Are video games really as bad as we make them out to be? Will my son become a zombie if he plays video games more than 2 hours a day? Are there any benefits to playing video games? Those are all great questions and I don’t have a clue what the answers are, but that won’t stop me from telling you anyway.
You might remember that I used to have an advice column. By “advice” I mean people asked me parenting questions and I answered them badly. By “badly” I mean if you actually followed my advice you would, at the very least, attract the unwanted attention of your neighbors. At the worst, you would attract the unwanted attention of the police. My lawyer, therefore, requires that I tell you never to take my advice. I’m not an expert, I’m a blogger. Which is even better.
Today, I thought I’d bestow upon my readers some knowledge about video games. I’ve written about video games before. This time I’ll talk about some of the good things about video games. There are some articles exploring recent peer-reviewed research on video games and they claim there may be several benefits. Exactly what they claim I couldn’t really say; all that scientific mumbo jumbo is over my head. But I won’t let a lack of knowledge stand in my way. That would be a cop-out.
In this post, I’ll discuss four benefits to video games that parents should know.
Benefit number one: hand/eye coordination
Hand/eye coordination is that communication between the eye and the hand whereby the eye sees something and the hand reacts, guided by the eye. If I had done any research on the subject, I probably would have found that playing video games for hours a day improves your hand/eye coordination. There are other ways of improving hand/eye coordination but they all require significant sacrifice. For example, playing catch improves hand/eye coordination but requires that you interact with other people. For many gamers this is a non-starter. Drawing, painting or working with clay also improve hand/eye coordination but result in additional clutter as works of art are inevitably displayed around the house.
Benefit number two: Protection from kidnapping
Imagine you’re minding your own business when suddenly you’re kidnapped by a rogue band of gaming nerds. Upon learning that you have no money for ransom because you spent your youth playing video games, and thus have no real job skills, they agree to let you go on one condition: you must kick their ass in a video game of their choosing. If you win, you go free; if you lose, you remain locked in their basement forever. Fortunately for you, you didn’t waste your time playing catch with your dad when you were a kid. Your gaming skills, in addition to guaranteeing that you had no ransom to pay, saved you from spending the rest of your life in the gang of nerds’ basement. You are set free to spend the rest of your life in your own basement playing video games. I chose this realistic scenario to illustrate the very real benefit that building gaming-based skills can have.
Benefit number three: muscle fitness
We all worry about our kids getting sufficient exercise. We’re their parents and we want to see them healthy and fit. There are many ways to get strong, healthy muscles. Playing sports, lifting weights, even getting off the couch and walking to the refrigerator all have their benefits. We’ve heard it a million times by all the so-called experts. But new research, if conducted, could show that one very important set of muscles is being badly neglected in today’s fitness-crazed lifestyle: the thumb muscles.
From hitchhiking to professional thumb wrestling, we use our thumbs in countless ways, yet do we really give these hard working digits the support they need? I’m sure you’d agree that the answer is a resounding “no”. But there is a way to give our thumb muscles the exercise they need–and you can do it in the comfort of your own home: video games. Ten minutes a day is valuable, so imagine what 4-6 hours a day of literally twiddling your thumbs could do for you!
Benefit number four: complete lack of attention to anything else
Does this sound like you? You’ve come home from a long a day to find your son still hasn’t done his chores because, he says, he never actually agreed to do them. Getting your son to agree to do just about anything can be tough even on the best days. But it doesn’t have to be. The mistake most parents make is asking at a time when their child is aware of his or her surroundings. Once again, video games provide the solution. A child engrossed in a video game will say yes to just about anything to shut mom or dad up. And being so engrossed in the game means that he has little mental capacity left to actually think about what he’s agreeing to.
Timing is everything, and waiting until your child is three points away from his all-time high is the perfect time to get your son to agree to anything. Remember, “Yeah, whatever” is as good as a solemn promise in teenspeak.
In summary, we’ve reviewed four of the benefits of gaming. Each of these might be backed up by extensive scientific data but I wouldn’t know. But now that it’s been posted on the Internet we can comfortably assume that it’s true.