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Finding the good in video games

Published: Monday, May 19 2014 8:25 p.m. MDT

Video games are often denounced for contributing to aggressive behavior at worst. But these games can also be used to promote positive behavior, according to game creators and researchers.

Joey Ferguson, Deseret News

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Video games are often denounced as time-wasters at best or as contributors to aggressive behavior at worst.

However, video games can also be used for good, as tech columnist Dan Tynan at Yahoo pointed out this week. Trip Hawkins, founder of Electronic Arts, believes his game "If" — which attempts to measure players' social emotional learning — can teach children to be kind, according to Tynan.

"This game is not about advancing in levels; it’s about teaching compassion," said Hawkins in Yahoo's article. "You’re like the Jimmy Stewart character in 'It's a Wonderful Life.' You see how the town ends up in tatters without you, and it’s up to you to make it right."

Asi Burak, president of Games for Change (an organization dedicated to promoting games that create social change) and creator of a decade-old game that endeavors to help people with opposing views understand Palestine-Israel land contentions, also believes video games can positively affect people, according to Edward Helmore at The Guardian.

"People see the negative side and they talk about addiction, but there are many games on the positive side," Burak said.

And Jenova Chen, creator of the video game "Flower" and a participant in the 2014 Games for Change festival, has high hopes about the future of positive games, reported Helmore.

"I believe we will see more and more positive games coming into existence soon," Chen said.

But does playing positive games actually lead to empathetic, pro-social behavior? Research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin in January indicates playing video games — whether the games are violent or positive — does affect a player's behavior afterward.

"Playing violent video games increases aggressive behavior, cognition and affect, and decreases prosocial behavior and effect," researchers Tobias Greitemeyer and Dirk O. Mugge wrote. "In contrast, playing prosocial video games decreases aggressive behavior, cognition, and affect, and increases prosocial behavior, cognition, and affect."

Email: kpolatis@deseretnews.com Twitter: KandraPolatis

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