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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview with David Walsh

Aired May 29, 2003 - 19:41   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: So it's the kind of medical study that just might cause parents to cringe right now and kids to say "I told you so." Researchers have looked into the effects of certain video games on the brain and reached some surprising conclusions.
Here's CNN's Bill Tucker to explain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The news is the equivalent of dieters learning that fat is good for them. Researchers at the University of Rochester have found that playing video games improves visual skills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I can see how that would work.

TUCKER: No, the research is not funded by a video game company. The funding comes from the National Institutes of Health and the McDonnell Pew Foundation. The games used in this study include "Grand Theft Auto 3," "Spiderman," and "Half-Life." The researchers compared the visual skills of the habitual video game players to the non-game players. The gamers won hands down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're much better than non-game players at locating and identifying objects in complex visual scenes, cluttered environment. They're also much better than non-video game players at keeping track of several objects at once, and paying attention to more object at once than non-video game players.

TUCKER: The non-gamers then played for 10 hours, their scoring sharply improved. Researchers will continue their work to see if video games can be adapted to help rehabilitate victims of strokes, who often suffer from a blindness that is not the result of a physical impairment, but a lack of attentiveness by the brain. The researchers now believe the games can address that deficiency.

(on camera): Not all video games have the same effect on the brain, by the way. Players of high action video games like Grand Theft Auto consistently scored high where players of puzzle games like at the Tetris scored low. Leading researchers to speculate that a sense of danger heightens awareness, and better trains a visual response of the brain.

Bill Tucker, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, pretty interesting. With me now from Minneapolis to talk more about it the study, David Walsh. He's the president of the National Institute on Media and the Family.

David, thanks for being with us.

DAVID WALSH, NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON MEDIA & FAMILY: It's nice to be with you.

COOPER: Does this concern you, that people are going to misinterpret this study and, you know, all these kids out there are suddenly going to say, hey it's OK to play video games for 20 hours a day?

WALSH: Misinterpretation is the key word. When you actually listen to what the researchers found, there is no real surprise there. People who have a lot of visual stimulation in these games get better at it. But the interpretation, and you just hit the key word, the misinterpretation. For example, last night in our local news here in the twin cities, as I was watching the local news, it was the -- the headline was, you know, tune in for the late news. Violent video games is good for your kids. Which is a complete misinterpretation of what the research was even about.

COOPER: This research was actually done on people 18 to 25. So it's actually kind an older age group, although there's no...

WALSH: That's right. It wasn't children.

COOPER: Although there's no real reason to believe it wouldn't have the same impact if it is sort of about arousal. But on this study, what I guess caught a lot of people's attention is that it is the -- not necessarily the violent video games, but the individual shooter games that really seem to have this kind of positive impact on the visual skills.

WALSH: Well, it was the high action games. And I think, again, I don't think the results are real surprising given what they were studying. If the games with a lot of visual stimulation, games with a lot of arousal. And what we know is a certain level of arousal helps different perceptual skills.

COOPER: So the message to parents, I suppose it's not run out and buy a bunch of video games, it's OK whatever your kids do?

WALSH: Absolutely not. The message is that action-packed games enhance the skills that are involved. A number of years back they've talked about that the video games include -- improve hand-eye coordination. They do because you use a lot of that. If the action packed games include a lot of visual stimulation, then you do get better at tracking things visually and being -- being able to pick things out. But what the study did not talk about...

COOPER: Go ahead.

WALSH: ... was the impact of the violence on kids.

COOPER: Do you wish these companies would come one games which were high action but not necessarily so violent?

WALSH: Absolutely. And interestingly, that was one of the conclusions of the researchers. One of the things they said is that one of the real challenges now is to create the action games that don't have the violence. Because what we want is the benefit from these games without the toxic side effects.

COOPER: All right, we'll see if it happens. David Walsh, appreciate you joining us tonight. Thanks.

COOPER: Nice to be with you.

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