26 April 2012
Most girls have had at least one boyfriend that would rather play his video games than answer her phone calls. Lucky for those boys, researchers are finding several advantages to the virtual world. The idea is becoming more attractive to more universities and to the workplace. Although this is becoming more accepted and widespread, there are also cons to living in a virtual world. Games like these affect the mind in more ways than addiction. There are many ways that people can make use of a virtual world—good and bad.
Video games can have good and bad effects. They relate to real life in that most games have a reward system, which is players’ incentive for doing well both virtually and realistically. They can be a learning experience for students, teachers, and even the U.S. military (Johnson 651). But as well as anything, gaming also has its downfalls. For example, in a virtual world called Second Life, citizens began to exhibit violence that is illegal in real life. But after several legal investigations, the creators of the game hope to eventually create its own legal and justice system (Sipress 648). In order to understand fully the complexities of virtual reality gaming, the issues of student learning, brain stimulation and virtual violence merit a closer look.
Incorporating the virtual world into classrooms can help students understand how people think in the real world. Some of the more common virtual worlds are Second Life and World of Warcraft. One of the most prominent virtual worlds is known as Second Life. One of the first tests having this in a classroom was in a workshop at Elon University. The purpose of the study was to see how people functioned in a virtual world that is much like the real world. Not only are the students learning about the world and the way people think, but the teachers are also learning computer skills by learning how to maneuver Second Life (Foster 643). For some, Second Life serves as an escape from reality. Educators and businesses are interested in it because “subscribers create, buy, and sell the colorful characters, costumes, virtual belongings, buildings, and neighborhoods that populate the cyberuniverse” (Foster 641). It was also proven that it could make students understand aspects of sociology that teachers found more difficult to teach. Even architecture students and business students benefit from Second Life. Students from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of California at Berkeley use it to create virtual buildings and spaces to get an idea of what their designs would look like. Students at the Wharton School use it to set up virtual businesses and test their skills and techniques there (Foster 642). Video games can help students test their futures, but they can also positively affect their minds.
Contrary to popular belief, video games do not always have a negative affect on the brain. After trying to help his child win his game, science professor James Gee, with the help of psychology professor Richard Haier, decided to do some research on how video games affected the mind. They found that simple games such as Tetris can work the brain at first, but once the player has learned the skill, the brain does not do as much work (Johnson 649). They also determined that the more a player advances, the more motivated a player becomes. The professors concluded that “if you create a system in which rewards are both clearly defined and achieved by exploring an environment, you’ll find human brains drawn to those systems, even if they’re made up of virtual characteristics and simulated sidewalks” (Johnson 651). Gee also concluded that people in the Pokemon generation will be able think better, explore, and learn from experience (Johnson 652). Although gaming can have positive effects, it can also bring out the worst in people.