Benefits of Playing Video Games — and How Gaming Inspires a Love of Learning

by Nindo Mom on July 31, 2011

Most of the buzz you hear about video games in the parenting community is the bad stuff. How video games take time away from homework (true), can cause isolation (true in some contexts, but certainly not all), and cause obesity (true in some contexts). But you don’t hear much about the good stuff.

Well, here’s some of the good stuff:

A Few Benefits of Video Games

  • improve hand-eye coordination, response time
  • allow player a mental “change in scenery”
  • fun (Everyone needs fun, right?)
  • opportunity to socialize (with other players)–both in-person and online
  • stimulate imagination
  • inspire kids to learn the skills needed to create their own video games

How Video Games Inspired My Son

My son has had some kind of gaming system since he was four. It started with the Leapster — a portable game system designed specifically for young children to help them learn the basics of reading and math . And because the Leapster system has a touchscreen, it also help kids develop their hand-eye coordination. (Touch the right item on the screen, and the pictures will move in a certain thing, or you’ll hear a certain sound.)

About a year ago, my son (9 at the time) and I started discussing how video games are made. He was very interested in learning how to create games of his own, so for Christmas, I got him a game design learning package called Gamemaker’s Studio. The main aspect of this package teaches the DarkBasic Pro programming language; I also got him a book explaining the ins and outs of the program. The DarkBasic programs aren’t designed for children–but my son was so inspired by the idea of creating his own games that he was determined to give it a try. Within a few days, he was creating moving 3-D images on the computer.

As much as my son was enjoying DarkBasic, which allows the user to create 3-D games by writing computer code, it turned out there was a program he would be even more excited about: an open source (ie: FREE) 3-D modeling and animation program called Blender. Available for download from Blender.org, this program is not intended for kids–it’s designed for use by adults and professional animators. But I’ve always held the view that kids should never be discounted, when it comes to what they feel they can accomplish. If a young person has a strong interest in learning a certain subject, then they’ve got the motivation and drive–and that means they can learn it, whatever it is. The only question is going to be how quickly they learn it–and that depends on what resources they’re provided with and the kind of support they receive from the adults around them.

My Son’s Progress With Blender

Having downloaded the most recent version of the Blender software three weeks ago, my son has already learned to model the basic shape of a character body, set the bones of the figure, and animate the model. He almost exclusively taught himself these skills by watching¬† YouTube tutorials (with my supervision) for the first two weeks, at which point I bought him two excellently rated books from Amazon.com: Character Development in Blender 2.5 and Tradigital Blender: A CG Animator’s Guide to Applying the Classic Principles of Animation. Since getting these books, my son has added reading them to his daily itinerary. Which is doubly good, because it means my 10-year-old is reading vocabulary well beyond his expected reading level, and he has the motivation to understand every word.¬† Talk about improving reading skills!

Am I claiming my son is a pro at Blender now? Definitely not. But he’s inspired to learn like nobody’s business–his self-studies have even supplanted most of the time he might have been playing the very video games that inspired him. He’s speaking as intelligently as a college student, explaining to me throughout the day the newest “awesome” aspect of modeling or animation he’s just learned. And he’s using industry terms that sound quite strange coming out of his young mouth. And beyond all this, he’s gaining the self-confidence that comes from setting a goal and making progress toward it.

Of course, there’s also the benefit of my son and I have an awesome–and educational–activity that we can do together: learning Blender. He loves being able to explain to me how to accomplish a Blender task–and of course, this also reinforces his learning.

So gaming has some definite benefits–one of the best of which may be inspiring learning in kids, and perhaps in adults as well. So…yea, video games! Yea, Blender!

 

 

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