Video games have been subject of conversation since their very beginnings, most of the time, because of their negative effects on youth. While these can’t be denied and, indeed, should be made aware, it is impossible to ignore that they’ve proven beneficial when consumed with moderation and care.
In fact, they’re not only worth it because of their entertainment value. The innovative and experimental nature of the industry has let them grow to more than the arcady distractions of the past -- to the point of making them powerful tools to boost children’s learning capabilities. But, how is it so? Can video games truly be beneficial?
Enhancing our cognitive capabilities
These skills aren’t just crucial for children, but they can also be transferable to a classroom or their day-to-day life. This increased cognitive functioning has shown to affect the memory and attention of both young and old in a positive way, and play a huge factor in learning efficiently.
Making learning fun
Educational games such as Duolingo and Brain Age offer a safe learning environment where kids can learn at their own pace and be motivated to continue by tangible graphs of their progress and rewards. What could be seen as dull in a textbook is made inviting by the use of colors, music and sound, helping to make them engaged. Learning, seen as a game and not an obligation, has an easier time being enjoyable.
Tangential learning and the power of curiosity
Sagas such as Assassin’s Creed and Age of Empires take place during specific periods of history, and thus, indirectly expose children to characters, locations, and pieces of information that they may not be interested in learning otherwise. Yes, they don’t cover the entire thing as thoroughly as a history class would, but they make their worlds vivid and give enough detail for players to go out of their way and further research a topic if they desire to learn more.
This is called tangential learning, and it isn’t limited to games centered around history retellings. With so many games exploring themes such as space, nature or mythology, children have the opportunity to let their minds wander through what they like and self-educate themselves. By doing so, they’re also enforcing their reading skills and learning new vocabulary without even knowing it.
The role of parents and mentors
If parents and teachers understand the potential of using video games as a gateway for education and supervise their use so they become a healthy habit, then they can become an unique complementary source of learning.