Video Games, Brain and Psychology Round Up

After earlier round-ups on video games (#1 on gaming in itself, as a social form; #2 on social science and game design), I am adding this third round up covering gaming and mind/brain research.

Together all three round ups provide the background for approaching video games through neuroanthropology. Ideally this background would then serve to inform specific research on gaming, which I have addressed previously in discussing avatars, MMORPGs, and Grand Theft Auto, probably my most synthetic piece.

To place that work in context, you can also check out the popular post One Day at Kotaku: Understanding Video Games and Other Modern Obsessions. See also: video games and the neuroanthropology of interaction and gaming and cultural perception.

This round-up draws more on published research than the previous two. At times the best I could provide is a link to an abstract; where possible, I have tracked down pdfs. And if there are other good papers out there that I don’t mention, please leave a comment!

Games and Neuroscience

Shawn Green and Daphne Bavelier, The Cognitive Neuroscience of Video Games
Pdf of a comprehensive chapter that appeared in the book Digital Media: Transformations in Human Communication

Klaus Mathiak & Rene Weber, Toward Brain Correlates of Natural Behavior: fMRI during Violent Video Games
“We propose that virtual environments can be used to study neuronal processes involved in semi-naturalistic behavior as determined by content analysis. Importantly, the activation pattern reflects brain-environment interactions rather than stimulus responses as observed in classical experimental designs.”

Niklas Ravaja et al., Spatial Presence and Emotions during Video Game Playing: Does It Matter with Whom You Play?
Yes it does—playing against another person is different than playing against a computer

CS Green & D. Bavelier, Action-Video-Game Experience Alters the Spatial Resolution of Vision
“Compared with nonplayers, action-video-game players could tolerate smaller target-distractor distances. Thus, the spatial resolution of visual processing is enhanced in this population. Critically, similar effects were observed in non-video-game players who were trained on an action video game; this result verifies a causative relationship between video-game play and augmented spatial resolution.” Gaming can also reduce gender differences in spatial cognition.

Fumiko Hoeft et al., Gender Differences in the Mesocorticolimbic System during Computer Game-play
“males showed greater activation and functional connectivity compared to females in the mesocorticolimbic system. These findings may be attributable to higher motivational states in males, as well as gender differences in reward prediction, learning reward values and cognitive state during computer video games”

MJ Koepp et al., Evidence for Striatal Dopamine Release during a Video Game
Pdf of well-received 1998 Nature paper on reward, dopamine and gaming. Slightly dated now with its view of reward and dopamine, but definitely a foundational piece.

Niklas Ravaja, The Psychophysiology of Video Gaming: Phasic Emotional Responses to Game Events
Ever wonder why it’s fun? Both positive and negative game events when players actively involved in playing elicited “positive emotional responses in terms of facial EMG activity” (pdf)

Games and Embodiment

James Paul Gee, Video Games and Embodiment
Recent article in Games and Culture laying out Gee’s view on gaming and human thinking as both “situated and embodied”.

Edward Schneider, Death with a Story: How Story Impacts Emotional, Motivational, and Physiological Responses to First-Person Shooter Video Games
“When story was present, game players felt greater identification, sense of presence, and physiological arousal. The presence of story did not affect self-reported arousal or dominance.”

Delwin Clark & P. Robert Duimering, How Computer Gamers Experience the Game Situation: A Behavioral Study
First person shooters and qualitative research on what players focus on

Scott Klemer et al., How Bodies Matter: Five Themes for Interaction Design
Experiencing, understanding, interacting and how that shapes and should shape design of interactive or immersive technologies (pdf)

Gaming, Immersion and Addiction

Richard Wood et al., The Structural Characteristics of Video Games: A Psycho-Structural Analysis
The main inducements for gaming based on work with self-identified gamers

Nicholas Yee, The Psychology of Massively Multi-User Online Role-Playing Games: Motivations, Emotional Investment, Relationships and Problematic Usage
What players find absorbing about MMORPGs (pdf)

Paul Cairns et al., Quantifying the Experience of Immersion in Games
Pdf on how to understand and quantify what counts as “immersion” when gaming (pdf)

Peter Voderer, Explaining the Enjoyment of Playing Video Games: The Role of Competition
Finally someone looks at the obvious, and lo and behold, the competition matters

Mind Hacks, Why There Is No Such Thing as Internet Addiction
Compulsive, repetitive behaviors are about the activity, not the medium (gaming vs. games); and exist along a range of normal to problematic to pathological involvement

Joshua Smyth, Beyond Self-Selection in Video Game Play: An Experimental Examination of the Consequences of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game Play
Assigned to play a MMORGP? After one month, participants reported “more hours spent playing, worse health, worse sleep quality, and greater interference in “real-life” socializing and academic work. In contrast, this group also reported greater enjoyment in playing, greater interest in continuing to play, and greater acquisition of new friendships.” Cognitive Daily describes this study in more depth

Pauline Askin, Video Game Addicts Are Not Shy Nerds
“Our findings strongly suggest that gaming doesn’t cause social problems, and social problems are not driving people to gaming.”

Games, Cognition and Learning

Cognitive Daily, Will Video Games Solve Sex-Discrimination in Science?
Men get better visuospatial, and thus math, skills from gaming?

Cognitive Daily, One More Way Video Games Might Be Good for You
Cognitive training, including an on-line demonstration

Matthew Peter Jacob Habgood, The Effective Integration of Digital Games and Learning Content
Thesis covering examples and theories for how to integrate gaming and learning (pdf)

Steve LeBlanc, Studies: Video Games Can Aid Students, Surgeons
AP article on recent research outlining how gaming helps specific types of learning

Games and Violence

Edge, Review: Grand Theft Childhood
Do violent games create violence? A balanced review of a balanced book

Christoph Klimmt et al., How Players Manage Moral Concerns to Make Video Game Violence Enjoyable
Qualitative research on how gamers can do things they would normally never do in real life

Christopher John Ferguson, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: A Meta-analytic Review of Positive and Negative Effects of Violent Video Games
When effect sizes and publication bias are taken into account, video games appear to not impact violence. But effects are shown for greater visuospatial cognition.

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