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?