A Quick and Dirty Guide to the Benefits of Video Games



Tertris: Everybody’s old favorite. It seems like many parents are okay with Tetris. They can see the way that it helps to develop and improve mathematical thinking. They like the way it helps visualization of geometric patterns, along with recognition and recall of geometric patterns and designs. The thinking seems to run: if puzzle books are good for developing and enjoying these skills, the interaction of this  video game is great -- the patterns move and change, it’s more challenging than working geometric puzzles on paper. And I think this is true.


But there’s so much more to the picture.  These are some of the benefits that we’ve come up with:


¨      They develop thinking and all kinds of problem-solving skills


¨      RPGs help develop critical thinking and sequential reasoning ability


¨      RPGs contain historical interest, along with literary and cultural references. These aren’t always accurate, although sometimes they are. Many kids like to investigate the real events…to see and to compare.


¨      Memory skills are developed: floor plans, maps, mazes, puzzles, and placement of objects within 3-dimensional space


¨      Spatial reasoning is necessary to succeed at many games -- call it mathematical thinking if you liike, or geometric reasoning…


¨      Some games incorporate foreign languages and some of the translations from Japanese illustrate differences and similarities between our two cultures. There are interesting mixes of cultures. These are all lessons in cultural anthropology.


¨      Some games have artistic appeal – different worlds, different cultures.


¨      For aspiring writers: world-building skill that they need to develop continuity within their stories can be learned. Even those who don’t write much will enjoy this and gain critical thinking skills from working with these games.


¨      Vocabulary-building – varies with the world that is portrayed


¨      Real-world geography in some games


¨      Literary references


¨      Moral issues explored


¨      Springboard for family discussion of all kinds – even if you don’t play the games with your kids, sit down with them and watch them play. Talk with them. Hang out with them and have a good time.


Some families are pretty demoralized when they come to homeschooling. They see that their children’s love of reading and learning and conversation have been stolen by the grind of schooling. Many new homeschooling parents notice that their kids still have a desire to watch TV and play video games, but rather than encourage it, the parents panic and want to severely limit time with these activities . These are, in fact, forms of creative activity. Does it make sense to take away the last remaining sources of creativity?


A few comments about specific games:


 Gran Turismo and other racing games -- observe and use realistic physics of motion


Metal Gear Solid -- deals with history, various cultures, warfare and its repercussions


Zelda – map skills, the compass points, memory, spatial reasoning and spatial memory skills, this game has subtitles and you read it as you go along. This game requires you to retain a mental map of your territory.


Harvest Moon – building a life, becoming a responsible person, gardening J, raising chickens J J, subtitles that encourage kids to read.*


*One of my sons learned to read playing Zelda, one learned playing Harvest Moon and Zelda. Both are building fluency with the help of video games.




My oldest son, Jesse and his wife Roxanne are avid gamers. Both are autodidacts. Neither have had their brains turn to mush. Here’s Roxanne’s latest list of video game benefits:


¨      bring back excitement and desire to read or teach reading (rpg's or other games with subtitles)


¨      younger players (3+) can learn to start counting from games like San Fransisco Rush and other racers...from the start 123... GO!


¨      some reality based rpg's can get them interested in researching the actual event


¨      can teach kids to learn by trial and error


¨      to research before they make decisions


¨      to resolve conflicts


¨      puzzle solving strategies


¨      at the very least hand eye coordination.....


¨      inspire artistic kids to draw, paint, and design works based on or inspired by the game


¨      encourage imagination


¨      many rpg's are modern day 'fairy tales'


¨      some teach responsibility.....Harvest Moon, Zoo Tycoon


¨      the kids can be characters from their favorite movies....to indulge their imagination…


¨      rpg's are much like novels, but let the kids jump in and take part in the story




¨      THEY'RE FUN!!!!!

Copyright 2002 Katherine Ward and Roxanne Ward



Could they be good for dyslexia?


What about violence?


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