The benefits of videogames in learning
Why your children really should play videogames
Many parents distrust video consoles and don't want them in the house because they are afraid that they will damage their children's performance at school. However, the benefits of videogames include improved powers of concentration, creativity, memory, languages and teamwork.
Lara Croftmight not know it, but her legendary adventures on Playstation have done more for archaeology than many a textbook. As well as the star of the Tomb Raider saga, there are endless other videogame characters who, surprisingly enough, awaken early vocations and teach history, geography and mathematics to millions of schoolchildren and adults around the world. Who said that video consoles don't stimulate the intellect?
The importance of videogames in society
The videogame industry lost its innocence a long time ago. These days, it's a mature sector, admired for its technological muscle, innovative capacity and its well-developed entrepreneurial vision. The figures don't lie: the sector ended 2022 with global income of more than $180 billion and a forecast that this number will exceed $200 billion in 2025, according to market intelligence company Newzoo.
With numbers like this, it's no surprise that videogames dominate the audio-visual sector, far ahead of music and cinema. Not even Hollywood can compete with a sector that boasts 3.2 billion players in the world, particularly with hits like Fortnite, which has more than 230 million monthly active players. The fever for this videogame has crossed borders and is already rattling giants like Netflix more than Disney and HBO, its direct competitors in the battle to dominate the audio-visual content streaming field.
The keys to game-based learning
The benefits of videogames have also reached education with game-based learning. This teaching method uses beneficial aspects of videogames to transmit knowledge to students. It is based on three key factors:
It breathes life into education: it transforms learning into an enjoyable, thrilling game without boring lessons. Students assimilate and retain information almost without noticing.
It boosts motivation: students are the main characters in the story and their success is rewarded with medals, extra lives, bonuses, etc. This captures and keeps their interest in learning.
It gives opportunities to practice: students can apply the knowledge they acquire without getting into dangerous situations. This is what flight and navigation simulators, for instance, are all about.
Videogames for learning: serious games
In the game-based learning field there are educational videogames known as serious games. This specific segment of learning seeks to teach students specific subjects such as languages, or to train professionals like police officers, pilots, firefighters or healthcare personnel, among others. Educational video games are a booming market and are expected to be worth $24 billion by 2024 in the United States alone — 685% more than in 2021 — according to forecasts published by the Statista portal. Let's take a look at some of these products:
Dragon Box is an introduction for small children to geometry.
Extreme Event prepares learners to deal with natural disasters and encourages teamwork.
Pacific gives training in leadership and team management.
Spore is useful for teaching biology, specifically the evolution of living beings.
Duolingo helps in the learning of languages like English, French and German.
Blood Typing, developed by the Swedish Academy, teaches about blood types and transfusions.
The benefits of playing videogames
The impact of video games on society has been the subject of numerous studies. For example, in 2014, Andrew Przybylski, a psychologist at the Internet Institute at Oxford University, published an study in the journal Paediatrics establishing how long children should be allowed to devote to video gaming. He concluded that those who played less than an hour were more emotionally stable, while those who played for around three hours a day developed social problems. Therefore, when it comes to video games, moderation is key, because as well as improving learning abilities, there are other benefits. Let's take a look at some of them:
They speed up response times
Researchers at Rochester University have found that they improve troubleshooting skills by posing problems that must be solved in a set time.
They encourage teamwork
According to Californian organisation, the Institute for the Future (IFTF), multiplayer games boost teamwork in problem solving.
They stimulate creativity, focus and visual memory
The University of California has found that they stimulate these aspects by setting goals that require concentration, imagination and remembering details to achieve them.
They improve strategy and leadership
Video games put players in command, honing their abilities to resolve disputes, interact with other players and make decisions, found Pittsburgh University.
They teach languages
Helsinki University found that they are useful for learning other languages through on-screen instructions, chats for communicating with other players or the narration of the story itself.
Monterrey Institute of Technology published an article underlining the underlying ethical, philosophical and social basis of these games, and their ability to make players think and improve their critical thinking.
The role of parents with respect to video games
This aside, parents continue to be worried about the impact of video games. And there is indeed some cause for concern: in 2019, the World Health Organization included "gaming disorder" as a behavioural addiction in its International Classification of Diseases. When it comes to introducing children to video games, parents should look at aspects like the PEGI video game content rating system, or its US equivalent, the ESRB, which advises parents on the suitability or otherwise of certain games by establishing a recommended age of use.
The magazine Psychology Today makes a set of recommendations for parents:
- Check the game content. Parents should exercise control over the type of video games their children are playing. Choose educational rather than violent games.
- Encourage use video games colaboratives. When kids play together, it fosters social interaction and establish alliances. It is important to avoid gaming becoming an solitary activity.
- Establish time limits. Parents must establish rules. For example, kids can be allowed to play for a couple of hours after homework or chores, not before.
- Follow the videogame manufacturer's recommendations. For example, do not sit too close to the screen, play in a well-lit room, do not play with the screen set to maximum brightness, etc.