RESEARCH FINDS BENEFITS OF VIDEO GAMES IN UNEXPECTED AREAS
At the Charles Schwab company's call-center headquarters in Phoenix, human resources vice president Chip Luman has learned a secret about financial services technology and the employees who operate it:
Video-game players often display exceptional business skills.
"The people who play games are into technology, can handle more information, can synthesize more complex data, solve operational design problems, lead change and bring organizations through change,'' said Luman, 38.
Luman is among a host of professionals -- in fields including business, medicine and education -- who have noticed a surprising number of social benefits from the increasing time that Americans are spending with "Super Mario,'' "Rise of Nations'' and "The Sims.''
Moreover, almost all the games they cite are mainstream hits from an industry that often is vilified as brainless and exploitative. Some of the games that have the most positive potential are either famously controversial or rated Mature because of violent or provocative content.
...there's a growing wave of research and firsthand reports about children, parents, workers, corporations and even medical patients experiencing notable benefits from computer or video games. There's also a push to change the mindset of people who dismiss video games as dangerous or worthless.
The standard complaints about most video games are legion: Games make kids sedentary. They're violent and salacious. They're routinely sexist and often racist. They're shallow and addictive.
And all of these allegations have gotten considerable support from a loose coalition of politicians, educators, health officials, law enforcement officers and religious leaders.
The inventory of rebuttals, however, is expanding.
• There's a growing interest in the workout value of dance games that require strenuous activity to perform the fast-paced steps indicated on the screen. The hallmark games are from Konami's ``Dance Dance Revolution'' series, and a PlayStation 2 and Xbox version of the arcade hit ``Pump It Up'' is scheduled for release in August.
One of a number of intriguing projects involves the West Virginia Public Insurance Agency, which is trying out DDR as a health and fitness tool in conjunction with schools, juvenile detention facilities and work-site wellness programs.
• Physicians are studying games as treatment aids. The Associated Press reported in December on research indicating that playing with a Game Boy machine before surgery could relax children more than tranquilizers.
• Luman, the vice president at Schwab, has held other human resources jobs, but also worked as a game company executive. He began to think more deeply about the connections between gaming and other work after reading ``Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever,'' by John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade.
Beck, president of the North Star Leadership Group, said in an e-mail interview that he and Wade surveyed 2,500 U.S. business professionals, turning up a powerful correlation between managerial behavior and playing video games.
Among the findings: Gamers are better risk-takers, show particular confidence in their abilities, place a high value on relationships and employee input and think in terms of ``winning'' when pursuing objectives.
Beck said the findings are proving helpful to baby boomer-generation managers who lead teams of younger, gamer employees.