Reimagine Learning

Top 5 Reasons Why Videogames Are Actually Good for Kids

Hi, I’m Jackson.

As someone who boasts an extensive resume of boss-beatings, puzzle solvings, and steely resolve in the face of the princess continually being in another castle, interning at a company that makes educational videogames has been pretty sweet. There are some who might disagree with the compatibility of education and gaming, but to me, they’ve always been necessarily intertwined.
 Here are five of my own reasons why I believe videogames are not just a worthwhile investment for entertainment’s-sake but also for their educational value.

1.    Games Are Fun
Duh, right? Beating your friends in a hotly-contested game of Super Smash Bros., Madden, or Mario Party is a special kind of feeling. It’s euphoric. According to a study, games help activate neurons that regulate emotion, strategic planning, and problem solving in the prefrontal cortex. Anything is more fun when you enjoy it, whether it’s a game, a sport, or a subject in school.

2.    Games Are Everywhere
While not everyone self-identifies as a “gamer”, the staggering variety of the videogame market ensures that anyone: child, parent, young, or not-so-young, can find something that appeals to them. Everyone can enjoy something like Mario Kart or Wii Sports: games with broad appeal, basic controls, and easy-to-understand gameplay that even rookies can learn quickly. There’s a reason that daycares and retirement homes have those games in their facilities; because everyone enjoys them, they’re easy to pick up, and easy to enjoy with friends.

3.     Games Teach Responsibility
Some of the richest, most immersive experiences I’ve had with a game are the ones that endow me with a sense of accountability: Games like Mass Effect, Skyrim, or The Sims allow me to customize a character to my liking and make choices in-game that are subject to consequence. Having a role in the development of my own character’s narrative makes me feel responsible for them. Life is, after all, just a series of trade-offs and games help players experience the evaluative decision-making process.

4.    Game Encourage Goal-Setting
I’m in the process of studying for my LSAT’s. It’s hard. I’m also in the process of trying to beat the Golden State Warriors in NBA2K16. Also hard. Both entail getting to the next step. Getting into law school is no walk in the park. Neither is beating the best team in the NBA. When tasked with advancing to the next level, defeating the next enemy, or striving for personal achievement, being consistently humbled by “impossible” Super Mario levels and “unbeatable” Pokémon Gym Leaders teaches the value of setting goals and sticking to them; even in the face of white-knuckled frustration.

5.    Games Require Critical Thinking
Of course without any sense of strategy, goal-setting can be a fruitless endeavor. It’s why many people stop working out in February. Games like Portal, Braid, Super Meat Boy, and Tetris present players with situations that cannot be completed merely by spit-balling them. The right choice, after all, may not always be the most obvious one. So when faced with a test, either videogame-related or not, success is dependent on creative, critical thought.

 Scientists, psychologists, and concerned parents will continue to debate the benefits and risks of playing videogames as long as the medium exists. Though for some gaming might seem a fruitless distraction, or an inhibitor for young minds, for me, and certainly for many others, they have been a tremendous educational investment. Like any medium of entertainment or lesson in the classroom, a game should challenge its audience. Games teach you how to deal with failure. They reward hard work and creative thinking. And they encourage building relationships, be it with characters in-game or, most importantly of all, with friends on a couch learning and playing together.