VIDEO games get a bad press. Many are unquestionably violent and, as has been the way with new media from novels to comic books to television, they have been accused of corrupting the moral fabric of youth. Nor are such accusations without merit. There is a body of research suggesting that violent games can lead to aggressive thoughts, if not to violence itself. But not all games are shoot-’em-ups, and what is less examined is whether those that reward more constructive behaviour also have lingering impacts. That, however, is starting to change. Two studies showing that video games have a bright side as well as a dark one have been carried out recently. One, to be published in June by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, was conducted by Douglas Gentile, of Iowa State University’s media research laboratory. He and his colleagues tested the effects of playing so-called “pro-social” games on children and young adults in three countries.
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