By Jessica Bowers
The stereotype that computer games blunt the mind instead of sharpening it has never been less true than today. Stories claiming video games negatively affect child development still pop up from time to time, but more and more cognitive analysts agree that many games can do just the opposite. Psych Central suggests they can even help individuals learn, and institutions can use them for training and education. What kind of games assist a child’s development?
You can find any one of a dozen strategy games on the market, including many kid-friendly options. They all boil down to the essence of a chess match: how do you overcome a force with equal numbers? Participants in a study who played the strategy game Starcraft came away with increased ability to make decisions in a short amount of time, Reason.com noted. Children who play strategy games can come away with a better sense of planning ahead for a task as well as changing on the fly when it comes up short.
Massively Multiplayer Online
Few buzzwords have swept the gaming world like MMOs, since many game developers each year attempt to develop an open world where thousands of players can interact with one another (and pay for the privilege). Psychology Today lauded the social environment of MMO games, like role-playing games such as World of Warcraft, saying that technology like cell phones and email create a digital boundary between people that cooperating in a game can reconcile. These games create a setting for mutual cooperation, group instruction and learning that allows children to understand when and how to work together for a goal.
Some games have a particularly linear flow, requiring a player to do nothing more than get to the other side of the map while defeating all the enemies in a room. Increasingly, however, games offer users a huge amount of choices in order to get through a game. Video games help with creative problem solving and planning as children attempt to tackle a new boss or stage. Puzzle games in particular, like the mega popular Portal series, create a massive number of obstacles and then provides the player with a myriad of different ways to get from point A to point B. It’s up to the child to figure out which one works best.
A decade or so ago, Maxis released a long series of Sim games: SimAnt, SimFarm, SimTower. Today, only the RPG The Sims and the new iteration of SimCity survive the legacy, but many other buildup games exist to help children understand how to plan and develop a project. Minecraft, a game in which players must collect or harvest resources in order to build everything from a house to a full city, has been hugely popular among younger kids and parents, not in the least because it is free to play and has no violence. Other free-to-play games, like hidden object games, give parents freedom to let their kids explore virtual worlds without investing hundreds of dollars in games.
Jessica grew up with three older brothers. While they were out playing hockey she fell in love with video games. Today she writes about the latest gaming news.