How gaming can deliver real-world value


Motorsport fans say he is a rising star, but Jann Mardenborough reflects on himself as “just a normal kid from Cardiff who used to play PlayStation games. Now, I’m sitting in a Formula Three car with the best team there is.” Mardenborough’s skill at the PlayStation game “Gran Turismo led him to win the GT Academy, a competition put on by Sony and Nissan. That, in turn, launched a promising career as a professional race car driver.


Are video games really a waste of time?

From warnings about inactivity and obesity to the idea that gaming creates mass murderers, the critics of video games come at it from all angles. Some of the criticism is justified, no doubt. Stories of adults letting their children starve, while they feed their own addiction to video games, are enough to raise anyone’s eyebrows. Thankfully, that’s not the norm. The truth is, there are some redeeming aspects to gaming. Here are a few of the real-world things video games can affect positively:

Gaming can teach physical skills: Jann Mardenborough is a case in point. Whether learning to drive a race care via “Gran Turismo” or getting the beat of drumming with “Rock Band,” video games can play a huge part in getting virtual experience that can translate into skills that work off-screen. Mardenborough still had to study to pass a driving test to get officially licensed, but his skill set helped him learn to drive before he was old enough to take his driver’s test.

Gaming can teach organizational skills: Whether one is stacking blocks, creating architectural masterpieces, or directing soldiers on a battlefield, the best video games for teaching require much of the player. One must think well to do well. A University of Colorado, Denver, study found that employees learned more and retained that knowledge longer when the training was presented in video game format.

Gaming can teach leadership skills: A person who may never have received the opportunity to lead a company, command a navy, or parent a family can get hands-on experience via virtual reality. Massive multiplayer online games (MMOG’s) add an extra layer of benefit for gamers since one actually interacts with other players in real time. A Johnson and Wales University study reported, “This research suggests that colleges and universities may find it useful to examine the educational benefits of including online video in a student’s curricular and co-curricular experiences.”

All video games are not created equal

In its comprehensive look at the topic, “Got Game? The Use of Gaming in Learning and Development,” the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School differentiate the types of games:

Simulation Game: This is a game that tries to look and feel like an actual situation or process. A flight-training game, for instance, might make it seem as if you are really piloting an airplane.

Serious Game: The main aim is not entertainment, but some concrete purpose — learning math, for instance, or studying basic electronics.

Alternate Reality Game: The basics of the setting may appear to be real-world, but the game is designed to involve the player in a story plot.

MMORPG’s: As already mentioned, these games involve multiple players who interact in real time. These are role-playing games and each character will have a particular part in the action.

In many ways, games are just like the rest of life: One can choose to “waste time” or redeem time. It is important to remember that even play time, where no real objective but entertainment is in sight, can be valuable as long as it is balanced with time invested in education and work that is of benefit to oneself and others.



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