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Review of General Psychology 2010 American Psychological Association

2010, Vol. 14, No. 2, 66 67 1089-2680/10/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0018940

Introduction to the Special Issue on Video Games

Christopher J. Ferguson
Texas A&M International University

Video games are fast becoming one of the most popular media cating youth through the development of serious games. Kato
of choice among children and young adults. As with any new (2010) considers the specific application of video games to health-
media enjoyed by youth, but relatively unused by elders, myriad related problems, an area that has seen some remarkable successes.
responses may be witnessed, ranging from curiosity and wonder to And Durkin (2010) examines research regarding the use of video
fear and concern. Historically, new media have endured periods of games in improving the outcomes of developmental disorders in
reactionary alarm from politicians, activists, and scientists alike youth. Although each of these areas would benefit from continuing
until youth themselves age into the elders of society and accep- research, each also holds some initial promise.
tance becomes commonplace. In that time, opportunities for the Ceranoglu (2010) reviews the nascent research field of video
positive use of a new medium may be delayed. games applied to therapy with youth. This remains an underre-
Video games are one of the newest media forms to find them- searched area, with a dearth of randomized controlled outcome
selves under scientific scrutiny. To date, much of the attention has studies and a rich area for future researchers to consider.
been negative, focusing on potential harm related to addiction, Bers (2010) considers the degree to which video games promote
aggression, and lowered school performance. However, as video civic engagement, and Przybylski, Rigby, and Ryan (2010) con-
games have become more popular, statistics on children in the sider the personal and social motivations for video game play.
United States and Europe suggest that they are experiencing fewer These articles suggest that video games may not be as asocial as
behavior problems, less violence, and better scores on standardized many elders believe, and that violence may not be the prime
academic testing (see Ferguson, 2010). Thus, our concerns about attraction for well-received video games.
the alleged harmful effects of video games may, in large part, be Barnett and Coulson (2010) review massively multiplayer on-
allayed. Scientists increasingly are examining the potential to use line (MMO) games, a genre that may be perplexing to elders
this immensely popular media for positive purposes, in education, unfamiliar with such games. This review is timely, particularly
in health, for students with disabilities, and to foster visuospatial given both concerns that such games may be addictive and theories
cognition. This special issue concerns itself mainly with these that these games may conversely promote civic engagement, so-
issues: refocusing the discussion of video games away from fears cialization, and verbal skills. Given that the player census of a
that may have been exaggerated in the past, to examining whether single MMO, World of Warcraft, has been said (at 12 million
video games may be put to some good use or are just games in the players) to exceed the populace of Greece, this is not an insub-
end. stantial population of individuals to understand.
Two articles in this special issue concern themselves with the Lastly, Olson (2010) attempts to answer a question many elders
issue of aggression from differing perspectives as it remains hotly ask, What is the attraction of video games to youth anyway?
debated in the psychological literature. Ferguson (2010) presents a As several of the above articles note, almost all youth now play
critical view of the aggression literature, arguing that harmful video games at least occasionally (with boys generally playing
effects have been exaggerated and that current concerns about more often than girls). The genie is out of the bottle and, as
video games fit into a historical pattern of media-based moral Przybylski et al. (2010) note, lamenting this fact is unlikely to roll
panics. This view is contrasted with Markey and Markey (2010), back this tide anymore than lamenting the alleged (but still de-
who argue that video game violence may indeed increase aggres- bated; see Savage & Yancey, 2008) deleterious effects of TVs
sion in some individuals, particularly those who are already pre- impact on viewership. Indeed, by playing the role of nanny or
disposed to violence, whereas it has little effect on those without teetotaler (although assuredly with good intent), particularly in
such a predisposition. These two articles may help frame debates the absence of societal data indicating evidence of harm, psycho-
about video game violence and the limitations of this research in logical science may run the risk of sacrificing careful science for
the future. advocacy and alienating the general populace of youth who might
Several articles then turn to the issue of video games as tools for become the psychologists of the future. It is hoped that psycho-
cognitive enhancement. Spence and Feng (2010) consider the logical science will learn from the excesses of the TV violence
impact of video game playing on visuospatial cognition, an area of research epoch (see Freedman, 2002, and Grimes, Anderson, &
increasing attention in the scientific literature and the public. Bergen, 2008, for discussions) and engage in a careful and bal-
Annetta (2010) discusses the application of video games to edu- anced discussion of potential harms and benefits of video game
play. Otherwise, we merely return to a familiar pattern of fighting
the last war.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Chris References

Ferguson, Department of Behavioral Science, Texas A&M International
University, 5201 University Boulevard, Laredo, TX 78041. E-mail: Annetta, L. (2010). The Is have it: A framework for serious educational game design. R eview of General Psychology, 14, 105112.


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Kato, P. M. (2010). Video games in health care: Closing the gap. Review Revision received December 28, 2009
of General Psychology, 14, 113121. Accepted January 15, 2010