Video Games, Learning and Physical Health (page 3)
Consider the following quote, “Games are widely used as educational tools, not just for pilots, soldiers and surgeons, but also in schools and businesses ... Games require players to construct hypotheses, solve problems, develop strategies, learn the rules of the in-game world through trial and error. Gamers must also be able to juggle several different tasks, evaluate risks and make quick decisions…. Playing games is, thus, an ideal form of preparation for the workplace of the 21st century, as some forward-thinking firms are already starting to realize.” 1 There is some evidence that supports this powerful statement. For instance, the National Institute on Media and the Family (see http://www.mediafamily.org/facts/facts_effect.shtml) notes the following benefits of playing video games:
- Video game playing introduces children to computer technology;
- Games can give practice in following directions;
- Some games provide practice in problem solving and logic;
- Games can provide practice in use of fine motor and spatial skills;
- Games can provide occasions for adult and child to play together;
- Players are introduced to information technology;
- Some games have therapeutic applications with patients;
- Games are entertaining.
One article by the Associated Press quipped that, “All those years on the couch playing Nintendo and PlayStation appear to be paying off for surgeons.” The article goes on to explain that researchers found that doctors who spent at least three hours a week playing video games made about 37 percent fewer mistakes in laparoscopic surgery and performed the task 27 % faster than their counterparts who did not play video games. 2 Similarly, the BBC news reported in May of 2003 that United States scientists have found that regular players of shoot-em-up games have much better visual skills than most of the population. The researchers have shown that gamers were particularly good at spotting details in busy, confusing scenes and could cope with more distractions than average. The two scientists also found that with a little game playing the visual skills of anyone can be improved. 3
Video Games and Physical Health
Other reports point to the benefits of video game playing as well. One in particular that has gained national attention for its positive impact on physical development is Dance Dance Revolution (or DDR). You have undoubtedly seen kids playing DDR in mall arcades, movie theaters lobbies, and now, thanks to the release of the home version, at home and in school. DDR is typically played on a dance pad with four arrow panels: left, down, up, and right. These panels are pressed using the player’s feet, in response to arrows that appear on the screen in front of the player. The arrows are synchronized to the general rhythm or beat of a chosen song, and success is dependent on the player’s ability to time and position his or her steps accordingly. In Dance Dance Revolution, a player must move his or her feet to a set pattern, stepping in time to the general rhythm or beat of a song. During normal gameplay, arrows scroll upwards from the bottom of the screen and pass over stationary, transparent arrows near the top (referred to as the “guide arrows” or “receptors”). When the scrolling arrows overlap the stationary ones, the player must step on the corresponding arrows on the dance platform. Successfully hitting the arrows in time with the music fills the “Dance Gauge” or life bar while failure to do so drains it.
DDR is often criticized as being rigid and bearing little resemblance to actual dancing. 4 To me, kids playing DDR come off as a bit like someone who is hypnotized and who is having a mild yet rhythmic seizure below the waist. Nonetheless, the game seems to promote various skills and is one solution for fighting child obesity which has captured the interest of schools. (For example, at the start of 2006, DDR games are being phased in as part of a fitness program in West Virginia’s 756 state schools). 5
More recently, the Nintendo Wii (pronounced “we” not “why”) gaming console has been hailed as one viable solution to the growing problem of obesity among children. Unlike traditional hand-held video games, where users sit on the couch exercising little more than their thumbs, the Wii features digital sensors that let users virtually play the game. In Wii Sports, a game that comes with the console, users mimic the motions used in sports like bowling, tennis and baseball. In other words, the game may be virtual, but the physical exertion is very real. 6 In fact, one online fitness website, traineo.com, has partnered with Nintendo to develop a Wii Fitness Package (see http://wii.groups.traineo.com/).
Video Games and Learning
What about video games and learning or cognitive development (i.e., the mental acquisition of knowledge through thought, experience, and the senses)? Dr. Patricia Greenfield, a professor at the University of California Los Angeles’s Department of Psychology, made several discoveries of how this game generation’s cognitive skills differ from previous generations. First, the game generation is more comfortable with visual-spatial skills, mental maps, and seeing the computer as a tool. For instance, game generation children can picture folding a shape in their mind without actually doing it. They are very accustomed to a 3D world. In a separate study, McClurg and Chaille discovered that video games help children with spatial visualization. Children in grades 5, 7, and 9 were tested and it was found that those who played video games were significantly better at mentally rotating and visualizing 3D shapes.7
One website, http://www.Games2train.com stands out in the world of learning and training for its Game-Based Learning approach – “the ability to marry the fun of playing a video game or computer game together with all the information needed to accomplish learning or training objectives.” On this site, you can get information about numerous video games and a description of how they can benefit. Here is a cross-section of examples:
- Pain Distraction - Free Dive. A virtual reality-based, 3D undersea exploration adventure that enables players to virtually swim with sea turtles and tropical fish as they hunt for hidden treasure. The game has been shown to distract children suffering from chronic pain or undergoing painful operations in real life with a calming underwater virtual reality. http://www.breakawaygames.com/
- Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) History Games. There are an increasing number of commercial-off-the-shelf games with more-or-less accurate (depending on the game) pictures of almost all periods of history. These games can be useful in helping students understand the periods involved.
- Life Simulation - Real Lives 2004. Simulations that let you experience life as, for example, a peasant farmer in Bangladesh, a factory worker in Brazil, a policeman in Nigeria, a lawyer in the US, or a computer operator in Poland, among others. Lets you chose your character’s birthplace, sex, whether they are urban or rural, and their potential abilities. http://www.educationalsimulations.com/products.html
- Reinforcement - Lightspan “Achieve Now.” Contains a series of game-based reinforcement and practice programs. Lightspan is a pioneer in using reinforcement games, and has very comprehensive data on their programs’ effectiveness. http://www.lightspan.com/
- PeaceMaker. A video game simulation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: a tool that can be used to promote a peaceful resolution among Israelis, Palestinians, and young adults worldwide. http://www.peacemakergame.com/
- Nutrition - “Feed the Monster.” A simple game to teach kids proper nutrition, sponsored by the National Dairy Council. Created by I-SITE. http://www.nutritionexplorations.org/kids/activities/monster2.asp
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Child Development Theories
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- First Grade Sight Words List
- Social Cognitive Theory
- The Homework Debate
- GED Math Practice Test 1