Tuesday 17 February 2009

Video games are good for you

Contrary to tabloid scare stories about zombified youths wandering city streets hunting for hapless victims following 24 straight hours on their Xbox, a new EU report claims that video games are not only good for you but should be taken more seriously as a potential learning tool by schools.

The committee, responsible for internal market and consumer protection, states clearly in the report that "video games can stimulate learning of facts and skills such as strategic thinking, creativity, co-operation and innovative thinking, which are important skills in the information society."

This is a welcome corrective to the largely mythical fears about the supposedly negative effects of video game culture on the young. Before video games, commentators were up in arms about the horrors of comic books and rock 'n' roll. In a recent book entitled "Grand Theft Childhood", authors Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson, co-founders of the Centre for Mental Health and Media at Massachusetss General Hospital in Boston, attempt to deal directly with some of the myths surrounding video games and violence. This balanced study, based on interviews with thousands of young people, concludes that video games affect young people in different ways and that there are significant benefits for some. These include:
  • Games may encourage and provide an outlet for creativity
  • Games allow teens to try on roles and behaviours in a safe environment
  • Games can provide practice in planning and anticipating consequences
  • Games may help teens manage difficult emotions (coping with stress, anger)
  • Games may promote involvement in sports/exercise (boys who played realistic sports games spent more hours per week on physical activity)
  • Games can improve visual/spatial skills (especially valuable for girls)
  • Games provide a focus for socialising (especially for boys)
  • Games may provide a source of self-esteem and pride (especially for kids with ADHD and learning disabilities)
There has been some research about the potential benefits of gaming and education in the UK. The Consolarium in Scotland is a great example of how an education system can embrace the positive benefits of gaming. It comes as no surprise that Scotland is now a world leader in the computer gaming market.

What are your thoughts about all this? Should we be actively promoting gaming in school and, if so, how should we go about doing it?


gunner tom said...

a very intresting idea and at last a balanced view! i think because of the stereotypes that surround gaming it will be hard to get backing for this idea from adults. But if they talk to young people they would notice that a lot of creative skills stem from games like:wii music,my sims and wii sports.Alot of these games are about making choices.

Anonymous said...

I think the computer game Second Life is an interesting one, and one that could be used. The uni of Duram used "Valve's Source" this is coading that is used to make second life work. They made a repicer of there Uni and created fires at points in the bulding they could use the game to work out how people would react and to see if they would follow "Fire Exit" signs etc Full report here (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7867861.stm). I visited the Maratime musium in Greenwich on Friday and was not supprised to see that the children were a lot more interested in using the computer softwere then reading the information that had been displayed on the walls!...