Back in high school, I managed to convince my dad to buy me a modem. The main reason I wanted it was to be able to play Command & Conquer together with my friends.
Gaming has been a big part of my life since my first computer. When I’m not learning how to code, I’m usually playing computer games.
Most people including my parents view computer gaming as a form of entertainment. It’s similar to watching a movie or attending a concert. It’s what people do to have a good time. They are also great at dealing with stress.
From my own experience, computer gaming is really edutainment. You get to learn about things and improve certain skills while enjoying yourself. In fact, I would argue in certain aspects, I have learned a lot more from the games I’ve played over the years than my formal education at school.
In Civilization, I learned about history, culture and how certain technology and discoveries shaped our society. Simulation games like Sim City taught me the importance of planning and resource management.
Real-time strategy games like Starcraft and C&C require you to not only strategise against your opponents but also have the reflex to execute it. And a lot of these games are also collaborative, encouraging you to work together with others to reach a common goal.
Having said that, I’m also aware of some of the issues with gaming such as addiction. Some play games to escape from reality and over time may prefer the virtual world more than the real one.
These issues are getting ever more prevalent with the rise of mobile gaming. A lot of these games employ behavioural hooks to keep you coming back for more. This is why I avoid having any games on my phone.
Now that I have a kid, I will have to decide if he’s allowed to game or not. What kind of games are okay and what should be avoided at all cost. Basically, where do I draw the line?
Obviously, the game should have some educational element around it. It is a great way to learn and you’ll be surprised at what you can learn from a game.
Multiplayer games should be encouraged as they will be able to interact with others and learn to collaborate. Teamwork is crucial in our society and some games are really good at this. It’s also great opportunity to bond with your kids.
You should however be wary of games that mainly focus on escapism and virtual worlds. These games are extremely addictive and over time they may start to detach from reality.
The real question is less about whether you should allow your child to play games or not, but rather, what’s the role of gaming in their life. Is it a learning and bonding activity or just pure entertainment.
Ultimately, the greatest challenge for us as parents is to figure out how to make real life more fun than the virtual worlds in games. Luckily, parenting is also something you can get better at with games.