A report published in the current issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin maintains that playing pro-social games increases helping behavior by participants while playing violent games increases hurtful behavior.
GamePolitics has previously reported on the research, which combines the results from three separate studies conducted in the U.S., Japan and Singapore. But a press release issued today by the University of Michigan offers new insight about the methodologies used by the researchers involved. These include UM's own Brad Bushman (left) and Roland Huesmann as well as Douglas Gentile of Iowa State. Said Bushman:
These studies show the same kind of impact on three different age groups from three very different cultures. In addition, the studies use different analytic approaches---correlational, longitudinal and experimental. The resulting triangulation of evidence provides the strongest possible proof that the findings are both valid and generalizable...
[The research] suggests there is an upward spiral of prosocial gaming and helpful behavior, in contrast to the downward spiral that occurs with violent video gaming and aggressive behavior...
Taken together, these findings make it clear that playing video games is not in itself good or bad for children. The type of content in the game has a bigger impact than the overall amount of time spent playing.
Perhaps the most interesting experiment involved 161 U.S. college students. From the press release:
After playing either a prosocial, violent, or neutral game, participants were asked to assign puzzles to a randomly selected partner. They could choose from puzzles that were easy, medium or hard to complete. Their partner could win $10 if they solved all the puzzles. Those who played a prosocial game were considerably more helpful than others, assigning more easy puzzles to their partners. And those who had played violent games were significantly more likely to assign the hardest puzzles.
Bushman discusses the study in this brief video.
VG Researcher has additional info...
UPDATE: Here is the UM press release.