Playing video games may not be a complete waste of time for university students, contrary to what many parents and teachers might think.
According to one study, certain video games could improve communication, adaptability and resourcefulness skills among university students, suggesting that video games might have a role to play in higher education.
Dr Matthew Barr, a University of Glasgow lecturer and Vice-Chair of the British Digital Games Research Association, sought to measure the effects of playing video games on students’ development of skills and competencies needed for employment.
In Barr’s study, 100 first and second-year undergraduate students in the Arts and Humanities were recruited and randomly assigned to one of two groups: one that played games together for two hours per week, while the other did not.
In his report, it was noted that: “The games used in the study were all commercial titles, designed for entertainment purposes rather than with the intention of developing particular skills in players.”
Both groups had to self-report on measures of communication resourcefulness and adaptability.
Eight games were chosen for the study; the majority of the games selected, with the exception of Gone Home and Papers, Please, include a substantial multiplayer component. The six other games include Borderlands 2, Minecraft, Valve’s Portal 2, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and Valve’s Team Fortress 2.
After eight weeks, Barr found that students in the game-playing group scored significantly higher for communication, adaptability and resourcefulness than the control group.
“This work demonstrates that playing commercial video games can have a positive effect on communication ability, adaptability and resourcefulness in adult learners, suggesting that video games may have a role to play in higher education,” said the report.
It also suggested that graduate skills may be improved in a relatively short amount of time, with the gains reported here achieved over a period of eight weeks and representing just 14 hours of game play.
So, should students be encouraged to use video games to complement their studies? Perhaps educators and policy makers should explore the idea.