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How Video Games Benefited Me
by Thomas Eidson on 01/25/13 12:36:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

I wrote about the positive effects of gaming on MySpace back in 2008, as a rebuttal to my sister's quip that I was corrupting her son.  Andrew, my nephew, is going to be graduating from high school this year.  At the time, he was fourteen years old.  He joined the same guild that I was in, when I played World of Warcraft.  He has enjoyed spending time with myself and others in the games that we play.

 

Why did I introduce him to so many video games?

 

I grew up playing video games in the 1980's (Atari, TRS, Apple //'s, Coco, TI).  I was so interested in them I pulled them apart with hexadecimal editors.  I did world building in Ultima maps by changing the map's data on the disks the game read from.  I later wrote a fantasy BBS that my friends could call up and fight against monsters on (complete with backups of their characters, so they could log in later on and continue where they left off).  In the 1990's, I designed maps in multi-user dungeons, programmed classes that you could play (Warmages, Rangers, Necromancers, etc), and then helped write libraries for MUDs to be based off of.  I was so curious about video games that I eventually began a career working on them, which I continue to this day.

 

My curiosity led me to not only learn from video games, but to learn how to take apart computers, understand so many programming languages (starting from 8-bit assembly), and skew much of my college time towards the math and logic needed to make video games (before game degrees were available).

Learning about video games does not end, as most folks will discover about their professions.  However, the industry is young and I have always felt there is much more to be discovered than other professions.  The amount of discovery, innovation, and wonder in video games is infinite.  It is the final frontier (as I have romantically pictured myself exploring), which I knew I had to bend my imagination towards and chase after.


So, why did I introduce my nephew to video games?  My reasoning was simple: I knew video games, having been so intimate with them, are highly educational from my days of tinkering with them in the 1980's/1990's.  I know that video games have directly impacted my life on so many levels that I can never fully understand how much they have changed me.  I purposefully exposed him to video games in the hopes that he would learn much of what I have learned.  My nephew can now beat me at strategy games and match me in skill with first person shooters.

 

Here are a few things I do know have benefited my personal life through my experiences with video games:

  • I am an excellent driver.  (Dexterity; Proximity perception)
    • By playing video games, they have the added bonus of increasing your perception.
    • Video games teach multi-tasking, which allows you to keep track of multiple objectives/targets.
    • Studies have shown that dexterity in surgeons who play video games increase.
    • The benefits of hand-eye coordination from playing games have been known for a long time.
    • Decision making is increased, due to many hours of making split decisions in violent video games (first person shooters).
  • I can play a mean game of pool. (Depth perception; Strategy; Patience)
    • Depth perception (there's that "perception" word again) has been increased due to playing 3D video games.
    • I have a vast amount of experience with strategies from playing turn based and real time strategy games.  Using strategies to complete my goals is very natural to do, with so many years of practice.
    • Patience is heavily involved in video games.  A good pool player is patient, calm, and collected to make good shots in pool and consistently win games.  An impatient player shoots fast, hard, and usually without thought to their next shot because they have no idea where the cue ball will roll to.
  • I know how to program a VCR. (Logic; Troubleshooting)
    • This one is a little out of date (you can substitute an Android phone, if you wish), but relevant because video games teach logic.  Logic is very key to understanding any device you may need to manipulate (remotes, phones, car stereos, kids toys, etc).
    • I can program a VCR because I have seen obscure interfaces in video games where you have no idea what a button does.
      • Before context sensitive menus and tool tips, we explored games by pressing random keys to figure out what they did in the game.
    • I am not afraid to tinker with a remote, because I know it was probably made with fools in mind.
      • The latest video games are engineered for beginners, so they are somewhat "fool proof" as far as an interface is concerned.
    • Folks that play video games have had to search for files, fix installations, and download patches for their games.
      • The drive to play is sometimes blocked by external issues that must be solved through fixing computer hardware/software.
      • Challenges to figuring out how to get a game to run often leads to understanding a computer's operating system.
      • Further challenges may even lead to attempting to figure out how to tweak/fix network hardware/software.
    • Almost all video gamers have visual scripting skills (moving inventory around to different slots, so they have a better gaming experience is a form of visual scripting).
      • Comparing statistics between objects, understanding an object is better than another, manipulating each object so the object will be most effective, and testing the theory of the item's value all teach logic.
  • I rarely have nightmares. (Imagination; Courage; De-sensitization)
    • Having been exposed to such a massive amount of visual input and situations, my imagination is enormous.  I have some crazy dreams.
    • Most of my dreams I typically take control of and have a great ride.
      • I am able to discern the real from the unreal, which has been drummed into me by playing video games.
      • I have a good grasp of understanding the disconnect of impossible situations that could never occur in real life.
    • I am not scared easily.  I can be startled, sure, but put a poisonous snake in my path and I will probably want to catch it and release it somewhere it can be safe.  I have played a lot of horror video games.
  • I am awesome at road trips. (Strategy; Image memorization; Traversal; Goal oriented)
    • I research the routes to my destination before I start driving.  Video games have maps of all shapes and sizes.
    • I almost always instantly know where I am on the map.  Video games train you to understand your location rapidly.
    • Map memorization is key to winning video games, because you cannot win if you cannot find your destination.  In real life, I find that I can picture the route to my destination after a very short time of examining a map of the area I am in.
    • I remember areas of the map I have traversed by landmarks.  Video games constantly put a door on one side of a map and the key to it on the other.  Rarely (hardly ever) are there street signs to navigate video games with.
    • Goal driven games have taught me to plan ahead, sometimes very far in advance (save those health potions for level 22, when you will meet a boss that does tons of damage).
    • I recognize potential roadblocks that may crop up in my path and plan around them.  Video games repeatedly have roadblocks you must plan and react to.
    • Terrain navigation, vehicle speed, and opposing obstacles (helicopters with missiles) are all common parts of video games we must consider, when trying to figure out how to drive across a city to get to a goal.
  • I throw good parties.  (Communication; Teamwork; Organization; Planning; Social)
    • A good party needs to have good people invited to it.
      • Video games that involve teams have increased odds of succeeding if the team is a good group of friends you play with.
    • My party will not be fun if nobody shows up.  I make sure to have multiple reminders for my parties.  I have an email list that I keep handy.
      • When first building a good team of friends in video games, you may have to entice, cajole, threaten, and bribe your team mates to show up.  You learn different communication techniques to get a team together.
    • A party needs a good time and day to have a good turnout.
      • Once a good team has been established for a video game, you must organize a schedule for your team to follow.
    • As a party's host, you must organize your tasks and other people's tasks so that the party runs smoothly.
      • During a video game, you must communicate effectively to win.
      • The teams I play with use voice conferencing software, so we can call out commands and status updates to each other.
      • You must communicate your teammate's roles and make sure a plan is followed.
    • Many of my lifelong friends attend my parties.
      • Team mates turn into lifelong friends through interaction in video games.
  • I say "sir" or "ma'am" to people, even if they are younger than myself. (Respectful; Discipline; Kindness; Helpful)
    • Success in video games doesn't require you to be respectful, but it increases your chances of winning.
    • For some time I derided, was snide, and basically just a jerk in first person shooters.
      • Being rude in video games with others can get you kicked/banned from a server by a server operator.  This form of discipline serves as a warning to other players and slaps gamers on the wrist.
      • I have learned that I like to play with the same people repeatedly so a game experience does not seem like lost time (hollow), so I have changed my behavior from anti-social to respectful, kind, and helpful.
      • I have something in common with others that I play with often and have fun discussing our antics.
  • I have a son that loves me too much.  (Parenting, Child Education)
    • My son is doing very well in school.
      • When my son was a baby, I held him while I played video games and performed tasks that soothed him to sleep.
      • I let my son play video games that require all the skills I have listed and more, such as math (haven't mentioned much about math, but almost everything video games have teaches you some math).
    • My son knows that I will spend time with him daily.
      • I have introduced to him games that require teamwork and cooperative play.
      • Curiosity from video games led him to want to read and write.
      • He has known how to use a keyboard and mouse since he was big enough to reach them.
      • He constantly asks me about concepts, ideas, and problems he encounters in games.
    • My son has learned discipline from not being able to play video games.
      • Video games are so enjoyable to him that his disobedience at home and school has dropped to almost zero (besides being mischievous), because he knows he will lose his gaming privileges.
      • When asked to do something he does it, if verbally threatened with gaming privileges.  No violence towards him is necessary.
    • If my son wants a game, I review the game and give him reasons why he can or cannot play the game.
      • I am knowledgeable of most games on the market and can quickly decide what is right or wrong for him.
      • I let him play violent video games.  I have discussed with him what is right and wrong.
      • I monitor his gaming activity (his computer is next to mine).  I encourage him when he is frustrated and praise him when he succeeds.
      • My son has a firm grasp that video games are not real.
      • I learned quickly playing video games.  He has learned ten times faster than I did (newer technology teaches children faster; younger exposure greatly increases learning).

 

My nephew has benefited from video gaming greatly (aside from having a child part).  As far as my sister is concerned, she began playing video games not long after her criticism of my corrupting my nephew.  My parents even play video games, now.  These are the same people who criticized me by saying, "You will never get anywhere playing video games."  How wrong they were!  I would very much like to see a concise collection of documentation outlining the benefits of gaming.  I would be proud to point people in its direction on a site like Gamasutra.

 

TL;DR:  A list of examples with which video games have improved my life and other's in more ways than I can count.


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