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May 2, 2011 at 9:26 pm #8082
It’s Friday night and instead of asking his parents for twenty dollars and a ride to the skating rink, little Jimmy is shut up in his room, on that darn PC. He’s got that headset on, and he hasn’t moved for hours.
His parents are trading furtive looks. What’s happening to him? He spends all his time on that thing now! It’s not normal, it’s not healthy! Hopefully tomorrow, on Saturday, he’ll go outside and go play some normal games with his friends!
It’s Saturday afternoon, and instead of playing football with his buddies, little Jimmy is shut up in his room, on that darn PC. He’s got that headset on, and he hasn’t moved for hours. He, so randomly it seems, laughs, yells, screams, and cheers.
His parents are getting worried now. Why doesn’t he want to do anything else? That game has to have a hold on him. It’s like he’s an addict! That’s it! That video game must be addictive, and Jimmy just can’t help himself!
Unfortunately, the above example is precisely what happens in many households across the globe. Parents see a deviation from what would be considered "normal" behavior, and immediately assume something sinister or troubling is at hand. But in fact it is only the positive experiences and the fulfillment that Jimmy is receiving from his new endeavor, that keeps him glued to that screen. If only his parents knew more about the world and the experience that Jimmy is participating in, they may actually prize the phenomena for what it can instill in their child, and what their child can achieve through the active pursuit of obtaining a goal or achievement. In fact professional and competitive gaming can obtain results from children naturally, that parents and teachers must exhaust limitless resources to try to attain. Things like leadership, responsibility, accountability, dependability. Teamwork skills, strategy, and critical thinking. These are all things that competitive and professional gaming have drawn out of children effortlessly, and naturally, as they simply do their best to become the best at their particular game of choice. It is the desire and the motivation to become better that enacts the positive and ideal behavioral changes in the child themselves.
Being part of a clan or guild in a FPS or MMORPG game requires that a child be dependable and responsible enough to adhere to a practice schedule, and be where he says he will be, when he says he will be. Leadership and teamwork skills emerge naturally as the child identifies in-game challenges and then works with team or guildmates to overcome them. Critical thinking and problem solving skills are again, coming out naturally as the child uses even more teamwork and social skills to develop strategies and plans of action with his team or guildmates. The child is being introduced to more and more diverse groups of people and playing partners the longer he plays, teaching him even more valuable social skills and giving him direct experience in dealing with other cultures and ethnicities, often times much more so than he would be exposed to in his local geographic area. Through competition and league play, the child is exposed to both the joy of victory, and the agony of defeat, and he will have a much deeper connection to what caused the outcome and will have opinions and THOUGHTS on why it occurred, than he would in a one-night-a-week school governed athletic program where the coach makes all the decisions and planning. Communication skills also emerge naturally as the child communicates those thoughts and opinions to his team or guild, and they then work together to plan and decide what course of action will reward them with the best results. And thankfully, those results are no longer going to be based on who is bigger, or faster. Computer gaming gives children who are smaller and less physically gifted to be on an absolutely even playing field with everyone else. Gaming environments such as these instill or develop skills in children that parents have always striven to achieve, and they do it in a way that comes naturally to the child without having to try to coax or force it out of them. It is no longer a chore to show up on time, to contribute to a discussion, or lead his peers in an endeavor. It is an expected duty, and simply another opportunity to excel.
Through education and involvement, parents can be made to see that the behavioral changes they are seeing in their child are not problems, but are actually results that they the parents have wished for their children themselves. They must be made to understand that it is an opportunity with limitless potential that should be embraced, and not denied. When the parent tries to limit the activity, or punishes the child by taking that activity away, they are really removing one of their greatest assets in helping the child grow and learn, instead replacing it with time spent watching the T.V., or texting on their cell phone. Instead of forcing the child to quit the activity, parents should try to include the activity as part of the child’s regular activities, enabling them to embrace the activity, and still ensure the child is staying healthy and getting all the physical exercise and activity they need. And then parents can enjoy the full joy of a competitive gamer child, by using the experiences and skills the child has gained to influence their every day life.
Imagine a world, where a parent can say "Hey Jimmy, you know how you and your guild come up with different ways to beat bosses and win battles? Well can you and your brother please go figure out a way to get the garage organized?", or "Hey Jimmy, you should ask some of your counter-strike teammates if they have any studying tips, too.". I don’t know how many times I’ve heard teammates doing homework together, or helping each other with tough problems, and this is without any parent involvement whatsoever. For years children and young adults have run their own teams and organizations, organized leagues and events, created communities, influenced the design and development of both hardware and software, formed internet based businesses, developed both fundamental and advanced computer skills including but not limited to: typing, general pc basics, general internet and networking basics, image creation and modification, animation, video editing, sound and music modification, and computer security, all with little to no support from the people who are supposed to be the single most guiding factor in their lives.
I can hardly imagine what these same children and young adults would be capable of achieving, if they had their parents right behind them, telling them that anything is possible, and that they could do, anything.
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