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.

Featured Columnist

Venisia is a public relations professional, video game industry contractor, published author, freelance entertainment journalist, copy editor, a co-organizer of the Latinx Games Festival, and a member of the Latinx in Gaming and the Puerto Rico Game Developers (PRGD) community. Her passion is video games. She loves the adrenaline rush from a multiplayer match and understands the frustrations of a brand-new raid. Venisia finds immense value in gaming especially in the realm of mental health.

Published Oct. 27th 2017
  • [[Deleted]]
    I remember an Interview on the first Mass Effect, so were talking about the singular game, not the series. It has a word count of 400,000 words or roughly 5 novels, combined with about 20,000 lines of dialogue which is like 20 movies worth...

    In short, theirs alot of engaging thought going on.

    Look at Parasite Eve (which comes to mind because I just did a post on it)... its an adaptation of a horror novel, and it has a movie (in japanese though, its actually really creepy)... this is one of the earlier adaptations I can think of, but how many Halo novels are there. I know I've read seven. Gears of war has a few novels(ive read one, it was really good), Final Fantasy has a slew of manga's... the game gets you in the door then as you get hooked you find yourself on chapters website buying up digital copies of novels... or is that just me?

    We also played Tropico in class to illustrate economy and politics. We the students were like councilors , and since the teacher was actually doing the playing has was the "mayor". We would debate and take votes on what types of crops to grow, to build an airport, ect ect.

    It worked out better than when he tried to use the board game Axis and Allies to help us understand wartime politics and the flow of world war II... because somehow my team conquered the world as Japan... oops... so much for keeping with history.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    In one Sociology class in college, the professor broke out Chutes 'n Ladders one day. I forget what it was supposed to illustrate, but I just remember playing Chutes 'n Ladders in a university-level class. LOL

    And yeah, there's a lot more literature involved in games than people really understand. I still remember Vandal Hearts II for one reason- it had some of the most accomplished writing and dialogue ever seen at the time. It was way ahead of its time in that way.
  • fatguyface
    I remember playing Oregon Trail like 20 years ago...forgot about that game
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    It's such a good game for its time and it was wonderful how much you learned.
  • Amy White
    Former Editor in Chief
    I learned you should always be a banker. And that if you kill a buffalo, you will not be able to carry nearly all of it.

    I miss that game. I'm going to go find a river to ford.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    I so missed out. Everyone was playing Oregon Trail and I was all into Earl Weaver's Baseball and Hero's Quest.

    I feel like I missed out on something iconic and that bugs me. :(
  • Amy White
    Former Editor in Chief
    And "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego." Those two games were the best 'edutainment' options of my youth.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    My brother definitely got into that because of the show. :)
  • Amanda Wallace
    Former Staff Editor
    Loved Carmen Sandiego! The "Where in Time" game taught me that Japanese wedding dresses were red.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    OMG I loved that game! I was always singing the theme LOL
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    So sad.

    Not your article; it's great. Took a ton of effort and all gamers should appreciate it.

    What's sad is that this is the type of headline we'll never see in the New York Times. No, only something about how the Sandy Hook mass murderer was a "deranged gamer," when there was absolutely no evidence to support such an outlandish claim.

    I'm not big on conspiracy theories. But the fact that gaming remains the mainstream media's whipping boy after all this time - time used to progress and advance - makes me ask questions...
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    I couldn't agree more with you. It sickens me to see video games always being "the big bad wolf" when it comes to violence of some sort. Just the other day on Kotaku I read a disturbing article about a 13 yr old using his Xbox 360 to watch porn and then assault his 8 yr old sister. It's not Microsoft's fault the kid had issues, that fault is with the parents NOT monitoring what their son is doing by putting content blocks on the console.
    Stuff like that makes me so mad. I have kids and none of them have went on a violent spree because of a video game. No we'll never see games in positive light as a headliner because to the NY Times and other news media, it's not newsworthy.
    It's up to us in the gaming community, whether we are parents or not, to SHOW the world, games ARE positive and beneficial.
    I wrote an article last month about how gaming saved my life. That won't make headlines either because "no one" cares to hear about the positive.
    Everyone wants to point the finger of blame and it seems gaming is the easy scapegoat.
    It's time for gamers to make their voices heard around the world.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    You're right about gaming being a permanent scapegoat. When I heard about the Sandy Hook tragedy, I said to myself, "I give it 24 hours before someone tries to blame video games." Not movies or music of books, just games. As if they're something separate, some bizarre, addictive, inherently evil form of entertainment that MUST'VE caused the kid to snap.

    You're also right about the parent bit. Parents are becoming more apathetic and more entitled with every passing day. They expect teachers in schools to be the parents now; I've got two aunts who are teachers, and the say that, essentially, they're more like social workers now. Kids come to school without shoes, dirty, bouncing off the walls, etc.

    And we're supposed to blame video games? Really? After the Sandy Hook thing, the town tried to convince parents to turn in their children's violent video games so they could be burned. To me, that's the equivalent of a book burning from Hitler's time. And by the way, I have just one question:

    The games in question are rated "M"-Mature. The kid has them. WHO bought them for him...?
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    I agree with you. When people complain about kids playing violent 'M' rated games, 9 out of 10 times, it's a parent who purchased it in the first place. Like I said in my article I don't believe every 'M' rated game is off limits but you need to know your child. Don't blame the video game, the developer or even the store you purchased Grand Theft Auto V at for your 7 yr old cursing and acting a fool. There's a reason we have ratings for everything.
    Yet you do have individuals who'll bs an excuse of blaming a game, a movie, a book or even music to get away with whatever they have done wrong. Then you have the uninformed mob jumping on the bandwagon.
    Stuff like that passes me off. This is why I wanted to write this article to show the positives in gaming. Parents need to be smart about their choices but I believe it's bigger than that with society as a whole.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Yes indeed. It's my hope that articles such as this get more widespread attention in the years to come. :)
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    As do I.

New Cache - article_comments_article_12201