5 Things Parents Should Know About Gaming
File this under deja vu. Every few months, a group of skeptics (be they pundits, politicians, or opinionated talk-show hosts) routinely line up to decry gaming’s effects on innocent children; it’s a time-honored tradition in mainstream media circles. But there’s one problem for those who’ve made our passion their favorite punching bag: as research increasingly shows, claims that gaming is unhealthy or anti-productive aren’t just misleading — they potentially sell kids short by downplaying the role of digital diversions in a healthy, well-balanced media diet. Let’s examine five things that games do to bust some well-worn media myths.
1. Controversy sells — and sells gaming short.
Critics often fixate on well-known, con-tentious franchises like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty. But today’s average player, a 37-year- old male, is as apt to consume sophisticated games as they would mature movies, TV shows, or music.
According to Patricia Vance, president of the ESRB (the organization responsible for assigning the age ratings which appear on retail game boxes) nearly 60% of all titles are rated E for Everyone. While notorious offerings routinely get more ink, she claims, family-friendly outings better represent the industry’s average output. Moreover, tarring the field with the same brush is like viewing the entire film business through the crimson-tinged lens of Saw IV’s chart-topping box-office success.
2. Gaming promotes positive development.
As Harvard Medical School researcher Cheryl Olson states, videogames can have markedly pronounced and beneficial effects on kids’ growth and maturation. Having conducted interviews with over 1000 students, she recently told Parents magazine that “parent-approved videogames played in moderation can help young kids develop in educational, social, and physical ways.” Findings indicate that games not only boost planning skills, creativity, and overall awareness in children, but they also promote exercise, healthy competition, and social interaction. Moreover, if steeped in authentic everyday themes, some may even spark real-world interest in subjects like history and music.
3. Videogames make kids smarter.
Most children prefer playing games to doing homework. But that’s why it’s a parent’s job to moderate playtime — and, more pointedly, why educators like Duke University’s Dr. Jeffrey Taekman believe they’re the future of learning. According to him, games are more approachable and engaging than coma-inducing lectures and encyclopedic textbooks; they don’t just promote active user involvement and enhanced retention, but also encourage dynamic decision-making, experimentation, and problem-solving in lifelike real-time contexts, sans fear of embarrassment. As a result, kids are provided with better, more realistic educational environments.
4. Professionals need to play too.
Want to raise the next Bill Gates? Give little Einstein more gameplay time, advises the Federation of American Scientists. “Games teach strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, plan formulation, and adaptation to rapid change,” says the FAS (e.g. the same skills modern employers increasingly demand from workforce entrants). From Cisco to IBM and NASA to Nortel, examples of government and private enterprises using games as instructional tools continue to grow. With nearly four-fifths of major employers planning to implement games-based training by 2013, according to the ESA, you may be torching their career prospects.
5. Games are good for your health.
Thanks to motion-control games like the Kinect-powered Just Dance 3, the American Heart Association now recommends gaming as a perfectly acceptable approach to exercise. Merrimack College psychology professor Michael Stroud says games are also good for giving your gray matter a workout, as juggling myriad stimuli — rampaging enemies, incoming rockets, etc. — maps well to performing complex real-world tasks, e.g. driving. And not only do games help people process information faster and improve reasoning ability, but according to Daphne Bavelier, University of Rochester professor of brain and cognitive sciences, gamers show real-world improvements in accuracy, attention, vision, and multitasking after playing specific thumb-waggling outings.
Official Xbox Magazine