Video Games: Let Them Play!

Posted by on Feb 9, 2013

Video Games: Let Them Play!
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The Effects of Video Games

In a previous Blog I talked about letting my young children sit on my lap and play PC Games, being what I thought of as a Progressive Parent. Having been in the games industry for a while, and a video game player and parent before that, I’ve heard all the arguments and advice for parents who’s kids like video games. Limit their time. Choose the games they play wisely. Etc., Etc. Well… duh. I’ve been closely watching the national discussion on gun violence, and haven’t been surprised that video games have been blamed, yet again, for the degeneration of our youth. I understand the fear that parents have – parents live in fear it seems. But I would contend that a lot of this fear comes from unfamiliarity (they don’t play video games) and not seeing the benefits of video game play. They don’t view playing video games as a social experience or as an opportunity to talk and connect – really talk and connect – with their kids. I know that we make mobile games here at Squink Games, but we love playing console games as well. Erik and I have spent many hours together, connecting over XBox Games: The Bioshock Series, the Dragon Age SeriesRed Dead Redemption, the Mass Effect SeriesOblivion and Skyrim, and the Fallout Series among many others. We explore these worlds together, triumph over evil, put pots on peoples’ heads, earn our achievements. Despite the fact that these are single-player games, the experience is cooperative. We discuss our answers to in-game questions, which quests we’re going to do. We laugh, we get frustrated, we try again – all of it, together despite the fact that the controller is only in one set of hands. We connect – to the game and to each other. My children play video games too. Ryan loves Minecraft and will play for hours if I let him – and I do. Alana’s favorite game is Skyrim and she’s started the game numerous times and has completed it at least 5 times. The weekends that they spend with me are filled with more hours of game time than many parents would be comfortable with. I’ve played Halo with Alana, have built castles with Ryan. I’ve sat and watched them both play, whether it’s a single-player experience or with groups of their friends; parties on XBox, Skype on PC, gathered together in our family room over puzzles and board games. These too are social experiences for us – ways to connect on a level that we all enjoy.

Alana – 15

Alana prefers console games over PC or mobile games and, as I mentioned above, her favorite game is Skyrim on the XBox. She usually plays with a headset on in a party of her friends. They talk and laugh and tease; encourage and commiserate, share tips and strategize regardless of whether they’re all playing the same games or entirely different ones. I’ve watched this shy girl – the one that clung to my leg whenever she was being introduced to anyone new, the one that cried for hours on her first day of preschool – take over the leadership of her group, define strategies, make snap decisions, gain better control of her physical self, grow more and more confident and secure. I’ve watched her learn how to deal with different personalities, encouraging one, scolding another; discover that morale is important and how to address it. She’s learned how to get them moving, how to direct them without making them angry. When I asked her what she loves best about video games, she tells me that she loves the stories – the immersion of being in a new world, with new characters, having amazing adventures. When questioned about what she’s gained from playing video games, her response is immediate and easy: “My hand-eye coordination has gotten better, and I’ve learned not to give up. Video games are hard, but if you don’t give up you get better and eventually they’re easy.”

Ryan – 13

Ryan has learned entirely different things from the video games he plays. When he was 5, Ryan was diagnosed with ADHD. Considering that he was climbing on top of the table before he even walked, and ran before he crawled, I wasn’t surprised. His father and I stopped going out to eat because he couldn’t sit still long enough for the food to be prepared and served. I’ve seen him sit and focus for hours when he plays Minecraft. He’s improved his spelling, his organizational skills, he’s learned to appreciate courtesy and dislike inappropriate language or names that you often see on public servers. He’s even taught himself the basics of Redstone, a simple “computing language” used to create fantastical machines. When I ask him what he’s gained through playing video games, he says “Accuracy (I assume he means hand-eye coordination), life skills, and patience.” When asked what he likes best about playing video games, he says “They’re entertaining. I like them. I can be very clever about playing them.” What I see is that he too has gained confidence. He’s learning how to type without looking (he had to show me that just this morning). He’s learning how to interact with his peers and feels less alone (both issues for children with ADHD). He’s learning technical skills, how to use a computer, how to create video games and explain complicated gameplay in a simple, logical way. He’s learning animation basics and the lingo of the video game and movie industries. He’s even taught himself to play drums; absorbing rhythm, timing, and dynamics – all on a gut level. He’s just… learning. Voluntarily. While sitting still.

Me – 41

Video games have been such a gift to my family. They’ve provided me with so very many opportunities – both professionally and personally. Not only is it the way I make a living, it’s improved my skills as well. I’ve learned so much about myself – become a stronger, better person as I discovered the processes and personalities in the companies I’ve worked in. I’ve learned different ways of dealing with people as well – different ways of dealing with myself. I’ve gained life-long friends and family through gaming. Gaming has also provided me opportunities with my children. We get to spend time together doing what we all love. It gives me opportunities to speak with them – about life and humanity, emotions and honor, right and wrong, what we believe, what we want out of life. I can speak to them on a level in a language that we all understand. Without games and the situations the characters in them find themselves in, I would never have had those opportunities. So, when I hear that gaming is destroying our youth, our families, our values, yes, I get a little angry and defensive, but mostly I feel sorry for the people who are saying those things. They’re forgetting that raising children is a life-long journey that takes engagement and conversation and that parents need every tool that they can get. They’re missing out too. On art, on immersive entertainment, on chances to become someone else – a hero, a thief, a magician, or a spiky little hedgehog – on learning perseverance, patience, tolerance, on goal setting and taking pride in their children and themselves. They’re forgetting that learning doesn’t have to be about books and school and is better done in every day situations. But most of all, they’re missing out on opportunities to grow to understand their children and to really speak and connect with their kids on their level; on chances to discuss and question, to guide and to mold the people that their children will become. They’re just plain missing out. So, take the time to play with your kids, and grab hold of the chances to connect with them with both hands. This, too, is a type of jump. Be Well. Dream Big. Hold Hard. And… jump! Further Reading  
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Blog Arrow4 Text ERIKART
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