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By Grant McDonald

Sure, video games are fun, but — surprise! — they may be taking students away from their studies.

A 1998 Simon Fraser study indicated one in five students admitted to giving up study time to play video games. To top it off, studies show that as students play games, the frontal lobes of the brain, which govern reason, morality, and logic, become less active. Gaming will, however, stimulate the mid-structure of the brain, which is responsible for instinct and immediate reaction. Which means that gamers react faster, but not necessarily better.

Joshua Gross, a second-year computer science student, doesn’t believe that this is a problem. He says he plays for two or three hours a day. “I think that with video games, since you have so much coming at you at once, you learn to take multiple intakes,” Gross said.

He thinks that gamers in general have been given a bad name, and that games just do not have the bad impact that so many people think they do. Gross appears to have the support of psychologist Ellen Bialystok, a research professor at York University who was involved in a recent study where gamers were compared to non-gamers in several mental tests.

“The people who were video game players were better and faster performers,” Bialystok said in a Globe and Mail article. Bialystok also said that gamers have the heightened ability to filter out irrelevant information.

A 1990 study by University of California’s Richard Haier found that first-time Tetris players’ cerebral glucose metabolic rates soared while playing the game — the subjects were using a lot of brainpower to take in all the visual information. But Ryerson sociology professor Fiona Whittington-Walsh said hours of gaming a day is detrimental to a player’s social skills, removing the gamer from daily society.

“I am not a fan of these games… To play these games all the time allows for only one part of your brain to work, while shutting down any kind of critical thinking,” Whittington-Walsh said in an e-mail.

Jeff Butchereit, a fourth-year business student and residence advisor in Pitman Hall, feels that video games affect each person differently.

“Personally, I can finish playing my little game and then go back and study. I just do it as a break, but I know some people that can’t because they’re just so into the game,” Butchereit said.

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