A Good Side of Gaming
I admit it. I love to play video games. I started with the original Nintendo. Had all the Mario Brothers games and eventually moved on to Mortal Kombat on the Sega Genesis. I still play today on PlayStation 3 (Hitman: Absolution, Battlefield 3 and Assassin’s Creed are on my current rotation).
Growing up, my parents did not allow us to purchase our own console, but we were able to “play football” over at our friends’ houses. Eventually, I moved on to PC gaming (which my parents did allow, go figure) where I focused on strategy games like Age of Empires. For those not familiar, Age of Empires pits players against virtual opponents in strategic warfare. The player must “build” and train troops, builders and even priests. Different types of soldiers or technology had to be integrated to defeat the strengths of the enemy player(s). The game requires manual dexterity, quick decision-making, game theory execution and the ability to process a large amount of information extremely quickly. It is akin to playing four simultaneous games of “Risk” at 10-20 times the speed of a normal game.
I strongly believe that video gaming can help to develop situational awareness, multi-tasking, strategic thought and pattern recognition — to name a few benefits. Computers allow us to simulate games and strategy in a fraction of the time required for physical board games. Think how much faster games like Yahtzee, Monopoly and Solitaire can be played on a computer or mobile device than in person. Modern online poker has shown that a few years of playing online generates as much experience as 30 years in a physical casino.
Computer gaming helps with learning because learning is often reliant on repetition.
Of course, often in-person human interaction is lost when playing classic board games digitally or when playing other video games. Although many popular games today are played against other players online, the language and behavior of the online gaming environment is often more offensive than the actual game. Excessive use of video games is tied to other problems such as social isolation and obesity and the news is ripe with concerns about violence in video games (a topic for another day). I can personally attest to the fact that gaming can be extremely addicting.
As with any activity or behavior that has both positive and negative effects, one must exercise moderation and self-control. In an age when many parents play games — that includes Words with Friends and Angry Birds! — it is important to set limits and boundaries for children while setting a good example of how to exercise moderation and self-control. My parents required the use of a timer, limiting my brothers and me to 30 minutes of gaming per day. As my children learn to establish self-mandated limits, I will be providing very strict guidelines regarding all types of digital gaming while ensuring I am setting the right example myself.