Video games get a bad rap and understandably so. Many of them can be very violent, causing an uproar among parents and other easily concerned people whenever a tragedy occurs in real life that bears any resemblance to the senseless slaughter seen in games such as Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty. That uproar often has a tendency to go too far, though, and ignores just about everything positive and educational that video games can provide.
The easiest thing to say about what video games teach kids (and adults) is the hand-eye coordination argument and although it's a bit of cliché, it's really true — if your eyes are going to be glued to a screen, at least have your hands controlling what's going up there. Games keep people's brains and (some) muscles engaged, instead of luring them into a vegetative state like movies or TV. There's a lot more at play when you have to think critically about a puzzle on screen and how you want to approach it using the controller at your disposal. Compared to staring glassy-eyed at a reality show, it's rocket science.
And that's just the start. Consider the data that can be gleaned from how people game and you start opening up all sorts of educational opportunities.
Gaming is highly social.
According the Entertainment Software Association, 56 percent of the most frequent gamers play with others, whether that's friends, siblings, parents or someone else online. Many games are in fact a highly collaborative experience themselves, requiring participants to work as a team to reach a common goal. With games that are primarily solo adventures, there are usually multiplayer modes that pit players against each other, too — gaming is not nearly the isolating experience many have been led to believe.
In fact, it can even teach people who may normally have social anxiety how to make friends.
It also improves reaction time.
A paper by Mark Griffiths, a professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University, explains:
"Research dating right back to the early 1980s has consistently shown that playing computer games (irrespective of genre) produces reductions in reaction times, improved hand-eye co-ordination and raises players' self-esteem."
What's more is the paper suggests that brain wave biofeedback may help, not hinder, those with ADHD disorder. Games don't make kids lose attention — they help them keep it.
Gaming even teaches people how to appropriately relieve stress.
It's simple: games are fun. Fun relieves stress. Video games have the ability to immediately soothe people and help them cope with the stresses of daily life in an appropriate way. Wouldn't you rather have kids (and adults, for that matter) cool down with a little good-natured roughhousing and problem-solving in the virtual world as opposed to the real world?
There are plenty of misconceptions about video games, but on top of driving a very profitable industry, they actually have the ability to teach people much about social interaction, technical skill sets, cognitive function and beyond. When the future arrives, video games will still be there. And that's a good thing.