In my formative years I was a very active child; I ran, jumped and played in the great outdoors, taking advantage of the boundless energy my adolescence afforded me. However upon visiting a friend one day during half-term break, I discovered video games and became a convert. And on those cold dark winter months the glow of the television was my portal and my Mega-drive and PlayStation 1 my allies in the war against reality
As a child of the 90s I am fortunate to have been a part of ‘gaming’ zeitgeist before it entered the lexicon of popular culture. It is a hobby I am passionate about and a topic I will be talking about in greater detail in the future as I believe it to be a medium with boundless potential to enrich our everyday lives.
Gaming is no longer the sole reserve of disenfranchised young men, the oft preached negative image portrayal by mass media’s of ‘gamers’ as awkward shut-ins who retreat into the digital world is no longer the case because:
SOMETHING AMAZING IS HAPPENING!
Advancement in technology has allowed the proliferation of devices like smartphones, tablets, handhelds and casual (easy to pick and play) consoles like the Nintendo Wii to penetrate the mainstream in ways like never before. Currently Games lay claim to the world’s most lucrative entertainment medium edging out music and film by a wide margin.
And with that in mind, meet Hilda Knott, 86, pensioner and certified AAA gamer. In January the BBC ran a story about her in which she expresses her love for the medium and the benefits it gives her as an elderly person. She is able to mentally stretch her muscles through incentives and puzzles and due to her eye-sight plays on a 64 inch beast of a plasma TV.
In a rapidly aging population, keeping the elderly mentally active as well as physically active is more important than ever. Games combine a potent mix of mental challenges of games such as ‘Brain Training’ and the physical exercise through devices like the Wii.
According to research done by GoodTherapy.org the benefits of interactive entertainment are:
Spatial-reasoning skills play a critical role in development and education. Children with good spatial-reasoning skills tend to score higher on IQ tests and often excel at geometry. Spatial reasoning can also improve navigational skills and in mental manipulation. Some research indicates that girls are less adept at spatial-reasoning tasks than boys, but spatial-reasoning skills can be learned, and video games are one method that can improve mastery. Video games require players to anticipate movements and, in the case of three-dimensional video games, force players to manipulate objects through a three-dimensional plane. Several recent studies have demonstrated an improvement in spatial-reasoning skills among both children and adults who regularly play video games.
Collaboration and social skills
Gamers are often stereotyped as people sitting alone in front of a television or computer, never bothering to take their eyes off of the screen, completely uninterested in social interaction. But contemporary video games often encourage players from around the world to work together to solve problems or complete tasks. This can help build social skills and improve problem-solving abilities in children and adults. Particularly for self-described loners and introverted people, video games may be a less stressful way to interact socially.
Critical-thinking skills enable children to master concepts rather than simply accept rote memorization. This vital skill is key in many pursuits, including science, maths, engineering, and the humanities. Video game players are constantly presented with novel problems, many of which they must solve in a split second. This process improves critical-thinking skills and can teach gamers the value of trying several different solutions to a problem.
Rehabilitation and specific skills
Video games are increasingly realistic, and while this raises concerns about violence, it also offers new opportunities for teaching skills. Some schools now use video games to simulate real-life procedures such as surgery or flying a plane. Video games can also be used as a form of rehabilitation. For example, a 13-year-old boy with Erb’s palsy noticed marked improvement in control over his arms after playing video games.
What Hilda teaches us is the importance of engagement in our everyday lives. Without consistent quality of stimuli, the human brain atrophies.
NEVER STOP PLAYING!