Tuesday, February 1, 2011

In Praise of Kids and Video Games

I love games.  Boardgames, video games, RPGs, all of them.  I'm not a particularly good gamer, but I have fun and to me that's what counts.  I know that for many hardcore gamers the important thing is to win.  Players of games like Warhammer 40K can obsess about how to use their points and create an unbeatable army, only to throw their hands in the air when it doesn't work.  At a tournament where the goal is to come out with the trophy, of course you're playing to win, but hopefully you're also enjoying the strategy and social interaction that happens in the course of playing the game.  How could you not?  If you've signed up for a tournament that lasts the better part of a day then it would have to hold some interest for you other than just winning or it'd be a mighty long day.  In fact, lots of tournaments have trophies for things like painting and sportsmanship so that those who aren't expert players but enjoy other aspects of the hobby can have fun.  Fun.  It all comes back to fun.  Oh, except when it comes to video games which, according to this Reuters article,  will cause our children to become depressed and anxiety ridden.


Yesterday, the little school newsletter that comes home with my kids to remind me about the next fundraiser or chorus recital also included a bit from our guidance counselor on the dangers of video games.  She wrote a paragraph about how she thinks it all comes down to moderation, but then included a big chunk of the Reuters article on all the supposed negative effects of video gaming.  My kids play a lot of video games.  One child read this bit of the newsletter and asked me if the games they play are bad.  I told my daughter that no, they are most certainly not bad and are not hurting them.  She was happy with this answer and bounced into the living room to go play on the Xbox.  And I was perfectly fine with her and her sister playing the latest little puzzle game they had discovered earlier this week.  Why? Because I think that video games are good for them and actually improve their lives.

Yes, I like that my kids love video games because I see the value in the games they play.  They're young, so I'm not letting them play GTA 4 but when they work together to get to the next level of a puzzle game, or have to find a way to help each other while playing Lego Star Wars, they are developing important social skills.  They learn to cooperate.  They learn to be kind and help each other.  They learn the value of being a good sport and not stomping away in a huff when they lose. They learn to solve problems in creative ways and not give up if their first idea doesnt' work.  Playing is a social experience for them and they are learning through every minute of that play.  Yet, nowhere in my school newsletter did they choose to mention any of the benefits that can be gained from video games.

I understand that playing video games all day, every day might not be the best choice for children.  It's not the best choice for adults either.  But to ignore the benefits of video games and focus only on the negatives is to deprive kids of a potentially beneficial outlet.  I love video games and couldn't be happier that my kids do, too.

3 comments:

  1. Well said.

    I grew up playing games of all types and whilst the classic "Gamer" stereotype is a recluse that does not socialize very well once you break that initial shell you come across some of the most well rounded, intelligent and interesting people you can meet. (In most cases).

    I think without the challenges of problem solving and teamwork (life and level about anyone?) I honestly wouldn't have done as well at school or later in my positions in the workplace.

    Shame on that School Shame!

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  2. I’d thought you might want to counter the newsletter with a little msnbc news blast that came out today. You’re right, games aren’t bad. They build relationships that last a lifetime.

    http://ingame.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/02/01/5962255-gaming-with-your-daughter-is-good-for-her

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  3. In hearing about the newsletter, I can't help but wonder, what would the counselor say to my kindergartener... "wow, you know your multiples of 50?" " yeah, you see, to plant a sunflower in plants vs zombies, each sunflower costs 50. So if you want 3, it'd be 150. And in Zelda wind waker, the bombs on windfall island..."

    Would they get past the zombies & bombs to see that this 5 year has learned strategies beyond his age and can read most of what the characters say?

    Would they care that most of his play time is with his parents?

    This frustrates me so much!

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