Can it be true? Is playing video games not the corrupting activity that we’ve
been led to believe? Gaming’s position as society’s current bête
noire, so often blamed for the degradation of youth just like rock ’n
roll and comic books before it, has
been wonderfully thrown off kilter by an Oxford University study
suggesting that an hour’s play each day can actually be beneficial to a
While the findings are illuminating, the more sensible among us have suspected
this all along. Video games certainly have their share of problems, an
unbecoming obsession with violence chief among them, but it’s not hard to
imagine how age-appropriate games can help aid development in both social
and mental areas. Games are defined by their interactivity, the connection
between your hands operating the controller and the avatar on screen
responding to your input. Quite apart from developing the fine motor skills
and hand-eye co-ordination needed to play, games often place you into safe,
meticulously designed worlds and present you with problems to solve and
environments to explore. At two, my own son might be a little young to fully
operate the controls, but I know that when the time comes I’d rather he be
spending his limited screen time interacting with a video game than
passively watching television.
Hurling Super Mario around his candy-coated worlds may seem a frivolous
pursuit on the surface, but his levels are designed to challenge. How do I
make this jump? How do I defeat this boss? Figuring out the solution then
performing it through skill is joyously rewarding. I struggle to see the
downside. Video games are also becoming more skilled and sophisticated at
using the medium to tell stories, allowing players to make decisions to
influence narrative. Elsewhere, games such as Minecraft, LittleBigPlanet and
Disney Infinity encourage creativity, players able to build their own worlds
using intuitive tools.
And while the pursuit of solo challenges and stories are an important part of
the medium, video games are more sociable than they’ve ever been.
Co-operatively or competitively, games are often best played in a group,
fostering camaraderie and teamwork. While I’d never advocate playing a game
of FIFA over getting outside for a kickaround, the tactical aspects and
social interaction are still present.
All things in moderation, of course. It’s no surprise that the same study
found children playing excessively suffered negative effects, potentially
missing out on other activities at gaming’s expense. But digital learning
and entertainment is an integral part of our and our children’s lives.
Embracing games as an enriching part of our culture makes sense. And
anything that recognises that is all right by me.
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