Back in the nineties and early 2000s, video games were wildly popular – but even then they were nowhere near as ubiquitous as they are now. Back then, you could comfortably say that it was almost exclusively the field of 10-30 year old males (although even then you’d be leaving out a healthy chunk of ‘gamers’). These days, the lines are blurred. People are playing games at both younger and older ages. The term “gamer girl” has largely fallen into misuse, with people no longer viewing a girl of any age playing video games as some anomaly.
So perhaps, with the spread of video games in our entertainment culture, it’s worth asking how good or bad they are for our children. Games tend to get a bad rep, but there’s a lot of good that can come from them.
The concerns of violence
If you can remember anything about games during the aforementioned era, then you probably remember a lot of media concern about video game violence and how much influence it may have on child behaviour. You may have noticed that such concerns have died down tremendously. After all, violent video games are now more widely available than ever – yet the rates of violent crime in America have been decreasing at the same time! You needn’t worry about such influence, though it is worth remembering that graphic violence in games, as well as other adult content, has increased, and that games are easier to get a hold of than ever. If your kid isn’t ready for that kind of content, then be vigilant!
A sense of wonder
One of the great things about games is that they’re able to tell great stories. We seem to only imagine that kids can only get benefits for their imaginations and storytelling abilities from books and certain movies – but certain games are definitely great for this, too. Many are also rich when it comes to their art and graphics, which helps kids develop a refinement of taste when it comes to illustration and design. We often forget how beneficial the ‘sense of wonder’ is for both kids and adults!
There are a lot of games out there that really challenge the mind with puzzles and complex stories. These are the best kinds of games. They range from very kid-friendly to more mature and difficult. Games like Braid and The Witness are free from adult content, but they may be too difficult for younger children. They may be more suited to more explicitly educational games. Imagine your child learning math, typing, language, etc. and loving every minute of it! These sorts of educational games are perfect for developing children.
The real problem
A lot of people know all of this about gaming, but there’s still a lot of concern regarding children (or anyone, for that matter) spending too much time with them. And this isn’t entirely unjustified; at the end of the day, most games out there are just kind of brainless fun. There’s a place for that, but children are still much better off with books. But as long as they read often and get some exercise, there’s no reason not to let them play video games, too!