Video games have long been believed to be detrimental to a child's physical and mental well being. If I even mention raising my children around video games many adults still shutter and look at me in disdain. With newer studies and tests being done though, these beliefs may be in the past. Video games are now proving to better test subjects' hand-eye coordination, as well as nurturing problem-solving skills and cognitive functions. With so much studys being put into this, why are people still so afraid of it?
It's time to prove that video games can have a positive effect on children and young adults. I want to take you through my 5 reasons why I will definitely pass on gaming to my beautiful children, and would encourage other gaming parents to do the same.
1. Video Games Can Increase a Child's Reading Skills
We can all agree reading is a basic and essential skill to have. It is possible that gaming can build and improve this skill with repetition and vocabulary. For example, when I was a child, one of the first games I ever got was Pokemon: Yellow Version for my GameBoy Color. Reading is a fundamental part of the game, and without it, many things would be almost impossible to achieve. It added some new words I didn't know before! If you are unable to know your inventory was full, you would have a difficult time collecting items you need to complete your journey.
Throughout my teenage years, I started playing more complicated games like role playing games. The Elder Scrolls series has quite a bit of reading and even though I was in high school, I was still expanding my vocabulary and constantly reading up where to go or how to complete a quest. Today I am 23 years old, and still gaining knowledge through games. Whether we're literally reading text in-game, or I'm online googling how to do something through a walk-through or wikis, gamers are constantly reading and adding new words to their vocabulary.
Giving my children a reading and vocabulary boost would make me a very proud parent. Between a healthy dose of book reading and video game reading, a child will have a greater incentive to read and come to enjoy it more.
2. Gamers Gain Quick Decision Making Skills
Decision making can have huge effects on life, and gaming can add another level of practice to this skill. Sporting games such as Madden, racing games like Need for Speed, and even shooters like Call of Duty can improve this reaction through repetition. In Madden, you are in full control of every choice you make, whether it be hitting the right running hole, throwing into double coverage before surveying the rest of the field or rushing the quarterback in shotgun formation. You have to make the right choice and if you don't, you have to accept the consequences of your actions.
The same principles apply to Need for Speed but instead, you must make very quick decisions while driving past other cars at high speeds and trying not to wreck your vehicle. Obviously, it's not a literal translation, and I don't want you to go out speeding around corners and blowing stop signs, but the reaction and decision-making skill is still present. The same applies for the Call of Duty franchise, where you must make split-second decisions that will reflect on your in-game record and decide whether you ride high on success or wait for the next match and try again.
Children may not have the most to decide on now, but strengthening this concept and practicing it earlier will give a considerable edge. They'll be ready for education and adult decision making because they're constantly having to make quick decisions and living with the consequences.
3. Problem Solving is a Key Part of Many Games
Remember those times you couldn't figure something out, so you'd walk away for 15-20 minutes and it'd magically come to you? It wasn't really magic, you were problem solving and you didn't even realize it. Now ask any gamer if they've done this. In most games, they add tricks and problems to tear away at your brain and add playing hours to your resume. A small group of researchers at Florida State University conducted a study to test a popular "brain exercising" game, Lumosity, against the equally popular game, Portal 2. Here are the results founded by Valerie J. Shute, Matthew Ventura and Fengfeng Ke:
In this study, we tested 77 undergraduates who were randomly assigned to play either a popular video game (Portal 2) or a popular brain training game (Lumosity) for 8 h. Before and after gameplay, participants completed a set of online tests related to problem solving, spatial skill, and persistence. Results revealed that participants who were assigned to play Portal 2 showed a statistically significant advantage over Lumosity on each of the three composite measures—problem solving, spatial skill, and persistence. Portal 2 players also showed significant increases from pretest to posttest on specific small- and large-scale spatial tests while those in the Lumosity condition did not show any pretest to posttest differences on any measure. Results are discussed in terms of the positive impact video games can have on cognitive and noncognitive skills.
More studies like this are being conducted with incredible results, and proving on a scientific level that gaming can increase brain function and persistence. With such great progress, more knowledge is just around the corner!
4. Learning Teamwork, Cooperation and Socialization Through Video Games
There is no substitution for human interaction, but good things can come from playing video games with friends, or even socializing online with different people in your lobby. My best friend and I already worked well together but I definitely believe that through video games, we increased our ability and effectiveness in working together. For instance, games like Rocket League, Paragon, Call of Duty and MMORPG's like DC Universe Online have helped our team work, cooperation and communication. We can easily offset each others' skill sets and support our weaknesses.
Life is easier when someone has your back and video games can help establish that connection. Even if you're not playing with your friends, online gaming has brought gamers together for years. Many games even feature in-game societies, established by leagues or guilds of like minded players allowing them to easily interact with each other. Teamwork and cooperation are simple skills needed in any job and will carry you much further in life than you may think. You may not always get all the glory, but being able to support others to achieve a shared goal is just as appealing. Teamwork and cooperation will help my children succeed in the classroom as well as in life and eventually in a career. Such a basic and essential skill that can be gained and improved by video games, teamwork will lead to better relationships, career opportunities and friendships.
5. Gamers Can Even Improve Moods and Relieve Anxiety
Video games allow a release, an escape into an alternate reality to help reduce stress. You know those days when you come home from a long, frustrating day of work and cannot seem to relax? Just pop in a game and get lost amidst a new world. A good place to start are games rated "E" for everyone. These can be simpler and generally very relaxing. Playing a few games of Angry Birds on your phone could be a great form of relaxation, or even Bejeweled can take your mind off of things and focus your attention. Stress relief is based on your own personal preference though, depending what takes your mind off things, and what your likes are.
My personal relaxation game is Madden 17 right now. I love getting off work, putting my daughter to bed and talking to my girlfriend. Afterwards though, playing a game or two of Madden can almost drift me right to sleep. I love football, I love everything about it, so it's a clear choice. Being able to lose myself in a game as a quarterback, running back or defense has therapeutic effects. So you just need to find your niche. Maybe you enjoy playing a few matches of Call of Duty, or running a dungeon on a MMORPG like World of Warcraft or Guild Wars, whatever your desire. Having a safe release for my children will be great and have my mind at ease.
Video games can in fact be very positive on a child's brain and have lifelong positive effects. I was a child of video games, and learned so much from them. The biggest fear a lot of people have is the extremes some people can take games to. Not every gamer is in their parents basement, obese and drinking liters of soda. Most gamers have definitely found a happy medium, and use video games as a hobby, not an addiction. Video games are not evil, and definitely have positive effects on your health and well-being as presented above.
I hope you have learned something and may reconsider playing video games yourself or allowing your children to. My daughter is only one right now, and one more on the way. I cannot wait for the time to come to introduce her to something that has had such a huge effect on my life.