ECU Finds Casual Games Improve Health

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In a study funded by casual game publisher PopCap, East Carolina University's Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies concluded that casual games were able to relieve stress and lift the mood of study participants.
The study took place from October of 2007 through April of 2008 and involved 134 subjects. 31 subjects comprised the control group, assigned to surf the internet for journal articles. 31 subjects played Bejeweled 2, 29 played Bookworm Adventures and 36 played Peggle (all using copies provided by PopCap). The study collected biofeedback-type data, including Heart Rate Variability, electroencephalography (EEG) measurements and psychological profiles pre- and post-play based on a play period of 15 minutes. A summary of the data is available.

The study found that PopCap's casual games were useful in a variety of arenas. Bejeweled 2 was found to reduce physical stress compared to the control group. All three games positively influenced the mood of the study participants, and Peggle was found to have the greatest effect on psychological tension. Both Bejeweled 2 and Peggle significantly reduced anger levels while all three games reduced depression levels.

East Carolina University's Psychophysiology Lab plans to start clinical trials later this year to determine whether such games could be useful in a clinical setting.

The director of the study, Dr. Carmen Russoniello, said, "I believe there is a wide range of therapeutic applications of casual games in mood-related disorders such as depression and in stress-related disorders including diabetes and cardiovascular disease... [but] much more needs to be done before video games can be prescribed to treat medical conditions."

While the positive effects of gaming won't surprise many avid gamers, the impartiality of the study is certainly in question. The number of participants and the type of control activity raise questions as to how seriously this will be taken by the medical community at large. Still, it offers an interesting jumping-off point for discussions.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on April 28, 2008 8:57 AM.

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