THE UNKNOWN BENEFITS OF VIDEO GAMES – Paul D. [George St., Grade 7]

Imagine this; you’re having an awesome race, and you’re ahead by a mile on Rainbow Road.  Suddenly, your mother walks in.  “Video games will ruin your life!” she yells angrily before unplugging your technology and kicking you outside.  You probably don’t agree with her statement, but you can’t really argue, can you?  Like it or not, you have been victimized by the idea that “video gaming is bad”. However, what most people – including your mother, and you for that matter – don’t realize, is that contrary to popular belief, video games are not only badly stereotyped, they also can help you socialize, and can even help you learn.  So put down your book for a second, and you might just figure out what you’ve been missing.

First of all, let me make this clear: Video games aren’t all violent.  It’s common knowledge that violent video games exist, but what some people don’t realize is that “all video games are violent” is a stereotype.   In fact, many – if not the majority, – of the video games today are not violent.  These games – anything with an ESRB rating “E” or “E10+” make up most of the titles you would see at the store, and are meant for whoever, whenever.  You need only see your grandparents beat your high score at Wii Bowling to know why “E” stands for “Everyone”.

Did you know video games can help you socialize?  It’s true!  In fact, many games are pro-social (the more the merrier), and some, like Lemmings, or Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, are meant for team play, and can’t be played solo.  As well, in online games like LEGO Universe, Club Penguin, or World of Warcraft, players interact with countless other real people, and by doing so, can even make friends.  Furthermore, studies show that when gamers play a pro-social game, they were more likely to engage in “social behaviour”.  Gone are the days when video games = antisocial nerd.

Aside from helping socialize, video games can also be teachers.  Ever heard of the concept of tangential learning?  It’s pretty simple: wherever you go – in and outside the classroom – you’re always learning.  This applies to video games in particular, for several key reasons.  First of all, you have to use all your prior knowledge to advance, so it’s like a test as well as a lesson.  Also, you’re already interested, so it’s a short jump from Call of Duty II to learning about real WW2 campaigns and strategies.  Not only that, video games also give immediate feedback, so players can modify negative strategies before they become habits.  You may be smarter than you think.

What many people believe is that video games are violent, tasteless, entertainment that causes bad behaviour and poor social skills.  However, what they don’t see is a technology that is much misunderstood and stereotyped, can help people socialize, and can even help them learn.  Whether Super Mario, Pong, or Wii Sports – I strongly support the use of such technology* and  I believe that most people should have this technology in their lives in some way.  Let the games begin.

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