For many, growing up was an uphill battle trying to contend with the stigma that video games were not only going to rot their minds, but that they would cause them to become violent, or at least lazy. Sure, from an outsider’s perspective, some games like Grand Theft Auto or Mortal Kombat are cause for alarm. After all, they have blood, gore and other mature content probably shouldn’t be consumed by children. But just because there are games out there that are not appropriate for children, does that mean the whole medium is completely without its merits? The answer is no, and here’s why.
Video Games Teach Kids it’s OK to Not Always Win, and How to Get Better
In multiplayer games like Mario Kart or Super Smash Brothers, children learn that it’s okay to not always win. When they play these fast paced, short duration games with others they learn how to be a gracious winner, how not to be a sore loser, and that in order to get good at something, you have to practice at it. In a world where everyone who participates is a winner, there are video games that defy that very principle – there are winners and there are losers, and it’s OK to be both sometimes.
Even in single player, objective-based games, the same principles apply. If you want to beat the game, you have to overcome obstacles, and you don’t always get it right the first time. In puzzle games like Portal or even adventure games like the Legend of Zelda series games, the player is presented with unique puzzles and a limited tool set for how to correctly complete them. As they try to figure out the challenges set before them, they often fail several times before they complete them correctly. Problem solving skills are strengthened along the way, something they can directly apply into their entire lives.
Losing a game is the only way for children to learn from their mistakes and think about strategies to improve. When children improve their skills and win the next time, they do not only get better at the sport or game, but they also learn something new. Learning new things increase children’s confidence and their self-belief and they start to be proud of their abilities.
When children lose, they also learn to identify themselves with others who have lost. Melody Brook, a therapist in Texas, says that the experience of coping with loss is helping children to show empathy towards other children in the same position. A child that has never lost a game will not realize that everyone struggles in life.
Finally, losing shows children that they need to work hard in order to have success, because good things are not just handed over to them. These situations also help children to lose with grace in front of others and to be seen as a fair loser.
Games Allow Friends to Stay Close When Far Away
Multiplayer games are very popular and have been around for a long time. Kids and adults alike use these games as a way to connect with others on a level that simply is more accessible than any other forms of socialization. Being able to push a button and jump right into playing games with friends anywhere in the world has allowed friends to stay close even when they are very far away.
As adults with families and responsibilities piled upon us, it’s rare that we get the kind of socialization with our friends that we want to have. Friendship is important to maintain, even in our adult lives, because even though kids are wonderful and your spouse is amazing, there’s just something about having friends that enriches your life that you don’t always get from those relationships.
Good friends are good for your health. Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends prevent loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship, too. Friends can also:
- Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
- Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
- Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
- Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
- Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise
Friends also play a significant role in promoting your overall health. Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). Studies have even found that older adults with a rich social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.
Video Games are the Ultimate Form of Storytelling
Film and television may currently be the most widely consumed forms of storytelling, and printed word may have held that title for a much longer time, but all hats are off to the new champion – video games. If you have never gotten fully engulfed in an epic roleplaying game such as The Witcher series with its massive world and incredibly crafted story, or Divinity: Original Sin and its ability to give the player choices in everything they do, then perhaps you should consider trying games like these.
Roleplaying games have come a long way since the earliest attempts at storytelling such as Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, but even those games were immersive experiences for the player. The entire point of the genre of video games is to throw you into a new world and have you follow a central story while overcoming obstacles, making new friends and getting strong enough to complete your hero’s journey. But how is it different than reading a book?
The answer is choice.
In books, we also get immersed in the story the author wants to tell us. We learn who the characters are and we empathize with them, but we never get to decide what they do. In video games, it’s much the opposite. The best games give players a greater sense of empathy for the characters they follow, and the choice to determine where they go and how they deal with the very real things in the world in which they live.
Just like film and television are not trying to replace books, video games are not trying to replace anything else. If you are someone like Andrzej Sapkowski, the author of The Witcher series of books, who swears that video games are a low form of entertainment, then you are missing out on a medium that has the potential to take an escape into a new world to new heights. After all, one of the main reasons we have a The Witcher television series on Netflix today is not because of the original books, but the video games based on the books that were created that have an enormous following.
Here’s a Reddit post that explains why the books became popular in America only after the success of the game series, if you are interested in further reading on the subject.