There is a lot of hot air expended over whether video games turn humans into mindless killing machines, but you don't hear much about the good that games do for people (aside, of course, from Wii fit). Having already opined at length about this, I'll end that bit there. But recent news out of Michigan State University suggests that video games and something wonderful - creativity - may go hand-in-hand.
It suggests that either video games make kids more creative, or creative kids are more likely to play video games, or there's some combination of both going on. The study of 491 (the stats nerd in me has to say this: That's one hell of a sample size) twelve year-olds showed a correlation between playing video games and higher scores on the Torrance Test of Creativity - Figural. Cnet poses some good questions about the research - particularly about the worryingly reductionistic nature of boiling "creativity" down to one test - but in defence of the research, it seems to be more exploratory than inferential. After all, it's not possible to infer causation from correlation, so we're left to educated guesses as to what's going on with this effect and an understanding that more research needs to be done. That being said, the researchers are careful to skirt overgeneralizing from their results in their press release, and their finding that technology use per se (such as internet or cell phone use) does not correlate with creativity boils down the number of variables that could account for the effect that further research could expand upon. But we know that technology use per se doesn't may not be enough to explain what's going on - some element intrinsic to gaming seems to be at play. Indeed, the importance of play itself to on-going brain development is an increasingly-recognized phenomenon, and the finding that playing video games is related to creativity flows naturally from that research.
What is particularly interesting, especially in light of the ongoing paroxysms over violent video games, is this: The correlation held regardless of factors such as gender or the type of games played - regardless of whether the gamers prefer violent games or not.
The full study can be found online in Computers In Human Behaviour - if you have a subscription. In full disclosure: I do not, so the information presented in this article was gleaned from the references in it and not from the original research.
[Image credit: The greatest gosh-darn video game a little kid has ever made.]