Video games are often seen at odds with schoolwork, even as something which can get in the way of getting good grades. But a recent study shows that playing video games can actually help some students deal with poor test scores.

John Velez, a professor at Texas Tech, studied a group of people, some of whom said that their identity as a gamer was important to them, and some who did not identify as gamers. He administered a test to all the participants and told them that their score on that test was a very accurate measure of their intelligence.

Then he had the study participants play a generic shooter game for 15 minutes. At the end of the game, they got either positive feedback or no feedback.

The students who identified as gamers and who received positive feedback on their video game performance seemed less likely to be defensive about their test scores.

“People always talk about video-game play and schoolwork in a negative light,” Velez said. “They talk about how playing video games in general can take away from academic achievement…What I wanted to look into was, for people who identify as a gamer and identify as being good at games, how they can use playing video games after something like a bad exam to help deal with the implications of a bad exam, which makes it more likely that they will think about the implications and accept the idea that, ‘OK, I didn’t do well on this exam and I need to do better next time.’”

On the other hand, the participants who didn’t value success in video games but got positive feedback from the video game actually became more defensive if they performed poorly on the test. According to Velez, they were more likely to discredit the test and use the positive feedback from the game as further evidence that they are intelligent, no matter what their test score.

“That was like this double-edged sword that I didn’t realize I was going to find,” Velez said. “It was definitely unexpected, but once you think about it…it intuitively makes sense. After receiving negative information about yourself, you instinctively start looking for a way to make yourself feel better and you usually take advantage of any opportunities in your immediate environment.

So, what happens to kids whose video game access is revoked because they did poorly in school? Depending on the importance of the kids’ identity as a gamer, the results could vary. But Velez doesn’t suggest that parents change their parenting strategies for the time being, as more research into the topic is needed, especially about the effects of video game play on younger players.