Despite the bad press that gaming often gets, there is increasing evidence that it can have positive effects. We've already seen studies suggesting that video games improve decision making and put players in a more relaxed frame of mind, now there's more good news for parents whose offspring are video game junkies. Research out of Michigan State University suggests that 12 year olds who play video games tend to be more creative ... and the more they play the more creative they are.

Reports that playing violent video games like Mortal Kombat makes kids insensitive, and may cause aggressive or antisocial behavior, are not to be lightly dismissed. But they need to be weighed with other reports like this one showing positive effects - this time on creativity.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the MSU research saw 491 middle-school students assessed for creativity using the Torrance Test of Creativity-Figural. The results of these drawing and story writing exercises where then compared with how often the students used different forms of technology.

The kids who played video games tended to be more creative, regardless of whether the games were violent or non violent. So, non-violent games are likely to produce this same type of effect - provided they keep kids engaged.

Interestingly, the study found that cell phone use, web browsing and other non-gaming computer uses were unrelated to creativity.

Lead researcher on the paper Linda Jackson, a professor of Psychology at MSU, believes that the findings should encourage game designers to identify the creative aspects of video games.

"Once they do that, video games can be designed to optimize the development of creativity while retaining their entertainment values such that a new generation of video games will blur the distinction between education and entertainment," Jackson said.

So are video games bad for you? That's what they said about rock & roll. Playing video games has some adverse effects ... but they are not all gloom or Doom.

The MSU research is published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour.

Kent & Max Sutherland