With the excitement over “Halo 3” and the empty classrooms that were a result of people staying home to play it, the impact of video games is again in the media. Warnings about balancing one’s time on the game with the amount of time spent in reality are popping up everywhere, proving that no buzz around a video game can ever truly be positive.
There is hardly any mention of research depicting the gaming experience as a way to nurture skills that translate to the real world. The fact that games have become useful additions to society is overlooked.
Gamers will gladly take the motherly advice to get some fresh air over the darker accusations that’ve been leveled at video games in the past.
Whenever something tragic happens involving our generation, games always shoulder some of the blame. With some of the more popular games featuring violence and adult themes, they are such an easy scapegoat that it’s like shooting fish in a barrel (which is surely the premise of a game somewhere).
This stance and the negative stigma of video games is wrong. If there is blame, it should be shared equally with factors such as poverty, unemployment and family violence.
There is video on YouTube where immediately following the Virginia Tech shooting, Florida lawyer Jack Thompson is on Fox News trying to link recent school shootings to corresponding video games such as “Grant Theft Auto: Vice City” or “Doom.” He even says that they trained for their crimes using these games.
Part of the reason video games get blamed is that there aren’t famous faces to defend the game industry; when rock music or movies get blamed, stars always defend their medium. For the identifiable characters in video games to argue their point would be absurd. Since Lara Croft or Master Chief can’t argue their case, their medium is easy pickings.
A positive story about video games just doesn’t have the same punch a witch-hunt does. Studies about the positive effects of games don’t lead off news broadcasts or find front page like negative effects do.
Despite the lack of positive attention, Mitchell Wade, a consultant for firms such as Google and the Rand Corporation co-authored the book “Got Game,” which finds that those in business definitely take notice of the positive effects of video games.
“It’s the problem-solving. And we saw that when we surveyed professionals who grew up playing video games. What’s a surprise is that they’re better at things you need in a business — like team play and careful risk-taking,” Wade said.
“Got Game” also claims gamers are more flexible about change, better at seeing problems in deeper perspective and don’t get as discouraged by failure, seeing setbacks as a chance to try again.
Some educators have been quick to see the value of video games as educational tools. There are already games where players take on the responsibilities of managing a city, a military campaign or an entire empire.
Kurt Squire, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, has been interested in using educational games for his classrooms and has worked to develop and research such games.
“Kids spend more time playing games, generally, than watching TV,” Squire said in a Wisconsin Technology article ‘Video Games in the Classroom.’ “We want to help teachers, parents and policymakers understand the role of games in education.”
In the video game, “Supercharged!,” high school and college students are plunged into a microscopic world of atomic particles. Players navigate through magnetically-charged mazes, which require them to understand how atomic particles work.
This game was used in the science curriculum of a Massachusetts middle school and those who played the game outperformed those who didn’t by 20 percent in a final test of main concepts, Squire said.
When video games first came on the scene, there were notions they might be passing fads, but with “Halo,” “Madden” and “World of Warcraft” crazes going strong, video games have proven that although the games themselves may be fads, the act of gaming never will.
With the millions of gamers in the world, to single out a few bad apples shows that critics of video games clearly don’t “get it.”