OGDEN — Christian Petersen somehow finds the time to play a few video games after most of his homework is done, but interestingly enough, the gaming counts as his homework.
The Weber State University senior psychology student has been researching the benefits of gaming and has tried to replicate national studies that might have resulted in good outcomes. Contrary to popular belief, Petersen believes that certain types of gaming can actually be beneficial.
"This is a relatively new area of research that has emerged during the past five years," he said. "Not all the studies have found gaming to be beneficial."
He conducted a study with 50 university students whose video gaming habits varied dramatically. Participants completed a questionnaire about their gaming experience, then took a short computer-based test that measured visual responsiveness.
After the test, students were encouraged to play Halo 3, a popular first-person shooter game, for 20, 40 and 60 minutes, depending on the participant. At the conclusion of each gaming session, subjects were asked to take the visual-awareness test again.
"We found a great increase in ability to spot changes in visual field after playing the video game," Petersen said. He said the participant's visual response and alertness "increased significantly" from the pre-test to the post-test, and the length of time the game was played did not seem to make any difference in the results.
Even though a former study conducted at Hill Air Force Base found similar results, Petersen said he was still surprised by what he found.
"I'm somewhat of a gamer," he said, adding that he knows a lot of people who share the same hobby.
Petersen will represent the state of Utah on Tuesday when he presents his findings at the 2010 Undergraduate Research Posters on the Hill event at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. He's excited to show lawmakers and other officials that gaming has tangible benefits, despite what most people think.
"I feel some responsibility to convey the importance of education, the importance of undergraduate research," Petersen said of the opportunity. "Undergraduate research gives you the fundamentals to understand how to do this kind of work and a critical eye for understanding what's going on."
While most research that deems video gaming a positive thing turns out to be controversial, Petersen said more research is needed to remove some of the variables, including the prevailing opinion that video games are detrimental. He said he'd be interested in pursuing additional research as he works toward a graduate degree in neuroscience.
The annual event on Capitol Hill, which is sponsored by the Council on Undergraduate Research, gives students an opportunity to thank lawmakers for their support of federally funded science research and demonstrates the results of the research being conducted at colleges and universities across the country.