Anyone who has looked up from their computer to discover that they just lost two hours to Farmville or World of Warcraft would like to believe that there is some redeeming value to playing video games.
On August 3rd, PBS MediaShift published an article asserting that video games teach our kids a “new literacy”. Even though I am not personally a gamer, I would argue that there are plenty of secret benefits to playing video games.
My husband is a gamer and I can virtually guarantee that my son will also be one in the not too distant future. As hard as it is not to see playing Xbox all afternoon as a waste of time, today’s variety of games offer far more than simple hand-eye coordination exercises. The part of the argument asserted by the PBS MediaShift article that I find most intriguing is that video games offer a chance to take risks and fail without the same consequences as real life. This can encourage a different type of problem solving. This study indicates that one of the greatest benefits of video games, is that kids get used to advanced problem solving concepts. Video games can foster creative thinking and a willingness to take risks. Video games encourage exploration and an understanding that failure is a necessary part of reaching a challenging goal.
While it’s not difficult to argue the merits of a game like BrainAge or Soduku, is anything gained from games like Halo or Call of Duty? One of the hidden benefits of multi-player gaming is that if you create a team and play together, it creates a need to learn to work together and cooperate to reach a common goal. “Massively Multi-Player Online” games like World of Warcraft, often make it impossible to reach certain goals or complete certain quests without working as a team. The dependence on others encourages gamers to learn to cooperate and communicate more effectively with different personalities. I think we can all agree that this is a necessary skill in real life.
Every gamer likely has a favorite genre, but I would argue that in order to gain the most benefit from your time spent playing video games it’s important to branch out. Different kinds of games foster different skills, so break out of your rut and try something new. A game like the Sims may teach interpersonal communication, economics, and social consequences. If you prefer, role playing games like Fable involve similar themes. Problem solving games like Portal or Soduku require logic, pattern recognition, and strategy. Action games (like shooters and fighting games) develop accuracy, reflexes and timing.
In 2008, Fordham University released a study reporting that students in grades 5 through 7 improved their cognitive and perceptual skills after playing a new video game. However, just as no early reader could be handed a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird without some guidance, parents can help to ensure that their kids gain from their time spent gaming by getting involved. The PBS MediaShift article recommends that parents participate and play video games so they can communicate with their kids and highlight the beneficial parts of the game. Connect games to books, movies, TV, and real life experiences to encourage kids to link the skills they learn in-game with the outside world. Encourage kids to play with peers to learn how to cooperate and work together toward a common goal, and maybe even learn a different perspective or path to the goal than they’d have experienced alone.
Arguing the benefits of video games can be pretty controversial in some households. If you have an opinion you want to share with the world, join our debate on Facebook
Andrea: I am due on Christmas time so right now it’s crazy.
Lisa: It’s so fun being in the hospital on Christmas. OK. So video games. Did you play when you were a kid?
Andrea: I did actually. Not nearly as much as my spouse but you know, I had my hours dedicated to Castlevanya as a kid.
Lisa: Did a lot of Mario Brothers and you do hear it can be good for hand- eye coordination.
But there actually a lot of things that maybe as parents we didn’t think about that would be good for our kids with video games. Like, for example?
Andrea: There’s actually a study that was released by PBS Media Shifts. It released a series of articles about our kids and media and how they’re using them nowadays. And so what they talked about was what they call the new literacy. Which basically talks about, as you know, technology becomes more of a part of our day to day lives, interacting with video games whether it be on a console or on a computer does teach our kids not just familiarity with computers, but also some problem solving skills. You know that otherwise in a classroom setting, kids are over time they really learn to be afraid of failure. They learn to not answer because…
Lisa: It could be embarrassing when you fail in front of a bunch of other kids.
Andrea: It can. You have a whole class or a teacher that’s telling you that you’re on your wrong, probably not going to try our something new. So the ability to in a relatively safe environment try different ways to get the end results and it also teaches them that there are often multiple ways to get to the end solution, so that’s really helpful too as a young adult that you learn to try things out and experiment.
Lisa: Safe place to fail.
Andrea: Yes. Absolutely. What else?
Andrea: Well, this one is a Warcraft demo so what I was interested in WarCraft that they talked about was team building and learning to work as a team. With a game like an online role playing game you have to get a team together in order to reach some of those more advanced objectives. So you have to learn to not be a jerk online, and how to have some interpersonal skills which as a young adult obviously can be beneficial. When it comes to your kids though, this is something that as adults we can get some benefit out of too. But obviously you still want to monitor what your kids are doing. You don’t want to just fend them loose on an online chat line and go ‘Good luck’.
Lisa: Do you recommend that parents somehow play these too? What is the other ones that you have?
Andrea: Well, this one’s Fable. This one’s a good example of a role playing game and there are so many different genres of games. And another thing that was interesting about this piece is that it talks about the benefits to really playing a variety of games because they can all teach you different things. So these types of games can teach you things like economy and obviously Sim’s is…
Lisa: New fun.
Andrea: Sims is more like again an interpersonal skills kind of game but it will teach you the basics of economy, things about cause and effect and again the problem solving comes in over and over and over again.
Lisa: Very cool. This is like Webkins for grown up kids. All right. Andrea Eldridge. Thank you so much. She’s our momma nerd from Nerds on Call. Going to stick around. Coming up we’re talking about online tutoring, even some tutoring that’s for free because maybe you’re not that far into the school year and already you can’t help your kids anymore with that. Maybe it’s already above your head. That’s coming up in the 9 o’clock hour so stick around. Back to you, guys.