Video games haven’t always had the best rep, but this is steadily proving to be the opposite. While many may regard gaming as a mindless form of entertainment, new research has found that it can provide numerous benefits, from socialisation to cognitive development. This is all the more important seeing as Generation Z have grown up with technology playing a large role in their upbringings. If gaming was part of that childhood, here are just a handful of the benefits they may have gotten from it:
It promotes friendship
You may imagine gaming to be a solo activity, but it can actually be very sociable. There are plenty of multiplayer games that involve playing with or against others, whether this be in real life or virtually. In fact, video games create common ground for kids to make friends, while providing them with somewhere to hang out. Animal Crossing, for example, allows players to visit friends’ virtual islands and play games together.
In a time like this, access to the virtual world could be especially valuable for children who haven’t been able to spend as much time with their friends as they’d like to. Through games, they can keep in touch with their friends, combatting loneliness and maintaining relationships.
Dr Rachel Kowert, Research Director of Take This, a mental health non-profit, says;
“Games are a great way to socially connect with others (especially during times of social distancing). Shared experiences, like playing games together, have been found to bolster positive social connections and are linked to increased self-esteem and a sense of belonging, as well decreased feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation.”
It teaches cognitive skills
Many games have elements of strategy, problem solving, leadership, and decision-making embedded in them. This can teach children a variety of different life skills and help with their cognitive development. For example, Minecraft requires players to explore virtual lands, gather resources and craft tools in order to build their own virtual worlds. This involves planning and strategic thinking, all the while getting their creative juices flowing. There’s also an education edition that is specifically designed to teach children essential knowledge and can be used in the classroom.
Dr Matthew Barr, lecturer of Games Studies at Glasgow University, explains;
“It’s no accident that video games exercise certain transferable skills. A lot of game developers describe how they design their games to require communication, for example, or to think critically to succeed. Different genres will exercise different skills.”
It can lead to career opportunities
Not only does gaming teach cognitive skills, but it also provides kids with valuable experience in using technology. In the digital world we live in today, this experience can be transferable across all sorts of industries. More specifically, it could open doors into the games industry, or technical roles such as those in coding, programming, or software development.
Noel McDermott, a psychotherapist specialising in health, social care and education, says:
“Games are complex environments that require knowledge retention and the development of strategy to win. There are opportunities to learn economics skills and potential work-related skills in the field of competitive gaming and game design.”
Of course, to truly reap the benefits of gaming, it’s important for children to play responsibly. While gaming can be a fantastic source of entertainment and education, moderation is key! Putting a limit on the amount of time spent gaming is a good way of encouraging kids to engage in other hobbies too. It’s also important to monitor the type of games they are playing, to make sure they’re suitable for their age group. But with these things taken into account, there’s no reason why gaming can’t play a positive role in children’s lives.