While I personally feel that my ten-year, 14,000 hour gaming odyssey was a complete waste, I am not so naïve that I ignore the benefits of video games. I write and have written extensively about the drawbacks and dangers of this 21st-century amusement, but I strive for a balanced perspective.
Let’s not forget that a glass of red wine a day correlates with a lower risk for cardiovascular disease. Likewise, moderate use of video games can offer significant benefits.
The E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3) last week showed that video games are coming closer to approximating the activities that they simulate. The motion control of many cutting-edge games allows players to point, jump, and move to control the characters in the game. This increasingly-common feature of video games makes many of them aerobic. Players can learn fitness techniques, how to play the guitar and even hone their martial arts skills. These new games should help considerably in reversing the sedentary trend among America’s youth.
Even the much-maligned World of Warcraft can impart significant advantages. At slot machines the Wharton Business School Leadership Conference in Philadelphia, conference speaker John Hegel touted the game’s potential. Speaking of a young man he hired to be the CEO of his tech start-up, Hegel said, “He learned everything he needed to know while becoming a guild leader in the popular online game World of Warcraft.” Hegel highlighted the necessity for leaders in the game to build powerful allies, and foster teamwork and cooperation. Success in the game could very well portend success in the board room!
Many innovative teachers across the country have taken video games into the classroom. Quest to learn, an innovative school in New York City, integrates video game design and play into the very fabric of its curriculum. The school’s philosophy centers on “creating a world in which players actively participate, use strategic thinking to make choices, solve complex problems and take on the identities of explorers.” The school teaches in a way that empowers students into full participation in their learning by using media to which kids can easily relate.
Exercise that’s fun, team-building, and dynamic teaching methods are a powerful trio of benefits. But before we get too carried away, let’s not forget that many of the World of Warcraft junkies in my recovery groups think the game rotted their brains. Most gamers lead sedentary lives, with a recent study showing obesity rates up significantly in 28 states! Many teenagers stay up late playing games and surfing the Internet to the point of sleep deprivation, making it unlikely they will function well in school. These points drive home the need to indulge in the offerings of the cyber world with intention, in ways that enhance our opportunities for success instead of destroying them. It is not the cyber world that is the problem, but rather how we relate to it.
Yes, technology is allowing video games to move closer to approximating reality, but for many people, video games are a less-than-satisfying substitute for the adventure, discovery and excitement they lack in their real lives.
- Please leave a comment and weigh in on this debate.
- Do you have any examples of how video game play might have benefited a loved one?