The idea of replacing conventional therapy and education means with videogames sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Guess again.
Videogames get a lot of negative press. I mean let’s be honest, if we listen to all those negative reports and you let your child play Xbox, there is a very good chance he/she will become a serial axe murderer or, at the very least, overweight, antisocial and (mostly likely) fail school.
So if you’re feeling a bit guilty about buying a console from Nintendo or Microsoft instead of something more edutational (think LeapFrog) I thought I would share some of the more positive facts about gaming below. So the next time another mom accosts you about your technological parental choices, you’ll have something to say back. Because yes, your kid does play Terraria and yes, that is perfectly okay. Come armed with knowledge, we say:
A new way to treat lazy eye
A few years back, McGill University published a study in Current Biology about amblyopia (lazy eye) and Tetris. One in every 50 children are born with the condition and, if left untreated, it can cause permanent blindness. But kids who played Tetris for one hour saw a dramatic improvement in the weaker eye, and compared to wearing a patch for months on end, Tetris is more child-friendly solution. But there is more! Ubisoft, the publisher behind Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, recently launched a game called Dig Rush with Amblyotech. Dig Rush forces the patient (using 3D glasses and an iOS/ Android tablet app) to use binocular vision. And, according to the development team, it works better than a patch – especially in older patients – because it is easier to retain a game in your brain. Oh, and did we mention that playing action games in general can improve your vision?
Games in schools?
We all know that videogames are extremely effective teaching tools. When you disguise something as fun (or as a challenge) it is just more captivating. There is a really good article on Forbes at the moment about how games in the classroom will make actually make students smarter. In basic terms, games are sort of like play therapy. And learning games and game-design-thinking can help develop student’s metacognitive skills. Watch this amazing talk by Jordan Shapiro here.
Real-world skills with Minecraft
Minecraft, the bitty, blurry, boxified gaming phenomenon, has become a creative output for kids as young as five. This sandbox-style of gaming is architecturally irresistible and will take endless hours of perseverance to get right. But it is more than that – to get ahead in Minecraft, kids will have to read the plethora of sites out there (and probably watch a lot of YouTube videos) dedicated to the game.
“Through experimenting and working together, kids begin to develop skills in creative thinking, math and geometry, and even a bit of geology,” explains Modern Parent’s Margaret Rock.
The Journal of Adolescent Research published a study comparing children that played videogames and those who don’t, as well as the impact of videogame violence. (You can read the whole report here.)
“Videogame players, regardless of gender, reported higher levels of family closeness, activity involvement, attachment to school and positive mental health… Videogame players also had less risky friendship networks and a more favourable self-concept.”
What about dyslexia?
Another Current Biology study found that playing action videogames helped children with dyslexia read faster and with better accuracy. The researchers also found those who had played the videogames had better attention and spatial skills than before.
“Dyslexic children learned to orient and focus their attention more efficiently to extract the relevant information of a written word more rapidly,” explained study leader, Dr Andrea Facoetti.
Wondering what games to pick? The University of Michigan suggests starting with apps like Draw Something and Words with Friends. Also try Rayman Raving Rabbids, says IGN.
When a soccer game means getting your child onto the field
I’ll always remember my brother-in-law (who considers himself to be a boff) trying to stump me in with a trivial question about a Zonda. Not only was I able to answer it, I could provide more information because I had indeed driven a Pagani Zonda in EA’s Need For Speed. Sometimes games give us sporting knowledge we didn’t know we had and this confidence may translate to getting into an actual game. New research shows that children who play sports-themed games are more likely to try out a sport in real life. Why? Games provide a safe space to gain sports knowledge, skills and also experience the thrill of winning.
“We found support for a long-term, bidirectional association between sports videogame play and involvement in sports,” the researchers reported. “Playing sports videogames predicted higher self-esteem, and in turn, self-esteem predicted greater involvement in (actual physical) sports.”
Bring on PES and FIFA!
What is an attentional blink rate span and why does it matter? Read this and then understand that the little gap of blindness can be shortened by playing videogames. Our perception, or better how fast we see, recognise and absorb information, is something that researchers Green and Bavelier investigated by getting people to play action-packed first-person shooters every day for 10 weeks. But before you tell me this visual processing study happened in 1994, there is new research from Brown University suggesting the same thing with an added benefit – gamers may also be able to improve on those attributes faster than the average person.
“We sometimes see that an expert athlete can learn movements very quickly and accurately and a musician can play the piano at the very first sight of the notes very elegantly … maybe [gamers] can learn more efficiently and quickly as a result of training,” senior author Yuka Sasaki said.