Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Pros and Cons of Video Games

Do your children play video games? Do they play too many, or the right kind? This is a question that's given a lot of parents pause as they consider whether or not playing games is good for their child. I'm not going to go into detail on the debate surrounding violent video games and whether or not they can cause kids to do bad things. That's a completely different discussion. However, there are other things to think about when it comes to the games our kids play.

The games I'm thinking of are mostly action-and-adventure games, although I've played several sports-themed games.

Possible “Pros”

First of all, consider that most modern games aren't anywhere near as simple as the ones we used to play. Pac-man and the Mario games all have a goal, but a lot of games kids (and adults!) play today have a very detailed story line with as many twists and turns as any movie or book. The games my husband and his friends play-Call of Duty, the Civilization series, the Fallout series-have a lot of different things a person has to keep track of as they go through the story. Games like the Civilization series are turn-based, but others move so fast that you have to pay attention and solve problems quickly. Games with a “strategy” or “business” element such as Roller Coaster Tycoon add “thinking ahead” to the requirements. The focus on the intricacy of some of the details and the multi-tasking a person has to do in order to keep up in the game are skills that will help your child in many areas of life. Games like Guitar Hero might not teach you how to play a musical instrument, but the hand-eye coordination and movements used in the game can also be helpful in the future.

Video games can also be educational. Some are educational on their face while others provide educational material. For instance, the Assassin's Creed games are set in time periods such as the Civil War and feature characters who lived in those times. Also, each turn in Civilization IV opens with a historical quote. Even if the quotes themselves aren't educational, they can spark an interest in learning more about the things behind the quote-what it is referring to, the person who said it, etc. This especially applies to quotes from philosophers or texts such as the Bible because, in order to fully understand what they're saying, you have to put the quote in the context in which it was said; this requires looking into the history surrounding it.

The downsides of games seem to get a lot more attention than the upsides, but the gaming industry has come a long way in addressing some of those concerns. For instance, there's the worry that kids who play games might spend too much time sitting in front of a computer and not enough time with other people or getting exercise. Lately, though, games have had the option of multiplayer action using a headset and microphone. Some will allow someone to find random opponents online, but many will only work if a player connects with someone they know over a single network. This can help when it comes to socialization, since players can chat about whatever they want while playing the game.

Gaming systems such as Playstation Move or the Nintendo Wii rely on physical movement; instead of using a hand-held controller or computer keyboard, you are the controller. Sports-related games and games like Dance Dance Revolution might require additional equipment that can get very expensive, but anyone who has played these games knows that you can work up quite a sweat trying to keep up with the movements on the screen! If the games or equipment are expensive, this can give your child a reason to either save his allowance or do extra work around the house to earn the money.

As you can see, there are both pros and cons to your child's attraction to video games. Ultimately it's up to you to decide what you do and don't want your children to do with their spare time, but hopefully I've given you something to think about.

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