Video games may teach kids life skills

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handtoeye.jpgA new study suggests that kids are being taught valuable life skills by playing video games – just as well if it’s true as it also says that around 4 in 5 nine to nineteen year olds own a games console and 70% play online games.

Tomorrow sees the start of a two-day “Hand to Eye: What do we learn from games?” conference during the GameCity Festival in Nottingham. It will explore how skills that are required to play video games also have educational and cognitive aspects, and will feature experts from the games industry and education.

Iain Simons, GameCity Director, said “The conference comes at a crucial time. Interactive entertainment now forms an important part of everyday culture in the UK so it’s essential that we ask the best possible questions of it. This isn’t about being apologist for the games industry, rather it’s about embracing a balanced, nuanced debate. We need less fear-mongering and more information. I hope that ‘Hand to Eye’ is able to play a part in creating some new understanding.”

Repeat after me: Games aren’t evil, they’re educational. Especially the violent ones…

Hand To Eye
Game City

Andy Merrett

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  • Works Cited

    (GamePro Magazine’s monthly sales charts)

    (Brain Age Game Pamphlet. 2005)

    (Kushner, David. “Playing With Power.” Electronic Gaming Monthly November 2006.)

    (Dobnik, Verena. “Surgeons may err less by playing Video Games.” MSNBC. 6 April 2004)

  • Is it me, or does it seem like the media only focuses on the negative aspects of video games? With violent crimes being committed every day, people are looking for the cause by pointing their fingers at, television, movies, music, and more recently, video games. With the growing popularity of video games, which now gross more money annually than movies, it was only a matter of time before people started crusading against them. All we see being addressed in the media is how a particular game influenced the person responsible for a heinous crime. With the video game industry coming under so much scrutiny, its time for people to see all the benefits those video games provides. I agree with Andy Merrett’s blog that games aren’t evil, they’re educational and we do need less fear-mongering and more information. With advocates pioneering for both sides of the issue, informational conferences like, “Hand to Eye: What do we learn from games?” which starts this weekend in the U.K., will help to educate those still on the fence and the public on the positive aspects of video games on our society.

    For the past several months in the United States and Japan, the top selling video game has been “Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!” (GamePro Magazine’s monthly sales charts) Inspired by the work of prominent Japanese neuroscientist Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, the game is supposed to help stimulate your brain to give it the workout it needs because just like muscle mass decreases with age, our brain functions begins to decrease when we reach maturity. (Brain Age Game Pamphlet) They showed pictures of MRI scans with idle brains and then pictures of brains while the subjects read aloud and performed short mathematical problems. The idle brains showed little color or mental activity. The subjects reading and doing the math problems showed significant color and mental activity. I have and use this game; it’s easy to feel a sense of clear-headedness after performing the daily activities. The arcade game “Dance Dance Revolution” has recently been used as a way to lose weight. The game requires players to step on four different buttons in sequence with on screen instructions, which provides quite the cardiovascular workout. These are just small demonstrations of how games can be educational and also be used to provide benefits to our mental and physical health.

    The most prominent of anti-video game activists are politicians. Joseph Lieberman has been campaigning against video games for nearly fourteen years. Hillary Clinton recently jumped onto Lieberman’s band wagon, after the infamous “Hot Coffee” game modification, which through an only-accessible-via-hacking sex scene in “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” that got it pulled from the shelves. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger just signed legislation in California that would ban the sale of violent games to minors. (Kushner, David. “Playing With Power.” Electronic Gaming Monthly November 2006.) I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing to ban the sale of violent games to minors, but it shouldn’t come back to the game companies when a child or someone does something violent and the media or whoever, associates their behavior with violent video games. The game industry has a ratings system in place, the ESRB, to prevent games with mature or adult content from getting into the hands of children. If a retailer fails to enforce rules that prevent children from purchasing violent games, then the responsibility should lie solely on the retailer’s shoulders.

    I’ve been surfing the web looking at all kinds of different statistics and studies, and they all indicated that video games promote violent behavior and then I move on to the next site that conducted studies that completely contradict what the previous sites said. It basically comes down to the eye of the beholder. What do you think? In children young enough, it could easily effect how they act. However, when my nephew watches a movie with gun fights, the second the movie ends and he goes out and pretends that he’s playing with fake guns. It’s not just video games that influence the way children behave; movies and television are watched by children more than they play video games. People own more TV’s than video game consoles, so it’s irresponsible to single out violent video games and it’s the parent’s responsibility to teach their children what is real and what fiction is. It’s not right to try and ban violent video games from the rest of consumers, just to keep them from potentially getting into children’s hands.

    Researchers found that surgeons, who play at least three hours of video games a week, made about thirty-seven percent fewer mistakes and performed laparoscopic surgery twenty-seven percent faster than their counterparts who didn’t play video games (Dobnik, Verena. “Surgeons may err less by playing Video Games.” MSNBC. 6 April 2004) The United States military has designed a simulation program to help train soldiers for situations in the field. Pilots train on flight simulators before they actually get behind the wheel of a plane. Cold Stone Creamery an ice-cream store uses online games to teach its employee’s portion control. Companies like video games because they are cost-effective and people find them fun because they’re interactive. It helps put my mind at ease when people doing their jobs are better trained, especially with the surgeons and pilots.

    Anyway you look at it; video games will always have various useful and educational applications. Only looking at the negative aspects of video games and not seeing they’re true potential for good, is naïve. The only argument that critics of video games have, is that when mature games get into the hands of children, then it can cause children to act irresponsibly and de-sensitize them to violence, which is ridiculous. Hey parents, pay attention to what your children are doing and teach them about violence in video games and this wouldn’t be a problem. If they were as dangerous as critics say, then shouldn’t everyone who’s played a violent game, have committed a violent crime by now? No. Relax and enjoy a video game!

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