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KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
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Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Gaming is something that holds a negative or questionable connotation when talked about in North American society. Video games are portrayed as having negative characteristics of violence, sexism/gender roles, and addiction (De Aguilera & Mendiz, 2003). However, since it's development in the 1980s, video games have proved to become popular among “young people”, currently ages 35 and younger. There have been studies showing how playing video games can alter the brain, but more frequently in a beneficial way than harmful (Spence & Feng, 2010). Currently, playing video games has been used as training tools for the military, surgeons (Green & Bavelier, 2004) as well as potential application in PE classes (Hayes & Silberman, 2013).

Positive effects of gaming

As early as 1984, researchers were interested in how playing video games would affect gamers (De Aguilera & Mendiz, 2003). Even then, studies showed that primary school children who played video games had better visual and motor coordination. More current studies continue to confirm that there are benefits to playing video games. In an article by C.S. Green and D. Bavelier, they concluded that gamers demonstrated an “enhanced enumeration accuracy even at very high numerosities” (2005). What this means is that gamers demonstrated increasing accuracy as well as increased reaction time while performing memory tests. This test showed that the memory trace for non-gamers plateaued around 8 objects, while gamers could continue to increase their memory trace over time.

Another study shows that playing video games can efficiently train attention allocation (Dye et. al, 2008). This study tested visual attention, which comprises aspects of alerting, orienting, and executive control. The skill of alerting is the ability to make use of cue words to provide information about onset time of a target stimulus, this is associated with the release of noradrenaline in the body. The skill of orienting is the ability to use spatial cues to direct attention to a location of a stimulus, this is associated with the release of acetylcholine in the body. The skill of executive control is the ability to direct attention to task relevant stimuli and inhibits the processing of distractor items, this is associated with the release of dopamine in the body. This study concluded that gamers can hit the same accuracy rate as a non-gamer with a faster reaction time. This trend can be seen as young as the age of 7 and they can increase their accuracy and reaction time as they get older. This study showed that the greatest improvements happen between the ages of 7-10, therefor that is the most beneficial timeframe to start playing video games to increase reaction time.

Negative effects of gaming

Though many public opinion leaders pass judgment on gamers to cause public alarm, many of them cannot relate to gamers on a personal level because they themselves have not grown up in a society what grew up playing video games (De Aguilera & Mendiz, 2003). Video games alone cannot be blamed for people who play violent video games and have violent outbreaks. In most cases there are other factors involved such as their mental state, environmental factors, etc.

What current studies show are that gamers may have a faster reaction time when compared to a non-gamer, but there is a similar processing pattern between the two groups (Castel et. al, 2005). This could imply that the only reason why gamers' performances are better are because they have had that extra practice time. Another interesting discovery was that gamers actual react comparatively slower than non-gamers when there was no spatial cues used (Dye et. al, 2008).

Application of gaming into PE classes

In this day and age, children are not completely motivated by traditional teaching methods (Hayes & Silberman, 2013). Some articles suggest that playing video games could help motivate children to learn through the challenge, trial and error and curiosity. Video games can be used to emphasize reading (especially if the game is based off a novel), logical thinking, observation, spatiality, geography, problem solving, decision-making and strategic planning (De Aguilera & Mendiz, 2003). In fact, there are some games designed specifically for educational purposes, and some educators have been adopting commercial off-the-shelf games to teach subjects such as history and languages (Hayes & Silberman, 2013).

In application to PE, Hayes and Silberman suggest that it would be beneficial for students to play sports video games (2013). Many competitive/professional athletes actually use video games as off the floor training. They can practice tactics and strategies by playing their sport in video game form. To teach sports to elementary school students, Hayes and Silberman suggest using Mario sports games because they over-exaggerate fundamental movement skills in their replays (giving children a good example on how to do FMS properly). These types of games also tend to say the moves that are being executed by the avatars, this gives children the exposure they need for sports lingo. Sports video games also allow students to play the level of their choice (beginner, intermediate, expert, etc.), this helps them to potentially become more confident and may help students feel more comfortable to try the actual sport in real life.


Castel, A.D., Pratt, J., Drummond, E. (2005). The effects of action video game experience on the time course of inhibition of return and the efficiency of visual search. Elsevier. 217-230. DOI: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2005.02.004.

De Aguilera, M., Mendiz, A. (2003). Video Games and Education (Education in the Face of a “Parallel School”). ACM Computers in Entertainment. 1 (1), 1-14.

Dye, M.W.G, Green, C.S., Bavelier, D. (2009). The development of attention skills in action video game players. Elsevier. 1780-1789. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.02.002.

Green, C.S., Bavelier, D. (2006). Enumeration versus multiple object tracking: the case of action video game players. Elsevier. 217-245. DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2005.10.004.

Green, C.S., Bavelier, D. (2004). The Cognitive Neuroscience of Video Games. Digital Media:Transformations in Human Communication.

Hayes, E., Silberman, L. (2007). Incorporating Video Games into Physical Education. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance. 78 (3), 18-24. DOI:10.1080/07303084.2007.10597984

Spence, I., Feng, J. (2010). Video Games and Spatial Cognition. Review of General Psychology. 14 (2), 92-104. DOI: 10.1037/a0019491.