Top 10 Research Findings: Serious Military Games

The use of games in military education and training applications in recent years has become a more widely applied technology. As using games becomes more mainstream, many researchers have taken on the task of performing in-depth evaluations into games, game mechanics and game characteristics. The increase in research has and will continue to guide the application, implementation and evaluation of games within the educational and training realm by providing deeper insight into the potential of games.

This compilation of the top 10 research findings for 2010 was specifically geared toward the use of games in military education and training contexts. Hundreds of articles were considered, but the 10 chosen provided the most salient and applicable information in relation to the current state of the military’s use of games. Included here are five. (To see the whole list of 10, visit www.gov.2elearning.com and access the Summer, 2011 Government Elearning! e-zine.)

The authors encourage readers to investigate findings that are relevant to their games use independently whenever possible. These articles appear in no particular order.

About Violence…

The controversy surrounding violence in video games has certainly garnered much attention and media. This study’s results shed insight into some of the characteristics of games that impact a player’s motivation to play. While the article did not focus solely on violence in gameplay, the results indicated that based on a theory that people derive psychological basic needs satisfaction through gameplay, this study found that most people were not motivated to play games because of their violence. For most, the inclusion of violent content had no impact or reduced motivation to play. Additional results suggested that lack of satisfaction of the psychological needs and frustration with user interface led to aggressive behavior.

—Paper: Przbylski, A. K., Rigby, C. S., & Ryan, R. M. (2010). Motivational Model of Engagement. Review of General Psychology, 14(2), pp. 154-166.

Prosocial Behavior…

In stark contrast to the previous study, this study considered if prosocial games could illicit prosocial behaviors in individuals. In a series of four studies, participants who played prosocial games were more likely to exhibit prosocial behaviors than their counterparts who played neutral games. The prosocial behaviors ranged from helping, assisting in additional experiments, and helping an experimenter who was being harassed.

—Paper: Greitemeyer, T. & Osswald, S. (2010). Effects of Prosocial Video Games on Prosocial Behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(2), pp. 211-221.

Gender Gaps…

This article took on the important task of synthesizing years of research on gender differences in spatial cognition to reach several important conclusions. Namely, the use of games in spatial cognition can help close the gap between males and females on basic and complex spatial skills such as mental rotation and spatial selective attention. Using action games like first-person shooters could reduce the typical gender gap in tasks related to science, technology, engineering and math, increasing the number of women in these career fields.

—Paper: Spence, I. & Feng, J. (2010). Video Games and Spatial Cognition. Review of General Psychology, 14(2), pp. 92-104.

Action Games…

Today’s military tasks are ever increasing in complexity and the need for individuals to quickly and appropriately synthesize information received from many inputs. The ability for a game to impact an individual’s ability to determine which visual cues require additional attention and which can be disregarded are evaluated in this study. Researchers conclude that play of games that required divided attention, such as fast-paced action games like Halo resulted in increased visual attention abilities.

—Publication: Hubert-Wallender, B., Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2010). Stretching the limits of visual attention: The case of action video games. Wires Cognitive Science Focus article, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Brain Trainers…

The popularity of brain trainers geared toward increasing cognitive functioning has been an area of widespread interest for researchers. This study investigated not just the improvements in cognitive functioning, but the ability to transfer the cognitive functioning to other cognitive tasks. Results indicated that these games increased ability only on the tasks being trained and did not evidence any cognitive functioning transfer to untrained tasks even when the tasks were cognitively similar.

—Paper: Owen, A. M., Hampshire, A., Grahn, J. A., Stenton, R., Dajani, S., Burns, A. S., Howard, R. J., & Ballard, C. G. (2010). Putting Brain Training to the test. Nature, 465(10), pp. 775-778.

—This article is based on a presentation held at Gametech, the Defense User’s Conference hosted in Orlando, Fla., in March. It was written by Dr. Alicia Sanchez of the Defense Acquisition University and Dr. Clint Bowers, professor of psychology at the University of Central Florida.

The use of games in military education and training applications in recent years has become a more widely applied technology. As using games becomes more mainstream, many researchers have taken on the task of performing in-depth evaluations into games, game mechanics and game characteristics. The increase in research has and will continue to guide the application, implementation and evaluation of games within the educational and training realm by providing deeper insight into the potential of games.

This compilation of the top 10 research findings for 2010 was specifically geared toward the use of games in military education and training contexts. Hundreds of articles were considered, but the 10 chosen provided the most salient and applicable information in relation to the current state of the military’s use of games. Included here are five. (To see the whole list of 10, visit www.gov.2elearning.com and access the Summer, 2011 Government Elearning! e-zine.)

The authors encourage readers to investigate findings that are relevant to their games use independently whenever possible. These articles appear in no particular order.

About Violence…

The controversy surrounding violence in video games has certainly garnered much attention and media. This study’s results shed insight into some of the characteristics of games that impact a player’s motivation to play. While the article did not focus solely on violence in gameplay, the results indicated that based on a theory that people derive psychological basic needs satisfaction through gameplay, this study found that most people were not motivated to play games because of their violence. For most, the inclusion of violent content had no impact or reduced motivation to play. Additional results suggested that lack of satisfaction of the psychological needs and frustration with user interface led to aggressive behavior.

—Paper: Przbylski, A. K., Rigby, C. S., & Ryan, R. M. (2010). Motivational Model of Engagement. Review of General Psychology, 14(2), pp. 154-166.

Prosocial Behavior…

In stark contrast to the previous study, this study considered if prosocial games could illicit prosocial behaviors in individuals. In a series of four studies, participants who played prosocial games were more likely to exhibit prosocial behaviors than their counterparts who played neutral games. The prosocial behaviors ranged from helping, assisting in additional experiments, and helping an experimenter who was being harassed.

—Paper: Greitemeyer, T. & Osswald, S. (2010). Effects of Prosocial Video Games on Prosocial Behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(2), pp. 211-221.

Gender Gaps…

This article took on the important task of synthesizing years of research on gender differences in spatial cognition to reach several important conclusions. Namely, the use of games in spatial cognition can help close the gap between males and females on basic and complex spatial skills such as mental rotation and spatial selective attention. Using action games like first-person shooters could reduce the typical gender gap in tasks related to science, technology, engineering and math, increasing the number of women in these career fields.

—Paper: Spence, I. & Feng, J. (2010). Video Games and Spatial Cognition. Review of General Psychology, 14(2), pp. 92-104.

Action Games…

Today’s military tasks are ever increasing in complexity and the need for individuals to quickly and appropriately synthesize information received from many inputs. The ability for a game to impact an individual’s ability to determine which visual cues require additional attention and which can be disregarded are evaluated in this study. Researchers conclude that play of games that required divided attention, such as fast-paced action games like Halo resulted in increased visual attention abilities.

—Publication: Hubert-Wallender, B., Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2010). Stretching the limits of visual attention: The case of action video games. Wires Cognitive Science Focus article, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Brain Trainers…

The popularity of brain trainers geared toward increasing cognitive functioning has been an area of widespread interest for researchers. This study investigated not just the improvements in cognitive functioning, but the ability to transfer the cognitive functioning to other cognitive tasks. Results indicated that these games increased ability only on the tasks being trained and did not evidence any cognitive functioning transfer to untrained tasks even when the tasks were cognitively similar.

—Paper: Owen, A. M., Hampshire, A., Grahn, J. A., Stenton, R., Dajani, S., Burns, A. S., Howard, R. J., & Ballard, C. G. (2010). Putting Brain Training to the test. Nature, 465(10), pp. 775-778.

—This article is based on a presentation held at Gametech, the Defense User’s Conference hosted in Orlando, Fla., in March. It was written by Dr. Alicia Sanchez of the Defense Acquisition University and Dr. Clint Bowers, professor of psychology at the University of Central Florida.

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