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Cambridge Uni to probe games' impact on kids

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Some people believe videogames affect a child’s physical and mental behaviour, while others will swear blind that they don’t. Now Cambridge University hopes to discover the truth and has created a department dedicated to studying the messages kids absorb from “cultural sources”.

The university’s Centre for Children's Literature will seek to discover if playing a 'good' game is more or less beneficial to a child's development than reading a 'bad' book.

Professor Maria Nikolajeva, the centre's Director, admitted that such terms as 'good' and 'bad' are subjective, but told Register Hardware that it’s her belief that good games really can have more of a positive impact on children than bad books.

“This is our attempt to discover the truth about the impact of videogames on children. Are they good, bad or indifferent? We hope to find out,” Nikolajeva said.

Alas, the research won’t discover if playing the likes of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 predisposes kids to violence, because Nikolajeva admitted that her department “probably won’t” consider violent games.

Nikolajeva will lead a team of ten researchers. A research programme hasn’t yet been devised, though the team is very interested to discover if games based on children’s books, such as the Harry Potter series, play any significant role in shaping or reinforcing a child's sense of identity. ®

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