Could social games inspire players to help out in the real world, too?

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Helping HandsSocial games may be about using your friends as resources to progress, but that's a two-way street, you know. (And if you're the type that's only going one way, don't expect to have many friends for very long.) The same applies to the real world, in a way, no? Iowa State University professor of psychology Douglas Gentile's recent findings might point in that direction.

In an article published in the December issue of the journal Nature Reviews/Neuroscience, Gentile puts forth the idea that social games might inspire players to be helpful to others in real-life social situations. Titled "Brains on video games," the article is a collection of independent studies from six researchers on the psychological effects of video games.

Particularly speaking to social games, Gentile found in experimental studies across the U.S., Japan and Singapore that playing "pro-social" games led to more "helping behavior" in players as a result, according to Medical Xpress. In one longitudinal study, or one conducted over an extended time period, it was found that students that started their school year playing social games displayed increased helpful behaviors later in the school year.

"If content is chosen wisely, video games can actually enhance some skills," Gentile said to Medical Xpress. "But overall, the research has demonstrated that they're far more powerful teaching tools than we imagined. But the power can be both good and bad." Of course, Gentile was referring to the potentially negative psychological effects of violent video games like desensitization and everyday aggression.

While it can't be said for sure that helping one another through social gaming directly leads to players feeling driven to help others in the real world, it makes sense on paper. While the motivations are far more simplified, social gamers use their friends to advance much like folks make friends to advance. Whether that real-world motivation be emotional fulfillment or scoring a carpool to work, there's still a possible connection there, right?

Do you think social gaming could lead to more helpful behavior in real social situations? Do you find yourself more cooperative in your day-to-day, thanks to FarmVille or another Facebook game? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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