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Posts Tagged ‘video games

Recently I downloaded The Simpson’s Arcade app onto my iPhone and my son’s iPod Touch. The free version of the game lets you play only the first level, but my son and I had a ball of a time playing it.

I think my son enjoyed it not only because of the gags but also because it was like a TV show that he could control. As he typically does, he learnt how to play it very quickly and then found ways to get Homer to perform. Literally. He not only found Homer’s special attacks but also discovered how to make him pose and dance.

This got me thinking about TV and video games.

My wife and I limit how often and how long our son plays on his iPod, a netbook or our Wii. We use a kitchen timer to allow between 15 to 45 minutes of game play depending the circumstances. He cannot move from one platform to another to get his fix nor can he play while in the car. Our primary concern is the health of his eyes, not the irrational fear that games will somehow turn him evil.

The games are certainly addictive because they are fun, but we use that to our advantage. They are a platform for promoting dialogue, language and mathematical development, strategic thinking, time management, etc. It’s an addiction to learning that I am trying to inculcate.

So ask me if I’d rather see my son play video games or watch TV and nine out of ten times I will choose the former. Even though there are “educational” programmes on TV, they are not interactive physically and you can’t really tell if they are interactive mentally. That is why we have the term couch potato.

But when I watch my son play games or when I play with him, I see him laugh and hop about. He comes over to me to show off something he has done. He talks aloud during the game, often narrating his thought processes. We also talk about our gaming strategies, like “buying low and selling high” or making sacrifices.

A creature my son created in Spore Origins

With a TV you consume. With a game you can converse or even create (think machinima or YouTube and other online walkthroughs). You could talk about a TV programme you just watched, but you cannot ask what-if questions and manipulate it in order to seek answers.

We don’t have a definite time limit on how much TV my son watches, which is not a lot to begin with. But maybe we should be regulating his TV time more and his gaming time less. 😉

Last year, Yahoo News featured an article titled, “Video Games Teach More Than Hand-Eye Coordination”.

The article was about how different companies were using games to train their workers. Examples of such workers ranged from firefighters to currency traders and from soldiers to administrators.

If workplaces were already starting to use games as one form of training, why not in mainstream education?

Are we worried about game addiction? It’s a real concern, but there is another side to game addiction. Consider what one consultant to the Pentagon said about games: Without addiction, you’re out of business. Presumably he said this in the context of how the current generation of workers were already playing games and how realistic such games were. The “addiction” was a reflection of the motivation to play games and the relevance of the game to the player.

Taking advantage of the “addiction” factor and manipulating elements like the learning environment, the authenticity of the learning, and instructional strategies, we can get mainstream students addicted to learning instead!

A recent study released by Pew Internet & American Life Project revealed some surprising statistics. Here are some from Yahoo! Tech:

Eighty-one percent of Americans aged between 18 and 29 play videogames, 60 percent of those aged between 30 and 49, 40 percent of those aged between 50 and 64 and just 23 percent of those aged 65 and older.

Hence the title, “Video games not just for kids”. Adding to the impact of the title was the finding that:

Parents are more likely to play video games than non-parents with 66 percent of parents or guardians of children 17 years old or younger playing games compared with 47 percents of adults who are not parents.

My question is: Are teachers more likely than non-teachers to play video games too. And if not, why not?


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