Today I either watched for the first time, or rewatched with a greater awareness of the content, Daphne Bavelier’s TED Talk on action video games and the brain embed below. The researchers at Bavelier Lab have recently described playing first-person action games as a way to affect perception, attention and cognition.1 I especially appreciated the information on increasing the perceiver’s ability to search through a cluttered scene. Most middle school passing periods meet that criteria. In addition the researchers were able to determine that action games were able to lead to greater benefits in theses areas than other entertainment games.
Until this round with the video I was focussing on increasing educator empathetic response to bullying based in part on Greitemeyer, Brauer, and Osswald2 as well as experiments like IfYouCan, and other media experiments such as described in this NPR story. The problem with this was developing a literature review that could frame how empathy impacts players. My solution was to research as many studies of games that seek to achieve an impact on player empathy. What has resulted is a frustration with the complexity of empathy and lack of direction. Bavelier’s research helps connecting games more directly to skills and our brains rather than the more difficult to define, though no less exciting, world of psychology.
Getting down to the details, according to what I have read so far action game players can track more objects. They grow to recognize finer distinctions in what they see. What if one of the keys to increasing educator intervention in the marginalizing of LGBTQ youth is to increase, through an action game, educators’ recognition of and ability to track behaviors that contribute to a hostile school climate for marginalized students? Often I hear educators describe their retreat from the chaos of a rowdy classroom or noisy hall and being unable to track the multitude of students. If an action game can increase educator ability to track more students would they not feel more comfortable in those situations and more capably intervene. Well – you can see where my thoughts went on this.
Now I just need to continue to keep my eyes open for additional approaches rather than the empathy bog I was falling into.
Daphne Bavelier’s TED Talk:
1) Green, C Shawn, and Daphne Bavelier. "Effect of action video games on the spatial distribution of visuospatial attention." Journal of experimental psychology: Human perception and performance 32.6 (2006): 1465.
2) Greitemeyer, Tobias, Silvia Osswald, and Markus Brauer. "Playing prosocial video games increases empathy and decreases schadenfreude." Emotion 10.6 (2010): 796.