Apr 172011
 
Authors: Christopher Boan

A recent study conducted by researchers at CSU indicates that online games like World of Warcraft might actually be beneficial for gamers through the social interaction provided by the game.

The research team, led by Jeff Snodgrass, an associate professor in the Anthropology Department, has shown that the social interaction dealt with in online gaming might be beneficial for easing stress levels and providing positive social skills.

Snodgrass described the phenomena by saying, “online gaming seems to provide positive aspects for gamers. The social aspect of these games is tremendous, which is why I wanted to study their affects closely.”

The study, which started in 2008 and took three years to complete, began as a trial for Snodgrass’ students to supply them with real world surveying experience. The results of the study, though, were interesting enough to lead Snodgrass and his associates to dive further into the possible benefits of gaming.

When asked why Snodgrass chose to do research on the topic he responded, “the generation that I’m teaching now as a professor are all online, so this was an interesting topic as it involved their peers.”

A point of contention that Snodgrass made was the media’s viewpoint that video games are bad for children. This was the statement Snodgrass aimed to debunk as he felt that it was an oversimplification of a much more dynamic issue.

“When abused, the internet and gaming can certainly be a problem,” Snodgrass said. “However, if both are used responsibly then one can improve their mental health through healthy communication in gaming.”
The group expressed their overall hope that online gaming could possibly be used in the future in psychology and other fields that assess mental stability.

“I think there’s infinite room for expansion when it comes to using online gaming as a tool,” Snodgrass said. “I think that allowing a person to escape the limits of everyday life, to enter a new world can certainly contribute in a positive way to one’s mental health.”

Associated Professor in Sociology Michael Lacy, who worked with Snodgrass during the course of the survey, added “this sort of online gaming has really expanded quickly in American culture. In a timeframe of a decade or so these interactions have gone from a niche market to a mainstream medium for communication.”
Lacy said the worry by some that these online games will diminish face-to-face communicational skills is overblown and the media’s negative sentiment is too reactionary.

“The current debate in the sociological field that this gaming will have negative effects on player’s social skills is rather reactionary,” Lacy said “It’s really no different than the fear in the fifties that television would ruin the minds of adolescents, which it never did.”

It is still unclear if the group will continue their research further or if this study was a one-time occurrence. As of now Snodgrass is embarking on a nationwide tour to discuss his findings and open a forum on the expansion of online gaming in American therapy.

Staff writer Christopher Boan can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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