According to an article at News, it seems a recent three-year study has yielded a controversial result: young teenagers who spend time playing video games might actually be doing a good thing.

Researchers from Brunel University have spent a lot of time studying 13-16-year-olds who play MMORPGs (players compete against other human players), and they found that the players experiened "vital lessons in learning about other races, the opposite sex and those with disabilities." And rather than becoming "pale prisoners of their own bedrooms," avid fans of these games enhanced rather than restricted their imaginations.

Another side-benefit: it gives the youngster a chance to explore without their parents worrying about where they are or what they're doing.

"Virtual environments form important new leisure spaces for the many young people who occupy them," said Nic Crowe of Brunel's School of Sport and Education. "In the real world, where streets or town centres have become inaccessible to many young people or are considered unsafe by them or their parents, it is not surprising virtual public space has become increasingly attractive as a leisure setting."

Dr. Simon Bradford, also of the School of Sport and Education, offered the following statements:

"We met many players taking part in online role-playing, sometimes to extend or to compensate for experiences in the real world. For example, young people whose parents could not afford a summer holiday enjoyed virtual holidays online," he said. "We noted how entrepreneurial young players engaged in business deals online, experiencing positive opportunities often not open to them in the material world."

"At a time when emerging technologies such as the internet, and computer games continue to be subject to suspicion and concern, it is important we recognise the benefits of what is an increasingly important activity for our young people."

It appears they didn't examine players who enjoyed any other types of games, but for the most part, MMOs come under the most fire from anti-game activists. And in the end, while they probably maintain their addictive qualities, these games appear to have a positive impact as well.

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