Study: Video Games Can Promote Sociability

Here’s a link to the article at GameDaily.biz:

With all the talk among politicians and mainstream media of video game violence turning our nation’s kids into mindless killers, some researchers have actually been looking into some of the positive effects video games may have on people. It’s already been demonstrated that games can help improve hand-eye coordination, and “exertainment” can aid overweight individuals in shedding pounds. Now new research indicates that certain games may promote sociability as well.

Here’s a link to the research as published in the journal, by Constance Steinkuehler, Curriculum and Instruction Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Dmitri Williams, Speech Communication Department, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A lot more meat here! Here’s the abstract – highly recommend a read:

This article examines the form and function of massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) in terms of social engagement. Combining conclusions from media effects research informed by the communication effects literature with those from ethnographic research informed by a sociocultural perspective on cognition and learning, we present a shared theoretical framework for understanding (a) the extent to which such virtual worlds are structurally similar to “third places” (Oldenburg, 1999) for informal sociability, and (b) their potential function in terms of social capital (Coleman, 1988; Putnam, 2000). Our conclusion is that by providing spaces for social interaction and relationships beyond the workplace and home, MMOs have the capacity to function as one form of a new “third place” for informal sociability. Participation in such virtual “third places” appears particularly well suited to the formation of bridging social capital—social relationships that, while not usually providing deep emotional support, typically function to expose the individual to a diversity of worldviews.

Constance Steinkuehler is part of the Games and Professional Practice Simulations (GAPPS) team in the Academic Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Co-Laboratory. More about them shortly.

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