So I recently read Alice Keeler’s post on 5 Things Teachers Can Learn From Video Games. I come down on the pro-gaming side, and have since the days of Bubble Bobble on the original NES. So if your kids are into video games, do not distress. They might be learning.
Video games can help your kid with decision-making. Specifically, budgetary ones. Many video games have their own economies, where you can pay for better gear or more lives or whatever. You often have to earn money of some kind and save up. Sometimes you have to make decisions because you can only hold or afford so much in game. And I would rather practice make the wrong choice about what to spend my money on in a video game than in real life.
Video games can help kids make friends and build social skills.
Video games can help us learn to be patient, persistent, and face up to challenges. They can help us learn to handle frustration and disappointment. Plus, they are a common hobby these days, and even though kids aren’t supposed to play them at school, it doesn’t stop a lot of cafeteria conversations revolving around them. And often communities are built around video games, whether in or outside of the game itself. I for one participate on Nintendo’s Miiverse; it’s a good place to ask for help if you’re stuck on something in a game, or just journal or comment on your gaming experience. In fact, the most polite argument I think I’ve ever been in during all my years on the Internet was on Miiverse.
Video games can make your brain do work. Problem-solving is an important part of many video games. Often you have to come at a challenge from new and different directions. That’s learning in progress. They get immediate feedback from the game to tell whether or not their ideas work, and they can learn from it and try again until they succeed. (With breaks if needed, of course.)
Video games can also be an outlet for creative expression, perhaps as part of the game itself, or within the community around it.
Video games might inspire your kid to learn more. Kids who want to learn more about a game, or improve their game experience, might seek out books about the game. If books do not exist, they may take to the Internet and scour message boards or other resources to find answers. I also see kids write about their gaming experiences — maybe they’re journaling their experiences; maybe they’re sharing tips and tricks; maybe they’re creating a story for their game character and going more the fictional route. Either way, video games, like any hobby, can spark kids’ interest in a topic and open them up to new kinds of learning experiences.
There are psychological benefits to gaming. Sure, I’ve already listed some, but some studies show that video gamers show improvements in basic visual processes, attention and vigilance, executive functioning, and some job-related skills.
Granted, not every video game is an appropriate choice for every kid (the same way that not every book, movie, or TV show is an appropriate choice for every kid). But that doesn’t condemn the whole medium; even games not purported to be “educational” can provide unique and useful learning experiences.
Disclaimer: I drew all this art (because nerd alert) using Nintendo Wii U Pad or 3DS. Characters depicted are property of Nintendo.