enews
Issue 9 - October 5, 2009 enews homee

New research links computer games to social good

Dr Peter Forster

Dr Peter Forster
By Richie Hodgson

Some online computer games are good for the user’s social life, new research has found.

The research, conducted by Charles Darwin University, found devotees of online role-playing games, such as World of Warcraft often felt connected to others and enjoyed a sense of community.

CDU academics, Dr Peter Forster and Paul Fong found games involving virtual communities had clear benefits.

“Far from feeling isolated, the players of some computer games feel connected to others and derive a sense of community from their game playing,” Dr Forster said.

The study, soon to be presented at the Australian Psychological Society conference in Darwin, found games with the clearest interactive components had the most social benefits.

They included the likes of World of Warcraft, Neverwinter Nights, Lord of the Rings Online and Club Penguin.

Next best were competitive gun or projectile-based combat games, such as Call of Duty, Counter-Strike and Halo, and the real-time strategy game of Starcraft.

Least social were those with no online interaction such as Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario games, Guitar Hero, Doom and Need for Speed.

Dr Forster said that while there was still much to learn about game playing, negative aspects such as violence, aggression and addiction had attracted more attention.

“This result clearly contradicts the stereotypical image of the computer gamer as someone who is lonely, alienated or isolated,” he said.

“Instead, computer games with interactive components may be regarded as another way people can make contact with each other."

Dr Forster said families should aim for games that were educational or had health benefits, such as Wii Fit, but added it was all right to play for pure entertainment.

The important thing for the younger players was to have the active involvement of their parents.