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Video games foster cooperation, says new study

New research suggests that video games foster cooperation skills. (Credit: Thinkstock)Society has long thought of gamers as loners and introverts, mouldering for hours in their parents' basements, with violent games damaging fragile young minds. But could spending hours in front of a console actually be a good thing?

According to a recent study out of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, video games take cooperation and teamwork in order to succeed, particularly with games such as the "Call of Duty" and "Grand Theft Auto".

The study, published in The International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, states that kids must learn to work together in order to be successful in the environment of violent video games. They also learn about cause-and-effect, strategy, how to navigate complex situations and how to improve skills.

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"The situations gamers encounter in these games call for sophisticated and well-coordinated collaboration," writes author Jonas Ivarsson. "In a nutshell, we're questioning the whole gaming and violence debate, since it's not based on a real problem but rather on some hypothetical reasoning."

The research team in the study played hundreds of hours of video games as part of the data collection, as well as, studied other gamers extensively, including watching video recordings of extended game playing.

But before you plop your little one in front of MadWorld to learn about co-operation and teamwork, keep in mind some of the conclusions of previously published studies.

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Child psychologist Pamela Paris says some research shows children can become desensitized to the violence in video games.

"When (children) view too much violence, whether it's video games or TV, it makes violence seem normal," she explains.

Paris is quick to qualify, however, that violent video games won't always cause violent behaviour.  "A perfectly normal person playing a violent video game is not likely to become violent," she says.

According to the American Psychological Association, there is a distinct correlation between playing violent video games and increased aggression. Violent video game play has also been linked to declines in verbal memory for children, attention problems,  less positive relationships with their parents, lower grades in school and a lack of willingness to be helpful to other people.

The harmful -- or positive effects -- of video games will in all likelihood be debated for years. But if you really want to teach your child about the benefits of teamwork, there might be other ways of doing so, like say, signing them up for a junior baseball league.

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