It is important to remember that play is an important part of every child’s day. The best way for children to learn is through play. As a result of playing games, children learn new knowledge, vocabulary (sometimes in a foreign language as a number of video games use terms from other languages), gestures and develop an understanding for certain situations and suitable behaviours. The advantage of video games is that children learn unconsciously and, therefore, are more likely to ask to play again and again. Children also learn that their actions have consequences, sometimes irreversible. Rules in games teach them about boundaries and respect. A German study showed that 30 minutes of play every day increases memory ability and improves motor skills (what it is learned through play is stored in the memory for longer) and encourages them to develop strategy. We are not proposing that you let your child sit in front of a screen all day playing violent military games, but rather that a balance between study time and play is sought. As we progress, we will look at the various benefits of allowing children to play video games:
- Video games familiarize children with the computer they play their favourite games on. They learn how to turn the device on and off, how to log in, and not to click just anywhere… In the process, the child learns to be autonomous and responsible.
- Video games prepare them for lots of unexpected situations, helping them to predict the unforeseen. They also help them to tackle problems that crop up in day-to-day life more easily as video games often confront them with puzzles, riddles, and unforeseen situations (sometimes dangerous) and occasionally they must race against the clock. Additionally, the act of failing equips children with the ability to be more resistant, to face several situations at the same time and to learn from their mistakes.
- Video games improve decision-making, training them to face unforeseen situations, embarrassing situations or even violent and dangerous situations, thus reducing the time it takes to make a decision when faced with a similar situation in real life.
- Video games improve school grades. The stereotype that video games are synonymous with failure is constantly thrust in our faces. However, an Australian study has proved that children build upon skills taught at school through video gameplay. That is to say, reading, maths and science are helpful when it comes to solving riddles and puzzles.
- Video games help to improve everyday life skills, especially management and organisation, which are common features in gameplay.
- Video games foster creativity, especially in construction games such as Minecraft and Lego games, as well as in many others.
- Video games encourage social skills. Another stereotype is that in which we envisage players locked away in their bedrooms, not seeing or speaking to anyone and leading the life of a hermit. We’ve discovered that video games allow us to get to know ourselves better by learning to understand our strengths and weaknesses and to control our emotions (particularly when it comes to failure). Video games also aid communication and understanding between players, testing us when it comes to teamwork, respect, empathy, solidarity, reflection and listening to others when making a group decision…
- Video games have an anti-ageing effect due to the workout they give our brains. They keep us alert and quick on our reflexes.
- Video games promote better hand-eye co-ordination. Due to the sheer amount of information players have to process (reading dialogues and other information that appears on screen, not to mention the quick reflexes and anticipation of what is about to take place and the concentration that all this requires) foster hand-eye co-ordination. This kind of co-ordination is beneficial to everyday life because it makes people faster in the actions they take.
- Playing video games requires use of the frontal cortex area, forcing us to multi-task. In fact, the frontal cortex area is the area of the brain that is responsible for planning, our attention span and multi-tasking. If we were to examine musicians, pianists for example, we would discover that they do not need to use their brains as much in order to accomplish tasks using their hands. This is also true of video gamers, tying in with what was previously mentioned regarding hand-eye co-ordination.
- Video games can help children who are dyslexic. Thanks to stimulating games (not slow and boring), dyslexic children read more easily as they are not focused on the act of reading but on completion of the game.
- Video games reduce stress, allowing children to face their fears, overcome traumas, forget an upsetting incident or emotion, or simply offer them an escape.
- Video games build a child’s confidence by using a reward system when a mission is accomplished, for example. This helps them to gain confidence and feel even more confident when undertaking projects in everyday life or at school.
To sum up, as outlined in many of the points above, video games improve concentration. The child’s concentration is stimulated in various ways: visually, reflexes, memory and strategically. In essence, players learn to strategise, memory improves by learning from mistakes, and experience of the game improves their reflexes and strategic ability. All of these factors bring the child (and the future adult) considerable benefits, making them more competent, not only when faced with other players but also in real life alongside other individuals, as they become more agile and faster in a range of abilities.