November 5, 2011

10 Reasons Why Video Games May Not Be Evil

I'll be the first to admit it - When I have a student who plays video games all afternoon and evening, I have a standard litany of thoughts. Maybe you can relate. They go something like this:
* Use your imagination!
* Build something!
* Go outside!
* Video games are rotting your mind!
* Video games are making you anti-social!

Over the 6 months I've found myself playing a lot of video games on my Wii. I discovered that I enjoy the Lego games (Lego Harry Potter, Lego Star Wars, etc...) and the Mario games, especially Paper Mario and Mario Galaxy.

Last night I was working on an especially challenging level of Mario Galaxy. I played the same level over and over, tweaking my approach each time based on what I was learning from experience. In the process, I started thinking that maybe video games aren't evil after all.

10 Reasons Why Video Games Aren't Evil
1. Problem Solving  How do I get my character over there? What do I need to do to get that door to open? What can I do to keep my character from dying whenever I cross that platform?

2. Perseverance & Persistence I'm sure I attempted the Cosmic Mario level 15 times over the last 3 days. Occasionally I got frustrated, but I kept at it - learning something from each attempt. Perseverance through challenging tasks is critical for learning.

3. Spatial Skills The screenshot below comes from Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4. In this section, the player must manipulate the Lego pieces to create a set of stairs. How do they fit together?
4. Focus This one sometimes causes consternation in my house! In order to accomplish a task in a game, I must be completely focused. One level in Mario Galaxy, for instance, requires the player to simultaneously navigate a field of ships firing cannons, spiders dangling from space, and balls of flames while standing on a small moving platform.

5. The Joy of Success When I finally beat the level that took me 15 attempts - I was ecstatic! We want our students to know that persistent hard work on a challenging task brings about the wonderful intrinsic reward of success!

6. Cooperation Not every game allows for this, but when they do cooperative play is tremendously fun! My spouse and I enjoy the Lego games in particular because they allow us to play together. We work together to operate levers and manipulate objects. Problem solving together is truly powerful!

7. Creative Thinking When the objects you need are hidden in strange places and the path to your destination is unclear, players must think creatively. What happens if I jump on that? What if I go down that path?

8. Increased Self Confidence It's true - when I finally beat a challenging level or even complete an entire game - I feel so proud of myself. That's right, I did it!

9. Authentic Reading We don't often think of reading and video games together, but it's one of the first things I noticed when I started playing this year. Players must read A LOT of text on the screen to understand what they need to do in a game. I've also noticed that the big gamers in my class do a great job with vocabulary instruction, often relating new words to their gaming experience. The screenshot below is from Paper Mario.
I still have concerns about uber violent games. In Lego Star Wars I greatly enjoyed using light sabers to destroy Imperial enemies. This game didn't make me violent... but I worry about kids playing more realistic violent games. I'm sure that this is just grown-up nonsense, but oh well.

I also worry about kids who do nothing but gaming. I strongly believe that it's important for them to do screenless activities as well, especially activities that are outside and/or imaginative.

Yet, I'm realizing that video games might not be evil after all.

I left off #10 on purpose - what would you list as #10? Please comment below.

~ Amanda

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  1. Great Article! I teach classes to teachers on using games in the classroom (board, card, video, etc.) and your article is well written and one I will use in my class in the future.

    #10 FUN! I've observed that kids often retain experiences that are fun for them, more than they do they do traditional pencil/paper classroom activities. This, tied in with everything else you mentioned, make video games in the classroom something every teacher should consider.

  2. Thailer,
    I thinks it's because it relaxes you when you are tense and being tense doesn't help any thing at all!! Or maybe even for fun!!

  3. Thailer -
    Thanks for commenting on my blog! It's pretty cool to have one of my students write a comment, especially one that is to thoughtful and well-said. I absolutely agree with you - fun and relaxation are incredibly important! See you at school!
    -Ms. N.