GameTruck Dallas provides entertainment for kids and adults at birthday parties, school carnivals, church festivals and company team-building events. We’re just like the balloon artist, face painter, stilt walker, DJ or clown. We are trained and hired to amuse.
I recently overheard people talking about video games as toys and it gave me pause. Some people have a tendency to trivialize or vilify them in a way they wouldn’t for even a “bad” toy. I postulate that video games blend the toy world with the world of entertainment and that playing them may actually be good for you!
My youngest child is about to graduate high school. I didn’t grow up playing video games in quite the same way my children have. Yes, there was Pong early on and, arguably, the golden age of arcades in my teen years, but most people my age didn’t share their home with a game system or a pinball machine.
When the kids were in elementary school, my husband and I purchased a PlayStation and regularly engaged in friendly gaming competitions with our kids on Saturday and Sunday mornings. It was twenty-first century family time at its best! The kids were skilled but we kept up with them pretty well and could still hold our heads high when it was over. The games were fun and interesting and the graphics realistic.
Then, one day around that time a friend invited us to a school carnival. There was a LAN-based NASCAR racing competition with a new Xbox as the winning prize. To make a long story short, our son won the Xbox! We were so excited! As they say, the rest is history because our children have been hearty gamers ever since. Oh, and my husband and I basically stopped playing with them when it was painfully obvious that their skill levels trumped ours by about 1000 percent. Yeah, those Saturday morning play sessions weren’t so fun anymore!! Can you relate?
So, I come back to my question – toys or entertainment? Television and movies are entertainment, but they’re passive escapes. You absorb the story that’s placed before you. Television and movies have a predetermined beginning, middle and end. Feel free to enjoy the story, but you can’t interact with it.
Video game play is different. You need to strategize, act and react, anticipate and maneuver. You can often choose which character to use, what level to play at (beginner, advanced, etc.) and which detours to explore. Gamers develop improved problem-solving skills, creativity, spatial skills and enhanced decision-making abilities. Even simple games such as Angry Birds have been noted to boost mood, promote relaxation and keep anxiety at bay. (American Psychological Association, November 25, 2013, apa.org/news/press/releases.
Video games can be classified as entertainment because almost all of them have limitations in the construct of their stories (sandbox games like Minecraft mostly excluded), but they can also stimulate the brain in ways similar to a toy. Board games like Risk involve planning and strategy. A Rubik’s Cube helps with eye/hand coordination, concentration and mental acuity. Toys and games have a positive effect on the brain, so in this way video gaming is similar to playing with a toy.
I think it’s time to change the way we think about video gaming. As with all things, learning new skills is always positive. As in all things, however, moderation is important.
What do you think? Do you set video game time limits with your kids? If so, do you also set limits on how much TV they watch or how much time they spend playing UNO or Monopoly? Why?