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The Positives of Playing Video Games

Life lessons and skills can be taught through video games.

Many people, especially those who don't play video games, most often don't realize that there are many things to learn from playing video games besides killing a zombie, shooting the "bad" guy, driving a super-fast car or saving the Princess.

Knowing that there are positives out there in terms of benefits gained when it comes to video games, I hope I can assist parents make a more informed decision. Yes, not all games have a beneficial impact, but for the ones that do, a lot can be learned. Being able to view video games in a positive light (other than the dark stain of violence that is too often portrayed by the media every time something bad happens) needs to happen more often.

I'm a parent and I'm a gamer.

Part of being a parent is making decisions for your child, which means you'll need to be informed. When it comes to video games, knowing the content of the game is important, not just the ESRB rating. Some game ratings can be overlooked depending on its content and your child's maturity level. You know your child best.

I don't find all 'M' rated games off-limits to my 14-year-old son but that's only due to the fact that I know his maturity level. I know what he can and cannot handle and understand, the difference between fantasy, fiction, and real life. Having taught my son these differences myself, doesn't just apply to the world of video games in general either.

You need to know your child's limits.

Sitting down with your child and teaching them the differences between make-believe and reality is important. I've seen too many parents purchasing games for their young child just because that's what they asked for, not once looking into the type of game it actually is. It's our responsibility as parents to make informed decisions that are in our child's best interest. We don't have to say "no" to every game, but we also don't have to say "yes," either.

 Dr. Andrea Facoetti said: "Action video games enhance many aspects of visual attention, mainly improving the extraction of information from the environment."

What you may not have realized is that there are many things being learned from video games, such as:

  • Social Skills
  • Timing (learning time management)
  • Basic morality (in most cases)
  • Resource management
  • Teamwork (communication, collaboration)
  • Creativity
  • Improve strategy and coordination
  • Learning to use maps
  • Learning to listen and follow instructions
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Math, science and history usage and knowledge
  • Digital citizenship
  • Building literacy skills
  • Teaching how to improve (from every failure, a lesson is learned to achieve a goal)
  • Empowerment (building self-confidence is a powerful tool)
  • How to multi-task
  • How to dance and stay fit

In an article for BBC News Health back in February 2013, a study that was conducted by the University of Padua that stated video games helped reading in children with dyslexia. Study leader, Dr. Andrea Facoetti, said, "Action video games enhance many aspects of visual attention, mainly improving the extraction of information from the environment. Dyslexic children learned to orient and focus their attention more efficiently to extract the relevant information of a written word more rapidly."

The researchers found those who had played the video games had better attention skills than before. "The video games may be working to train the part of the brain responsible for attention and motion perception", he added.

(Use of the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device in Portal)

Games such as Portal and Portal 2 are based on a puzzle platform. It consists of a series of puzzles that must be solved by teleporting the player's character and simple objects using the game's "Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device." This device can create interspatial portals between two flat planes. The game's unique physics allow momentum to be retained through portals, requiring creative use of portals to maneuver through test chambers. This is a game where critical thinking and problem solving is key.

(Shuttle launch built in Minecraft)

Minecraft is also a game that teaches problem solving, in that it requires the player to tackle complex puzzles in order to advance and become successful. Minecraft also teaches creativity in what is called 'creative mode,' where supplies and materials are unlimited. The creative and building aspects in this game allow the player to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D generated world. The only limits are your own imagination. The game teaches exploration, gathering resources, crafting and combat. Simple math and science skills are used when creating railroads. In survival mode, the player is required to obtain resources and maintain their health and hunger to survive.

(Science Papa)

In Science Papa, the player is the newest member of Science Papa's research team, looking to become the greatest scientist in the world. It won't be easy, however, as players must prove their scientific worth against a crazy cast of rival scientists in intense competitions.

Science Papa features over 30 different experiments for players, and by utilizing motion controls, players will pour and mix chemicals, pound objects into dust, monitor Bunsen burners, fix and use lab equipment, and more. Players can also invite their friends into the lab, and compete against each other in split screen science competitions to see who can finish an experiment first, and with the most precision.

In the game The Walking Dead, you'd be quite surprised on how much empathy can be learned. Add in the success of the television series, you'd also be quite surprised to learn on how many kids want to pick up the graphic novels, written by Robert Kirkman, to read more about the story.

I know as a parent myself, getting my 14-year-old son to read anything was a struggle until The Walking Dead came to light. No, it may not be Shakespeare or J.D. Salinger, but the point being he is reading. This has helped his reading interests grow into other books as well.

(Assassin's Creed 3 features a battle in Upstate New York during the American Revolution)

Who would think that some aspects of history could be learned from Assassin's Creed 3? It's true, just as kids learned about U.S. history from the game The Oregon Trail, which in fact was created by two student teachers to coincide with their curriculum.

 (The Oregon Trail map)

 ~~~

(A player's view in BioShock using their abilities)

During a gaming session in BioShock, the player finds themself in the underwater city of Rapture. Rapture is an unknown environment, so the player must listen to instructions over the radio and use the game's map to find the correct location to fulfill the mission. The player must find a way to avoid or fend off the city's insane citizens using stealth, weaponry and special powers obtained through genetic modification.

The player follows orders, locates the best route and experiments with combat tactics, and must find audio logs that provide background on the politics and social history of Rapture (which some contradict the story being told by the radio "ally"). With this game, you build literacy skills, which teaches you new ways to learn and think.

(Characters of Mass Effect 3)

In Mass Effect 3, or the series as a whole, the player learns about responsibility, consequences, and relationships. Throughout the series, you play as Commander Shepard, whose mission is to save the galaxy from a race of mechanical beings known as Reapers, their followers, and Collectors, an alien race abducting entire human colonies. As the Commander, you must recruit members for various jobs to take on your ship the Normandy.

The player must make decisions based on the situation at hand, learn to deal with the consequences of those decisions (as it affects the gameplay) and build up communication with the many characters throughout the game. Personal relationships are also allowed within the game, which also can have a negative impact depending on the player's actions.

(The Sims PC Game)

The Sims is a strategic life simulation game which teaches digital citizenship, financial responsibilities, and resource management. The player creates virtual people called "Sims" and places them in houses and helps direct their moods and satisfy their desires. Players can either place their Sims in pre-constructed homes or build the homes themselves. 

(Just Dance for Wii)

Just Dance is a rhythm game developed and published by Ubisoft for the Wii, and it is the first in the video game series of the same name. In Just Dance, players use only the standard Wii Remote and attempt to mimic all the moves of the on-screen silhouette dancer. Players earn points depending on what moves they perform and how well they perform them. 

The game has three gameplay modes: the normal mode, in which players pick any track and attempt to dance with the on-screen dancer; a "Last One Standing" mode, where players are eliminated if they don't score enough points or make too many mistakes; and a "Strike a Pose" mode, in which players start and stop dancing as dictated by the on-screen dancer. There is also a "Practice" mode, where players may dance to tracks without keeping score. Here, not only is the player learning to dance, but also keeping physically active. This game is also available for PS3 with motion sensor and Xbox 360 with Kinect.

Again, not all games have a benefit, but being in the gaming environment can also be worthwhile.

Now I could go on and on giving you endless examples, but I'm not here to convince anyone, rather only to inform you that there are many things to be learned while having fun playing a video game.

Simply by being part of the social community, you learn there are rules and you must learn to conduct yourself properly or there are consequences: such as being kicked from a multiplayer game, being kicked from a party chat, or even being suspended or permanently banned from the system's online service, i.e. Xbox Live.

Video games are just great for learning skills and behavior etiquette but they can also help with depression, feelings that come with being bullied, and other life struggles. In an article entitled 'How Gaming Saved My Life', you can take a look and see that the video game world has a lot more to offer than one would know.

Again, not all games are bad, not all games are good, but it's important to remember that there are things being learned while playing even if you don't know or realize it.

 Being able to view video games in a positive light other than the dark stain of violence that is too often portrayed by the media every time something bad happens, needs to happen more often.

Published Feb. 7th 2014
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