The Up-Side of Video Games

I thought this was a pretty good amateur article, honestly! Some guy on his blog decided to stick up for video games — a surprisingly unusual endeavour.

What’s interesting is that it’s not based on the style of arguments you might expect, such as entertainment value or boredom avoidance. No, this gamer considers the potential video games have for interpersonal relationships.

Seems odd, I know, but the post struck a chord with yours truly because I feel very similarly about computer games. You see, I live in a household that consists of 5 children and my mother, and — since neither of my parents are superbly rich — only one computer. Now, while many of the more aged readers are likely to shrug this off as normal, the truth is that 90% of my friends had one computer to themselves, or to share with one other sibling. Any one of them would surely have been horrified to face the situation that we in my house lived with on a daily basis. It’s the concept of sharing.

With that many children in the house, you learn to share pretty much everything. But the computer in particular is a source of conflict resolved in one of two ways: Either you share indirectly, via taking turns, or you share directly by playing multi-player games. And, as I see it, both of those forms of sharing taught us very important skills for being successful adults, which, as MaryP says, is the ultimate goal of parenting. (I thought this was one of the best descriptions I have ever heard of what parents should be aiming for, as a side note. I hold the same value, but MaryP sums up my thoughts perfectly in her post!)

The most frequent form of sharing was, of course, enforced by the parents in the form of time limits on the computer. It started out as half an hour, and by the time we were older, it developed into somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour, depending on who happened to be keeping tabs on the timer. But any time past an hour would result in chaos, characterized by four screaming siblings and one sheepish one trying to pretend that he/she had been innocently mistaken in turning off the timer midway through the turn (Another lesson: deceit normally bites. Hard. Lost computer turns in order to sneak an extra 10 minutes simply wasn’t worth it!) As a result, two major things were developed throughout my family: a sense of time management and the ability to amuse yourself outside of the computer time. Not one of us relies on the video games to entertain us, although they are certainly handy for doing so.

But then, that last thing seems almost an argument against video games. The second form of sharing is the far more effective argument as video games as good; by learning to share with one another, the five of us learned the skills of cooperation and even teamwork. Cooperation makes sense, surely. By playing together, you could often better appreciate the game, and you were able to learn to appreciate that playing together instead of fighting over the computer was positive. That seems to make sense. But teamwork? You see, those of us who were willing to play together also were able to increase our time on the machine. By playing together, the comment was valid that “we get twice the time!” By spending first one child’s turn, then the other’s on the game, each child had effectively doubled their playing time. Not always good (there were certainly summer days where mom or dad would shoo us outside despite us having only played one person’s alloted time!), but definitely encouraging of a spirit of joint efforts. Collaboration in this manner has certainly proven to be present to this day, when we all chip in to do the dishes or tackle other tasks. The logic is the same, although the application is reversed; “The more people cooperating, the more effective the task” becomes common knowledge.

Now, by no means do I think that there is no other way to develop said skills. And, in fact, had we relied on this mean solely in order to learn these lessons, we surely would not have the same level of camaraderie that we have today. But each piece contributes to the puzzle, and I think it’s simple to make a compelling case that in the area of sociality, games didn’t damage us. And I thought it was good of the author of the above post to make this case, from his own point of view. The problems you hear of so often arise when the parents allow the child(ren) to live in the basement on their games; a little gameplay, particularly with friends or family, can do wonders!


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