Half Term is nearly over and on balance, the weather has been pretty OK. It’s been nice enough that you could get out and try out Thinks to Do this Half Term or even the Free Activities that are available at Half Term. But if your kids have refused all of those and stayed in playing video games then don’t worry because here are all the ways that video games are actually good for your child!
1. Mutes Pain signals – Jane McGonigal, game designer and author of SuperBetter and Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World has been studying games as well as designing them for a decade. She describes research that suggests immersion in an engrossing and complex world occupies the same mental bandwidth that our brain uses to process pain signals from our nerves. There is also research that has found that playing Tetris within a few hours of viewing frightening images made it less likely to have flashbacks.
2. Cooperation and Bonding – Games that require cooperation between players to move ahead can prove to be an effective way to get warring siblings to start working together. Although they’ll probably still bicker over what to play and compete with each other during the game, you will definitely see them come together to overcome the obstacles of the game. Something which will then be transferred into the real world. Some studies suggest that playing the same game increases a physical synchronicity between players which in turn leads to increased empathy. This is also a great way to bond with your child! Other research has found that the co-playing of video games among family members leads to higher levels of family connection.
3. Build confidence – Learning a new game builds confidence they are learning new skills, overcoming obstacles and winning. The same way that sports builds confidence though the feeling of accomplishment, video games create incredibly similar emotions. The enjoyment of being good a something while you’re learning, the frustration of needing to improve and the exhilaration of overcoming the obstacles and winning. McGonigal even suggests that a simple change in language when parents are talking to their parents about games will get kids to start taking the skills they develop and the confidence they gain into their daily life. “Children are used to being talked down to about their games, they know we see them as a waste of time…as you progress further in a game, it’s designed to frustrate you, but it’s a good frustration…get them used to who never gives up or is really creative about problem-solving or keeps trying new strategies until they find one that works.”
4. Following instructions, Problem Solving and Pattern Recognition– Games are designed to get the players to follow the instructions so that they play the game in the way it was intended. If you don’t follow the instructions, you can’t play the game. However, they are also designed in a way that requires the player to come up with creative ways to solve puzzles and other problems in short bursts, increasing their logic and lateral thinking skills. Games also have an internal logic to them, the player has to figure it out by recognising its patterns.
5. Hand-eye Coordination, Fine Motor and Special Skills – Shooting games require the ability for a player to track the position of the character, where he/she is heading, their speed, where the ‘gun’ is aiming, if the ammunition is hitting the enemy etc. As all these factors need to be taken into account the player must coordinate the brain’s interpretation and reaction with the movement in their hands and fingertips. All of this requires a great deal of eye-hand coordination and visual-spatial ability in order to be successful. There is even a theory given by experts that today’s fighter pilots are more skilful because of their introduction to video games at a young age.
6. Planning, resource management and logistics – In games such as Civilisation and Age of Empires the player must manage resources that are limited and decide the best uses of said resources just like in real life. They are learning budgeting skills from video games. The American Planning Association has even claimed that a number of people that played The Sims and its other incarnations have gone on to careers in urban planning and architecture because of their inspiration from the games.
8. Quick thinking, making fast analysis and decisions – This is something that a player might not even realise that they’re doing, even though they’re giving their brain a real workout. Daphne Bavelier a cognitive scientist at the University of Rochester as found that action games and games that simulate battle could be a great training tool for real world situations as it primes the brain for making quick decisions. According to the study “Action game players make more correct decisions per unit time. If you’re a surgeon or you are in the middle of a battlefield, that can make all the difference. Strategy games also require that a player is flexible and quickly change tactics.
9. Strategy and anticipation – Steven Johnson, author or Everything Bad is Good For You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter describes how video games require something called “telescoping”. This is the ability to deal with immediate problems while keeping their long-term goals on their horizon. The newest games also require gamers to consider the risk and reward of situations and the consequences that their choices will lead to through decision base gameplay. Lessons that are incredibly important in the real world.
10. Reading and Maths Skills – Gamers have to read to follow instructions, follow the storylines of games and get information from the game text. By having the subtitles on while in game characters speak can improve reading skills as children are able to see the more complex words that are being used written down, and so remember them in other situations. Math skills are also improved as they are needed to win in a number of games that involve quantitative analysis like managing resources. According to a study in the journal Current Biology video games can also help children with dyslexia read faster and with better accuracy and that they can cause attentional improvement which directly translates into better reading skills.
11. Perseverance – As you get further in the game the player has to react to harder and harder gameplay. The player has to get used to failing the first time around and keep on trying and trying until they succeed and move on to the next parts.
12. Inductive Reasoning and Hypothesis Testing – Professor James Paul Gee has suggested that playing a videogame is similar to working through a science experiment. Just as they would in a lab environment a gamer must come up with a hypothesis e.g. trying a certain pattern of hits in a boss battle. If one theory doesn’t work, they must change hypothesis and try the next one. Gee makes the assertion that video games are goal-driven experiences something which is a fundamental part of learning and also later life.
13. Mapping and Memory – Gamers have to use in-game maps or build maps in their minds to navigate around virtual worlds. First Person shooter games e.g. Call of Duty also enables the player to judge what information should be stored in their working memory and what can be discarded considering the task at hand, according to a study published in Psychological Research.
14. Concentration – A study has shown that children with Attention-Deficit Disorder who played Dance Dance Revolution were able to improve their reading scores as it helped them to concentrate for longer periods of time even when there is the distraction loud music and flashing lights.
15. Improved Ability to Rapidly and Accurately Recognise Visual Information – Beth Israel Medical Centre NY have found a direct link between videogame skills and the skill needed for keyhole, or laparoscopic, surgery. There is also a study that gamers are better at registering visual data and are therefore quicker visual learners. They are also more resistant to perceptual influence and are therefore able to learn for longer period of time in distracting environments.
16. Simulation of Real World Skills – There are thousands of simulator game out there, the most well-known being flight simulators, which attempt to mimic the reality of flying a plane. Not only do these begin to teach you the skill you need to complete this skill in real life they are a great way to improve reaction times and inspire kids with possible career paths.
17. Ability to adapt to technology – We are living in a high-tech, sophisticated world. Video games are a great way to introduce your child to computer technology and the online world. No other field develops and changes as quickly as technology and this is obviously seen in the gaming industry as companies constantly battle to have better graphics and player interfaces. If your children can learn to adapt to the way that these consoles change they will be able to adapt to all the new technologies that will be developed throughout their lifetimes.
18. Creativity – A study by the Michigan State University’s Children and Technology Project has found that video games can make your child more creative regardless of gender, race or type of video game.
19. Games Make Learning Fun – Your child likes games because of the colours, the animation, the eye candy, as well as the interactivity the challenge and the rewards of winning. The best way to learn is when the learner is having fun at the same time. Video games are natural teachers. They help give your kid motivation to keep on practicing, which is the only way to learn and hone skills.