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Internet Gaming

Is Internet Gaming A Learning Tool Or A Waste Of Time?

internet gaming

By Ann Zeise (links updated by Andrea Dillon in 2022)

You bought a computer and Internet service in hopes that your son or daughter would spend time on it in educational pursuits. Instead all they seem to do is play games! They’ve long outgrown Reader Rabbit and now they are playing games online with dubious, violent plots, and with people all over the world, not all who use “polite” language. You are considering that maybe you should ban computer use for gaming, but your teen is getting their studying done. What can you do? Can you rationalize Internet gaming as educational?

In May, research came out from the University of Toronto that claimed that kids who played video games had better visual acuity and reaction time than kids that do not. They could react to things faster on computer monitors. The next step, of course, will be to see if these skills make kids better drivers or soccer players.

What is the lure of these games? They aren’t easy to learn. Each has a culture that expects a certain set of attitudes and a culture of what constitutes fair play. The rules must be figured out. It takes the anthropological skill of Margaret Meade to figure these out! Each game has goals, constraints, and consequences: a subset of real life, spiked with the elements of human imagination. A new player is expected to figure out the causal relationships between the population and the elements in this imaginary world, and figure out how his character can survive to reach the goal. This element of impending doom creates the excitement that isn’t found in “educational” games.

There is a geeky social aspect to the Internet games. My son has kept in touch with a Danish Boy Scout he met at a Jamboree. It seems his school in Denmark has no problem allowing Internet games in the morning when it is late at night in California. I get bombarded with questions about where world cities are, as Scott makes friends all over the world.

As the basics of the games are mastered, it then becomes a challenge to create new “worlds” with the programming tools issued by the game’s manufacturer. Players who create popular “maps” gain status. The equivalent of being ‘mayor’ is to be a game admin. The Admin gets to rule the players, trying to determine who may be using a “hack” to give them too many lives or too much power. Does this resemble modern political life to any one else?

What motivates your child to play endless Internet games? It may be they enjoy the escape into fantasy when the problems of life seem to be too much. For some it will be the need to show their prowess, as often those with a physical handicap have no problem beating the physically able in these worlds. The games are especially appealing during the “social hour:” Observe the bonding going on. Many love the mental exercise of the games after a tedious day. The players acknowledge good moves on the part of each other, confirming self-worth.

Ever read one of those job descriptions that require that one be able to juggle many tasks at once? Gamers must deal with multiple sets of information and still they seem not to be mentally overloaded. A well-constructed game will also have some kind of built-in coach-mentor making suggestions, such as “You are running out of gas.”

Homeschoolers are often taken to task about socialization. In multi-user, international games, kids learn to deal with and negotiate with and plan strategies with team members of many cultures. In many of the games, rogue players cannot win. With the growth of the world market, the odds are good our children’s co-workers will be half a world away. Interdependency among team members makes the game’s goals achievable.

Tons of money is being poured into Internet and console games compared to what is spent on “educational” software. This is why the deliberately educational games do not hold a child’s attention very long. It is worth searching through the Internet games for those that mesh with your family values. Kids will never know you slipped them something ‘educational.’ For a balanced life, establish limits, but do not worry that your child is not learning anything useful when playing Internet games.

More Information About Online Gaming

Unspoken Benefits of Video Game Play
“There are a range of positive outcomes associated with video game play – many of which we have seen first-hand over the last year within our own families. Here are a few of those benefits that just don’t get enough attention.”

If you give a kid a Nintendo
So, what to expect when you give a kid a Nintendo? Expect imagination and interest and excitement and passion. Expect a virtual unit study, disguised in a video game box. But please don’t tell your child he’s been practicing reading, writing, spelling and math. By Mary Gold.

Can video games help kids learn?
“Parents and educators alike may wonder why a child can spend hours playing Minecraft but can’t engage with an app that runs through multiplication facts with the same focus. Why are some games more “fun” than others?”

5 Reasons Video Games Should Be More Widely Used In School
“A Texas A&M video game designer and scholar says video game play among students should be expanded during the school day.”


Want more games? Checkout gameschooling!

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