Can World of Warcraft Survive the Inevitable Political Backlash from More Positive Research?

Categories: Politics
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Another day, another World of Warcraft study, another opportunity for Republicans in Congress to lash out at government spending on research associated with the online role playing game from Irvine's Blizzard Entertainment.

The latest finds those who play WoW for socialization are more open, agreeable and neurotic--and that those who seek leadership roles are more extraverted, conscientious and organized.

Except for perhaps the neurotic trait, the picture painted by the research is the opposite of that of the stereotypical gamer who never leaves his mother's basement or his bag of Doritos.

By the way, that's neurotic as in less emotionally stable, more feelings of anxiety and/or prone to anger more quickly than others, finds the research of Lindsay Graham, a University of Texas at Austin graduate student, and Dr. Samuel Gosling, a professor of psychology at the school. Their findings were published in this month's issue of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

If past gaming studies tied to public institutions in general--and involving WoW specifically--are any indication, expect the backlash from the right, especially if House Speaker John Boehner,  Majority Whip Eric Cantor and other Republicans misappropriate it onto the National Research Foundation under the Obama administration again.

Cantor recently tweeted, "President Obama wants to raise your taxes so he can pay people $1.2 million to play World of Warcraft" in reference to foundation grants for that amount going to researchers who'd studied cognitive benefits among older people who'd played games like WoW. Boehner then piled on with, "Pres Obama wants more tax hikes, refuses to #cutwaste like $1.2M spent paying people to play video games." Other members of the GOP followed suit.

But as Salon recently revealed, Cantor, Boehner and other Republicans were being disingenuous. The referenced researchers had studied the cognitive benefits among older people with memory problems who'd played online games--worthy of study, one should note--thanks to $5,000 from North Carolina State University, not $1.2 million from the National Research Foundation.

Based on that promising research, the foundation had awarded grants to these and other scientists for more comprehensive research of the phenomenon--worth of study, one should repeat--and the specs are much more broad than just plopping grandma in front of the computer as a quick-witted troll.

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