Playing video games 'can boost communication skills'

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Parents despairing at the amount of time their child spends playing video games should take heart, as new research suggests that it may stand them in good stead later in life.

Gaming can help young people develop key skills such as communication and resourcefulness, according to a study by a Glasgow University academic.

Matt Barr, a lecturer in Information Studies said his findings suggest that modern video games can encourage players to think critically and solve problems, the types of qualities that are seen as useful for graduates.

The small-scale study involved 36 undergraduates split into two different groups. The first was a control group while the second, with 16 students, were asked to play eight video games including Borderlands 2, Minecraft and Lara Croft, under controlled conditions, logging 14 hours of play in total over an eight-week period.

Both groups completed surveys before and after the experiment which measured different skills.

The findings showed that the group that played the games showed improvements on communication, adaptability and resourcefulness scales, compared to the control group.

Mr Barr said: "Modern video games often require players to be adaptable and resourceful, and finding multiple ways of accomplishing a task. The way games are designed often encourages critical thinking and reflective learning, commonly cited as desirable attributes in graduates. "

He added: "My research is perhaps what every parent may or, in the case of some, may not like to hear.

"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.

"The study also suggests 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.

"Certainly, the results of the randomised controlled trial described here suggest that the popular discourse around games' alleged ill effects should be tempered by considerations of the potential positive outcomes of playing video games. "