One of the world’s most prestigious universities is now offering courses in video games. The University of California, Berkeley, which is ranked eighth in the world, is running a course entitled The Art of Fighting Games. The course teaches students how to play and introduces them to aspects of Japanese culture – it will focus on the Japanese game “‘Street Fighter III 3rd Strike.”
Encouraging people to enroll, the university stated, “The only thing you do need is a willingness to learn and fail!”
The course will conclude with an examination where students fight against each other, record the fight, and later describe their fighting style during the contest. “By the end of this course, you will be more proficient in the fundamentals of a fighting game and be more knowledgeable about the genre overall,” course advertisements explain.
While some in the media have criticized the university, its Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory researches the impact of video games on memory and cognitive ability, and at UC Davis College of Engineering, games are used to teach students semiconductor manufacturing.
Similarly, UC San Francisco’s Neuroscape Center developed a video game suite to reduce cognitive deterioration as people age. Adam Gazzaley, M.D., Ph.D., created the series of games and described them as “experimental medicine.”
In 2013, Dr. Gazzaley conducted a study that concluded it was possible to restore diminished mental faculties after four weeks of playing a specifically designed game. His most recent experiment involves a musical rhythm game, which teaches how to play drums. Studies showed it improved overall memory, as it initially posted visual rhythm cues but later removed these to find that users remembered them.
Testing revealed increased activity on the right side of the brain, specifically the superior parietal lobule, which is responsible for short-term visual memory. Dr. Gazzaley said the games alter the brain through plasticity and allow doctors to make cognitive improvement more accessible.