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Video Games Help Learning And Probably In More Ways Than We Realize

Updated on March 20, 2012

Quit Wasting Your Time Playing Stupid Video Games! You Are Gonna Rot Your Brain!

If you are someone that agrees with that statement or has said it yourself, and you don't think anything will ever change your mind about that then I humbly suggest that you stop reading this immediately as I'm probably about to offend you... If your still reading you can't say I didn't warn you. Since I live in a country that promotes the freedom of speech here's my opinion. If you are of the stubborn opinion that video games have nothing educational to offer children and/or adults and are nothing but a waste of time then to put it bluntly... You are being extremely ignorant, and until you review and study the subject with an unbiased mind you are not in a position to make and intelligent or informed decision. Too harsh? Well if you have read this far, let me go ahead and say that I really don't want to offend anyone. I'm just having some fun with this some what touchy subject.

The reality of the situation is that while you are sitting in the living room watching the game, your kid Billy is in his bedroom with a controller subtly learning and developing skills that will likely help him in school, his future career, and life. Allow me to explain.

Video game woes have had no shortage of media coverage over the years, and it's a subject that is hard for many adults to understand if they've never been a gamer themselves. Most of my life I've been playing video games, and it always amazed me the way different people on the outside looking in viewed gaming. I guess mostly what always bothered me about it, is that people drop it in to one subject. What I means is that looking at video games as a whole is the same as looking at movies, music, or books as a whole. You wouldn't say that all books are either educational or not educational would you? No you would divide them in your mind into separate distinctions. Video games should be no different.

Let me give you another good example. When you think about school you consider all of the subjects you studied. You might think about the subjects that were hard or easy for you, the subjects you enjoyed or disliked, and the subtly consider the skills you used to get through them. You think about all of your teachers and whether there method of teaching worked for you or didn't. You probably consider the ones you did or didn't like too.

Lets look at video games the same way. Video games cover a vast spectrum of subjects. Some games might interest you while others might not. Some games you might find easy and others might be really hard. Video games require different subtle skill sets to accomplish your goals in the games just like the subjects you studied in school. Now instead of teachers you have the various platforms in which the video games exist. You have actual educational games, role playing games, first person shooters, sports games etc.. Some of these platforms you might like more than others. Some platforms are suited to your skill sets and learning style, while others might be less enjoyable or present more of a challenge to you.

There has been a lot of media coverage and talk in the past few years about the skills that adults and children alike can develop through video games. I'm going to break down a few of those subjects and try to give some examples of how these skills sets can be developed through the games.

Problem Solving

Most decisions in life can be broken down to problem solving, and is something that parents and teachers try to help their children develop. Almost every video game can be broken down to problem solving. If its a sports game then the problem is to score more points than the opposing team, and the player must choose the right actions to accomplish this. If the game is a first person shooter, then the common problem is that the bad guys must be stopped, and the player must find the solution. I could go on but you get the idea.

Strategy and Planning

So now we've established that most video games can be broken down to problem solving, but how do the gamers solve the problems the game presents them with. While their are many simple games that will supply basic solutions, there are also many games that require strategic thinking and careful planning. Some of these games may even include time limits in which the problem must be solved in a given time frame. This requires the gamer to make critical decisions in a timely manner to solve the given problem.

A perfect example of this is the Command and Conquer series of video games. They are considered real time strategy games in which the player is given the means to fund and build an army while the opposing team, rather it be another player or a computer generated opponent does the same thing. The player must make critical decisions about which type of buildings to build and which type of units to produce while considering their monetary and utility limitations. They must do this as quickly as possible in order to successfully oppose the enemy that is building their own forces. These circumstances force the player to think quickly and prepare for all of the angles. Will the enemy be using planes? Tanks? Boats? How will the player defend and attack against each of these scenarios? It's similar to a more complex version fo chess.

Reading Comprehension and Listening Skills

With technology today video games have become very interactive. People that don't play many games might not realize how in-depth games today can truly be. There are popular games out there today with more reading than a novel and more dialogue than most movies. This is not an exaggeration. Many of the problems that the player will be trying solve through out the course of these games will be heavily dependent on their ability to comprehend what they read and listen to the dialogue that is presented to them. If the gamer doesn't pay attention and/or doesn't understand the clues they've been given then they will be less successful in solving the problems.

A good example of this is a currently popular game called Skyrim. In this game the player will interact with hundreds of computer characters that will provide them information they need to resolve their missions. They will also have a mission log that provides basic instructions for the missions they have. The players ability to understand and sort through this information overload is critical to their success in the game.

Basic Math And Accounting

If you aren't someone that plays video games this one might come to a big shock to you, but in many games today there are in game shops where players can buy or sell items they use in the game. The player must learn how to produce money, and budget for the items they wish to buy. Some games go even further in to detail and allow the players to buy properties which in turn can make them more money.

A good example for this one are the Tycoon games which revolve around running a business. The player must run the business well and spend their money wisely to promote adequate growth and success. The player must learn to understand cost benefit analysis. If the player can't make timely decisions on how to spend their money then the business will inevitably fail and the player will lose the game.

Social Skills,Teamwork, and communication

These skill sets might not apply to all games, but there are probably more out there than you think. There are plenty of online games where players might find themselves working with a group of strangers they've never met. In order to be successful these players must learn to work with the others and to clearly and concisely communicate when they are in high intensity situations.

A good example of this is a new popular massive multi-player game called Star Wars The Old Republic. In this game the players can join groups with other players and attempt to accomplish their goals together through team work that depends on each character playing to their strengths to help the group. For instance one character might be a great up close fighter while another player might be great from range but weak up close. To be successful the two players will have to work together to develop a strategy where the fighter takes the brunt of attacks while they other player stands behind and attacks from range. Now apply that same principle to large groups of players coordinating their strengths and weaknesses together to work as a team against other real players doing the same thing.

Motor Skills

Many games don't require just quick thinking, but quick actions. For example in a racing game a player must be able to make quick accurate moves while remaining aware of the other vehicles around them to avoid wrecking and losing the race. Most video games require motor skill development. Take for example someone that doesn't play video games very often. When they try to play they usually don't do very good. A lot of this can be contributed to motor skill development. Each video game plays differently and has different controls. This means that to switch between games a player must constantly improve their motor skills to adapt to new games.

This is especially true with the development of interactive games on the Wii, XBOX Kinect, and Playstation Move. These types of games require not only good motor skills but hand eye coordination. A good example is the very popular Wii Sports. In order to be successful at bowling, baseball, archery, etc. the player must be able aim on target and move in coordination to be successful just as if they were doing the same activity in real life.

Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center performed a study having surgical students warm-up with Nintendo Wii prior to performing a simulated surgery. The students that used the Wii performed 50% better than the students that did not.

The Mass Effect Example

Ok, so far I've presented some skill sets that someone can develop through gaming and some example games. Now I'm going to show you how all of these skill sets can be practiced in one game. My example is a currently very popular game series called Mass Effect. Throughout the entire game the player is given numerous problems to solve. Starting from the first game the player will have to make decisions that can affect their player in the later games. This requires the player to plan carefully and make decisions that they think will best help them in the future. In combat the opponents have armor, barriers, and shields. The player must create their squad to best handle each opponent type, and then they must be able to make quick critical decisions on how to handle each opponent they face. If the player faces enemies with armor, but is only prepared to handle enemies with shields they will find their current scenario much more difficult.

To play all three of these games can easily take the player over 100 hours of game play. In that time the character will go through hundreds of important dialogue options. They must not only listen carefully and comprehend the information, but then they must be able to choose the right dialogue response to accomplish their goals.

Within this game their are also opportunities to buy armor, weapons, upgrades, and even pet fish to display. The player must be able to budget their money and resources appropriately if they wish to get all of the in game items they want for their character.

The player also must recruit computer generated players to help them throughout the game. The player needs to understand the strengths and weaknesses of those characters and how they compare to their own strengths and weaknesses to develop a good team.

Lastly when they player is in combatant they must be able to react quickly. They must be able to shoot their gun quickly and accurately, command their squad, and use abilities to take down their opponents. The player must hone these skills as they progress throughout the games.

Violence In Video Games

Generally, the biggest concern with video games we all hear about is that they are too violent. There certainly are many violent games out there. Now I'm not going to debate whether its bad for children to play violent video games and I'm certainly not someone to advise parents about what games they should let their children play. I do feel that there is a perspective that usually gets left out. Something that I feel is very poignant to the debate about violent video games. Yes there are some inherently violent games out there, but most video games... even most of the violent ones, tend to have a heroic morale theme. So while its debatable whether children should play violent games, people should also to take in to account if the message is something they want their kids to get. Super heroes are looked upon as good examples for children because they fight evil in the name of righteousness. Most of the characters you play as in video games are the same way. The character that the player is controlling is usually a good guy, protecting the innocent and fighting evil. Now I'm not saying that makes violent games alright for children. Again that is not my place, but I do feel like that is a perspective that is usually missed.

Returning to the Mass Effect example, the basis of the storyline is that the character the player controls is trying to save earth and the rest of the galaxy from a race of giant robots that want to destroy everyone. So while there is violence, its more attuned to the violence of a super hero in that the morale of the story is to protect the innocent. Another feature of the game is that the player has to make moral choices that will affect the story. A person can run through being a total jerk to everyone, but because their choices affect the story, they will pay the consequences by losing friends and allies crucial to their success. This creates a scenario that despite the violence and options to be evil, the player is inspired to do the right thing to save the galaxy and the main character's friends. Again, I'm not saying that this trumps out the violence, but it is a perspective that should be considered in one's judgement.


Just to be clear I'm not saying that kids or adults should spend every waking hour of their lives playing video games. I'm just saying that video games do offer some very educational benefits that are often overlooked. Obviously if kids or adults spend so much time playing video games that they shirk their responsibilities and don't get enough physical activity it can be detrimental to their physical and mental health. However, video games can help children and adult develop helpful skills for many aspects of life. Personally, I've always felt that the time I spent playing video games as a child helped me develop skills that have helped me any many aspects of my life.

If you have anything to add feel free in the comment section below. I would love to hear your opinion on this subject even if you disagree.


How Do You Feel Video Games Have Affected Your Intelligence?

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    • Phillbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 

      6 years ago from The Ozarks

      Thanks collegeman2! I appreciate the comment!

    • collegeman2 profile image


      6 years ago from long island NY

      Great hub! Ive always thought that video games are great at teaching problem solving and critical thinking, and I credit them for much of my academic ability. I wrote a research paper in college about how it takes more brain power to take down the opposing army in Starcraft or navigate throught a dungeon in Zelda than it took to take the SAT or the ACT. I wish more people understood, but like you said, they are ignorant and should not be commenting on things that they know nothing about.

    • Phillbert profile imageAUTHOR

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 

      6 years ago from The Ozarks

      Thanks for the comment CreateSquidoo!

    • CreateSquidoo profile image


      6 years ago

      I love to play video games when I'am bored.


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