Hi everyone, I’m Sydney! You might remember me from the last guest post I wrote: Family Internet Safety: 3 Ways to Increase Protection. Today I want to talk about how to help your kids make their video game time one of learning.
It is a familiar plight.
A child spends hours engrossed in a video game while parents encourage them to be more productive. “Go outside” or “Enjoy a good book” are the common pleas—anything to get them away from the glowing temptation of a screen. Yet, the gaming console still calls them.
Although there is a place for relaxation, video games can prove to be a very ineffective pastime for children and adults. What if there were ways to make this screen time more productive and educational?
Luckily, there are!
You can turn video game playtime into video game learning time by using them as an icebreaker to teach kids about different careers, to encourage creating instead of consuming with technology, and to introduce ways video games can benefit themselves and the community.
Introduce Careers With Video Games
The video game industry has become a staple within our culture. Society takes the amount of talent and toil that goes into creating a single game for granted. So, what if guardians used that fact to their advantage?
To turn video game playtime into video game learning time, discuss your child’s favorite video game with them. Point out how much work it had to take to create the gaming experience.
For example, video games are designed to be reactive depending on what the player decides and tries to do. Which begs the question—how does a video game know how to behave when you click or press on something? How did it know that you attacked an enemy, or that your character got hurt? The answer is through programming.
Programming is the core element of a video game. Bring up how professionals create programs that tell the game what to do based on the player’s reaction. A fun way to bring this up is to watch movies such as “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Ready Player One” or the “Tron” movies. The personification of how code brings a video game to life, as portrayed in these cinematic masterpieces, is a great way to start this conversation.
If programming is not of interest, you can also discuss more subtle items that are necessary for any video game. For example, discuss how your child knew their character got hurt or gained a life while playing.
- Did the health bar go up or down?
- Was there a sound?
- What about the video game controller?
- How does it feel in his or her hands?
- What does the vibration mean?
- What would happen if the joystick and buttons were placed differently?
Pose these questions to your child and see how they respond.
These subtle items, such as controllers, Heads-Up Displays (HUD), and menus are designed very carefully by Industrial and User Experience and User Interface (UX UI) designers. Their job is to make the video game experience so natural that the player doesn’t even think about how to play, navigate the interface, or how to use the controller.
Do some Google searches together to learn how designers make video games work (The educational channel “Extra Credits” on YouTube is my favorite!). If the player says “How did I know to press that button? I just knew,” the designer’s job is done.
Spending time researching these careers together can up the value of their gaming experiences! You can check out these articles to learn more about what it takes to become a videogame designer or graphic designer—both careers that are important in the video game world!
Help Kids Create with Technology Instead of Consume
Making a video game sounds like a dream come true—and luckily there are educational programs that strive to teach kids to do just that!
Excellent resources such as Scratch, CodeChangers, Code Contest, and others have curriculum dedicated to teaching kids how to program, all in the name of love for video games.
These lessons are available to anyone at any budget, and teach kids about programming languages through creating. Whether it is finishing the build of a pre-made game, or completely starting from scratch, these curricula are dedicated to turning video games into a positive and productive pastime.
If your child would like to go a more artistic route, challenge them to create things such as concept art, a menu design or even compose a song that could go with a game of choice.
These are very valuable skills to learn and require a great deal of mastery and technique (just look up character concept art, UX UI, or music theory).
Use the internet, your local library, or neighborhood music teacher to learn more about these artistic pursuits. To turn video game playtime into video game learning time, the goal here is not perfection, but creation.
You can also use video games to your advantage by introducing educational media.
There are several apps you can download to have your kids be actively learning or creating. For example, video games such as the Oregon Trail or Bloxels (my personal favorite) allows kids to be learning or creating as they play their own game. The great news is that many of these educational games and apps are free or at a low cost!
Learn how video games are helping people
Video games tend to have a bad reputation—and for good reason. Moderation can be difficult when your glowing screen is begging you to beat that one last level.
In contrast, however, video games are becoming more integrated into modern society and the workforce. Taking the time to learn about how this pastime is helping people will turn video game playtime into video game learning time.
Take the field of medicine for example. Virtual reality (VR) is a common piece of technology that is becoming more popular in hospitals’ and psychologists’ offices.
Getting a painful procedure done? Pop on a pair of VR goggles and play a video game while the doctors do their thing (Konstantnovsky, 2017).
Deathly afraid of spiders? How about airplanes? Fear no more. Exposure therapy via a VR headset is becoming a more popular, efficient, and effective choice for treating phobias (Strickland, 2007).
Video games are becoming a popular tool to help people cope with difficult scenarios. Just imagine the amazing things video games will bring in the future.
You can also learn about how VR is helping people get medical treatments, cope with pain and even help mothers in labor!
Interactive gaming has also been found to help combat problems such as solitude. According to an article produced by Healthline, internet video games have been helping kids and teens battle loneliness during the pandemic (Pugle, 2020). In the article, social psychologist, Susan E. Rivers, Ph.D., was quoted to say that
an online play space offers new ways for friend groups to collaborate, be creative, resolve conflicts, regulate their emotions, and practice making amends when things go awry… We should never discount the value of online-only friends… Friends chosen based on a common interest and the common structure of shared in-game goals can and often do last a lifetime.(Pugle, 2020)
Another wonderful thing that is being discovered about video games is how it benefits the brain. For example, like their younger counterparts, video games have been found to hold benefits for seniors.
According to the article, “The Benefits of Video Games: The Benefits of Video Games & VR,” written by The Goodman Group, various studies have discovered that these virtual games can help improve balance and even reduce the chances of Alzheimer’s (2020).
Also mentioned in this article to emphasize this fact, a 2017 study examined three groups of seniors for six months to see what impact certain activities had on the brain.
One group learned how to play Mario 64, another took virtual piano lessons and the last did nothing to function as the control.
While the music did help the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and the music and video games helped the cerebellum (part of the brain that helps with coordination), it was found that “a within-subject increase in grey matter within the hippocampus [the part of your brain that helps with memory] was significant only in the VID training group…” (West, 2017).
Surprised? Maybe that mustachioed Italian plumber isn’t so bad after all!
Do an internet search on how video games are helping people every day. You and your child may be pleasantly surprised!
Video games in all of their popularity can lead to what feels like copious amounts of unproductive free time.
However, you can turn video game playtime into video game learning time by having conversations about careers, creating, learning, and even benefiting one’s self.
With this approach, video games will be able to change into something that is not only productive but impactful—turning a common plight into a new world of ideas.
About the Author of Video Game Learning Time
Sydney Sneddon is a graphic designer at CodeChangers, a company that provides opportunities for children and teens to learn about technology. Armed with her two degrees (Interaction Design, Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education), she designs materials for the company, writes for their blog, and helps with teaching classes there. When not designing flyers and teacher manuals, Sydney also enjoys anything to do with the arts including piano ensemble, drawing, voice acting, and creative writing. You can reach her on Instagram and Facebook.
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References for Video Game Learning
Konstantnovsky, M. (2017, October 17). Virtual Reality helps distract kids from painful medical procedures. In How Stuff Works. Retrieved from https://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/other-gadgets/virtual-reality-distract-kids-painful-medical-procedures.htm
Nelson-Kakulla, B. (2019, December). Who is the 50+ gamer: Gaming attitudes and habits of adults ages 50-plus. In AARP Research. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/interactive-gaming-can-help-children-teens-battle-loneliness-during-pandemic-experts-say
Pugle, M. (2020, October 24). Interactive gaming can help children, teens battle loneliness during pandemic, experts say. In Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/interactive-gaming-can-help-children-teens-battle-loneliness-during-pandemic-experts-say
Strickland, J. (2007, July 9). How can doctors use virtual reality to treat phobias?. In How Stuff Works. Retrieved from https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/human-brain/virtual-medicine.htm/
The Goodman Group. (2020, September 9). Technology for seniors: The benefits of video games & VR. In The Goodman Group. Retrieved from https://blog.thegoodmangroup.com/best-video-games-for-seniors
West, G. L., Zendel, B. R., Konishi, K., Benady-Chorney, J., Bohbot, V. D., Peretz, I., & Belleville, S. (2017, December 6). Playing Super Mario 64 increases hippocampal grey matter in older adults. Plos One, 12(12). Doi:e0187779