Computer games might be good for you: Prof Daniel Johnson reveals hidden benefits

Human-computer interaction researcher, Professor Daniel Johnson, believes the benefits of video games are underrated.

Daniel Johnson stands at the forefront of challenging the entrenched misconceptions surrounding computer games. With his unique blend of academic insight and personal passion, Daniel provides a refreshing perspective on the societal implications of gaming. He argues the medium, often criticised for promoting violence or antisocial behavior, has far-reaching positive impacts that are overlooked. Through his research into human-computer interaction, Daniel showcases how gaming fosters community, enhances learning, and can even serve as a catalyst for social change.

Trailblazers: From academic insights to real-world impacts
Navigating the many educational pathways to becoming an impactful scientist can be challenging. So to help you understand your options and share a little inspiration for your journey, Cosmos Magazine interviewed five trailblazing scientists who’ve demonstrated academic excellence and whose research is producing elegant solutions to some of the most challenging problems of our time. Read the full series here.

Professor daniel johnson, school of computer science, qut.

Trailblazers profile

Name: Daniel Johnson

Subject matter expertise:

  • Psychology
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Computer science

Academic and professional background:

  • Bachelor and Honours degrees in psychology
  • Graduate Certificate in higher education
  • Doctorate on the psychology of human-computer interactions and video games
  • Post-doctoral fellow at the University of Cambridge working for the Engineering Design Centre
  • Daniel has also spent a lot of time working in industry, for example with NextGenVideos and The Binary Mill

Current work:

  • Daniel leads the QUT Games Research and Interaction Design Lab
  • He is also a Professor in QUT’s Bachelor of Games and Interactive Environments
  • Daniel is Chief Investigator at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child where he explores the use of digital technologies, including videogame play, among young children
  • He’s also collaborating with the LEGO Foundation and UNICEF on a research program called Responsible Innovation in Technology for Children, where he’s exploring the benefits of video game play and developing tools to empower businesses and governments to design digital media that protects, and contributes to, the wellbeing of children
  • His research interests include motivations for video game play, the player experience, the impact of video games on wellbeing, and gamification
  • Daniel’s QUT staff profile lists his other recent papers and current research projects
Three people play computer games in the qut esports arena. Two are laughing, clearly having a wonderful time.
Three people play computer games in the QUT eSports Arena. Credit: QUT.

A journey from passion to profession: Daniel Johnson’s path into academia

For Professor Daniel Johnson, the journey to academia was not just a career choice; it was a calling. From a young age, Daniel was captivated by the interactive worlds and narratives video games offered, a passion that eventually steered him towards a unique and fulfilling career path. Unlike many gamers who view a game-related career as a pipedream, Daniel has built a career around studying games and is using that medium to further our understanding of human psychology and technology’s role in shaping our experiences.

READ MORE: Postgrad pathways at QUT: Paving the way for tomorrow’s science and technology leaders

Throughout his journey, Daniel has been at the forefront of research into computer-human interactions, bridging the gap between the often misunderstood world of gaming and the academic pursuit of knowledge. Most people assume he must therefore have a technical background, that he’s probably a talented programmer. But if you’re interested in entering a similar field but aren’t that enthused about coding, you may be relieved to learn that Daniel has only a fundamental understanding of how to code. Yes, you can absolutely enter the field with a passion for building immersive games. But that’s not the only route. Indeed, Daniel’s background is actually in psychology.

A quote from professor daniel johnson that says “video games can be an outlet that’s absolutely what’s keeping you above water and keeping you on track. ”

Daniel’s work has illuminated the positive aspects of gaming, from enhancing cognitive abilities to fostering social connections in an increasingly digital age. By turning his passion into a profession, Daniel Johnson has not only carved a niche for himself but also opened up new avenues for research and understanding in the interdisciplinary fields of gaming psychology and human-computer interaction.

Unveiling the psychology of gaming

In the heart of academic discourse on gaming, Daniel emerges as a pivotal figure, illuminating the intricate relationship between human psychology and interactive media. His work, a blend of passion and scholarly rigour, delves deep into the cognitive and emotional dimensions of gaming. Daniel’s research journey uncovers how games are more than mere entertainment; they’re complex psychological landscapes that offer profound insights into human behaviour, motivation, and social interaction.

Daniel’s studies have significantly contributed to understanding gaming’s psychological benefits, challenging lingering media stereotypes about its negative impacts. His findings reveal that gaming can enhance problem-solving skills, foster creativity, promote emotional resilience, facilitate human connections, and a whole lot more. Furthermore, Daniel’s work on human-computer interaction highlights the therapeutic potential of games in mental health, offering innovative approaches to treatment and rehabilitation.

A study participant is playing a video game and a chart below the screen shows the participant’s feelings are overwhelmingly joyful.
Daniel’s research shows gaming can deliver positive emotional benefits. Credit: QUT.

By focusing on the positive aspects of gaming, Daniel’s research provides a counter-narrative to common misconceptions, advocating for the medium’s role in psychological well-being and social connectivity. His insights not only enrich academic discourse but also empower players and developers, encouraging a more nuanced appreciation of gaming’s role in contemporary society.

Daniel’s research stands as a testament to the complexity and utility of gaming. Through his work, he not only advances our understanding of human-computer interaction but also fosters a more inclusive and positive perspective on the world of gaming.

A quote from professor daniel johnson that says “there are some amazing quotes and pieces of research about the dangers of things like fiction novel reading. Contrast that with today and how excited parents might be if their children pick up a fiction novel. Yet it was not that long ago that there were real concerns about that. I believe we’ll one day be in a similar situation with computer games. But for now, the best advice we have for parents is for you to play computer games with your kids. See what they’re playing, play with them, find out who they’re playing with, get engaged. "

Envisioning the next frontier in human-computer interaction

As we peer into the future through Daniel’s eyes, gaming stands on the brink of transformative change. He envisions a world where gaming transcends its current boundaries, merging with cutting-edge technologies to create more immersive, interactive, and emotionally resonant experiences. He predicts the integration of up-and-coming technologies, like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and artificial intelligence (AI), will not only revolutionise how we play but also expand gaming’s applicability in education, therapy, and social networking.

Daniel’s optimism about the future is grounded in the belief that these technologies will enhance the social and psychological benefits of gaming. He foresees a future where games are increasingly used as tools for learning, personal growth, and even for tackling complex social issues. Moreover, Daniel is excited about the potential for games to foster deeper human connections, breaking down barriers and creating communities that transcend physical and cultural divides to shape a more connected and empathetic world.

You too can explore the psychology of gaming or become a world-renowned game developer

Professor Daniel Johnson’s views on gaming and society not only challenge stereotypes but also invite a broader conversation about the role of digital media in modern culture. His insights encourage us to reconsider our perceptions of gaming, recognising its potential as a force for good in society.

Several people play computer games in qut’s esports arena at the gardens point campus. One person not at the controls points to the screen, helping a fellow gamer.
Many people derive emotional and social benefits from gaming. Credit: QUT.

What’s more, his journey to these discoveries proves you can make a game-related career if you want to. Whether you want to design, develop, or investigate video games, Daniel says the most important qualities are curiosity and passion, and he strongly recommends having a good grounding in psychology. So, if you love games and are keen to know more about how people tick, you might just have what it takes to make it in this field. Why not explore QUT’s Bachelor of Games and Interactive Environments and find out?

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