Studies showing that video games improve cognitive abilities appear to "suffer from a host of methodological flaws." But on the bright side, for psychologically healthy kids, they may not be harmful.
A number of studies have purported to show cognitive benefits for videogame players, from better problem-solving skills to the ability to perform complex surgeries faster. But according to UPI.com, new research calls those earlier findings into question. Many studies simply compared gamers with non-gamers, meaning they might not have measured the effect of the games themselves — maybe people who like video games just have better cognitive skills to begin with. Study author Walter Boot tried to counteract this by studying the effect of video game training on people who had never played before. He says,
The idea that video games could enhance cognition was exciting because it represented one of the few cases in which cognitive training enhanced abilities that weren't directly practiced. But we found no benefits of video game training.
So video games may not necessarily be good for you, but are they bad? Another study looked at their psychological effects, and found that games could be harmful, but only to certain types of people. According to USA Today, researchers did find video games increases hostility, but only for people who are already neurotic, and low on the personality traits of agreeableness and conscientiousness. Says study author Patrick Markey,
If you're worried about a video game turning your son or daughter into a killer, don't worry about that. But is your kid moody, impulsive, or are they unfriendly? It's probably not the best idea to have that child play violent video games.
He adds, "Video games are not simply good or bad for everybody" — a good maxim to keep in mind as new and sometimes contradictory research on gaming emerges. Games are all different, and so are people, and those looking for a definitive verdict on the value of all gaming may well be disappointed.