Action Video Game Modifies Selective Attention is the candid title of a letter printed by the Nature Publishing Group in 2003. Bevalier and an associate gathered and divided subjects into a dichotomy of 1) gamers and 2) non-gamers, with a control group of non-gamers split between respective daily regimens of 3) Medal of Honor and 4) Tetris. All were sat down for four experiments assessing the capacity for visual perception.

Daphne Bevalier's experiments place gamers tidily ahead of non-gamers in visual perception.An academic listing with English translation follows: subjects were tested for "attentional resources" (confirming whether a designated square or diamond appeared on a diagram littered with extraneous, "distractor" shapes), "enumeration performance" (counting the number of squares flashed for an instant), "attention over space" (identifying a target over a wider and wider field), and "attention over time" (comprehending letters briefly appearing milliseconds after more distinct letters).

Consistent results placed gamers tidily ahead of non-gamers. Bevalier et al. accounted for the obvious rebuttal: wouldn't gamers be predisposed towards keener eyes, and anyway, what does violent action have to do with it? The first half of the control group, whose attention was "distributed and/or switched around the field," compelled to "detect new enemies, track existing enemies, and avoid getting hurt" — as opposed to merely pressing against the anxiety of filling a screen with Tetris blocks and losing the game — generated "detectable effects on new tasks and at untrained locations after only 10 days of training."

Jayne Gackenbach sees video game violence as a possible treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.Self-preservation also lies within the focus of Jayne Gackenbach, a psychology professor at Grant MacEwan University. Gackenbach sees video game violence not as corrosive inculcation but in fact instructive and bracing, and therefore a possible treatment for those suffering from actual experiences of mortal danger through post-traumatic stress disorder.

Her line of reasoning begins with Antti Revonsuo's theory in which dreams — specifically, nightmares — serve as media in which an organism may "refine its threat avoidance skills in a protective environment." She adduces a survey of nearly 100 college students whom alternately do and do not play video games. When accosted with bad dreams, the non-gamers reported fewer instances of lucidity — realization of dreaming and subsequent control over the mental projection — than those regularly playing titles with simulated violence. The latter more often confronted their phantasms, even waking in a state of elation instead of a cold sweat.

In application: soldiers stricken with debilitating flashbacks and emotional occlusions after a tour of duty. "Are those that are heavy gamers," wondered Gackenbach, speaking a few days ago to the Edmonton Sun, "especially those who play first-person shooters, are they in some sense protected from the nightmares they're experiencing?" She confidently offered up a supportive anecdote but is preparing to test the hypothesis with a sample from the armed forces.

Curious stuff — Belavier's work stands on a stronger empirical foundation than Gackenbach's, though the radical product sought in the dream-world tugs at pages that might be turned in half a dozen medical fields. Induction or speculation, these women spur conversations far more astute than the one — soon to be revived by the Supreme Court — over whether the government can enjoin the distribution of this entertainment, heuristic, anodyne, whatever video games might be.




Jessica Johnson // June 3, 2010 // 9:26 PM

And now I am left in a daze as I try to remember if I have ever had a similar experience during a lucid dream.


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