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Matt Swayne: Penn State's Call of Duty

by on January 26, 2013 6:13 AM

I wouldn't be a good subject for Benjamin Hickerson and his colleagues' study on how video gamers maintain relationships.

I was terrible at video games. I would walk into a video arcade -- I'm dating myself on this, I realize -- with a pocketful of quarters and then, minutes later, completely broke and dejected, I would wander over to my friends and tell them to meet me in the bookstore. After hours of turning asteroids into dust and running from ghosts, they would eventually leave the arcade and pull me -- and my slow hand-eye coordination -- out of the store.

I may not be a natural gamer, but I understand how important it is to determine how people interact with video games, even though there are critics who wonder why the University would spend money on video game research.

The reason is as near as the latest headlines. Research on how and why video game players immerse themselves in games can be a piece in a puzzle to help video game developers create products that are fun, but also help gamers interact and socialize.

In the study, the researchers found that gamers who organized their lives around multiplayer, first-person shooter games, like Call of Duty and Halo, did experience negative effects on their friendships and relationships. On the other hand, the researchers found that gamers who primarily played the game as a way to reinforce social bonds actually experienced higher levels of social ties and support.

According to Hickerson, who is an assistant professor of recreation, parks and tourism management, this research not only contradicts a lot of the media stereotypes, but it could lead to video games that emphasize positive behaviors, such as relationship building.

Now, if developers could just create a video game for someone with slow reaction time and a hairline attention span.

You can read about the study here.

Researchers seek longer battery life for electric locomotive

A team of Penn State researchers is developing more cost-effective ways to prolong battery life for trains, like the Norfolk Southern Railway No. 999, the first all-electric, battery-powered locomotive in the United States.

No. 999's batteries, just like automotive batteries, are rechargeable until they eventually die. A leading cause of damage and death in lead-acid batteries is sulfation, a degradation of the battery caused by frequent charging and discharging that creates an accumulation of lead sulfate.

The new technology may be able to squeeze more life out of the battery to make the locomotives cleaner and more economical.

You can read more here.

Protective communities may reduce risk of drinking in teens

Living in a caring community may help curb teenage alcohol use, while hanging out with antisocial peers can have the opposite effect, according to Penn State researchers.

The researchers evaluated how seven different categories of risk and protective factors predicted teen alcohol use. Risk factors included antisocial attitudes, antisocial behaviors, association with antisocial peers and family risk. Protective factors were positive community experiences, positive school experiences and family strengths.

"We found that when you put all of the major risk and protective factors into the same predictive model, certain risk factors, such as antisocial peer risk, tended to be more highly predictive of alcohol use than other factors like positive school experiences," said Damon Jones, research assistant professor in the Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development.

You can read the rest of the story here.

Diet may not impact certain health outcomes in older persons

Eating diets high in sugar and fat may not affect the health outcomes of older adults ages 75 and up, suggesting that placing people of such advanced age on overly restrictive diets to treat their excess weight or other conditions may have little benefit, according to researchers at Penn State and Geisinger Health System.

"We all know that adverse dietary patterns, such as a Western diet containing high amounts of fat or a diet containing high amounts of refined sugar, both of which may contribute to obesity, are associated with adverse medical conditions and health outcomes for many people, but until now, the health effects of these types of poor diets have not been characterized for people who live to 75 years of age and older," said Pao Ying Hsiao, postdoctoral fellow at Penn State

You can read more here.

Interested in finding out more about the research? Friend us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or check out our blog, Penn State Research Matters.

Matt is a Research and Technology Information Officer at Penn State. He also is a Public Relations Manager and Adjunct Journalism Instructor at the university.
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