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Leisure activity? Video games can be a learning tool too
Leisure activity? Video games can be a learning tool too

New research says that there are many beneficial aspects to video games

Say “video games” in any group and be ready for violent reactions. Parents and spouses attack, gamers defend. Parents worry about gaming kids’ schoolwork, lack of exercise and death of communication kills.

Psychologists say catch-and-kill video games foster aggressive behaviour — game environments hook kids with weapons. Hey, you can’t win if you’re not more aggressive, more violent than the enemy! In first-person games, kids assume characters that are far from being role models.

A lot of games are gender-biased. A popular game expects players to manage a drug cartel. The setting and characters look and feel so real it’s difficult to dismiss them as fantasy.

Give it a thought

Now there’s a twist to this story. New research suggests the games may have hidden benefits. Games help develop children’s brains. Violent or soft, they make kids smarter, help develop better hand-eye coordination.

Give it a thought. Grab a joystick and check out Halo 2, designed for Xbox. In this game, you drive vehicles, battle enemies, fight a civil war, travel to space stations and activate rings. You multi-task, source help from several quarters and make multiple decisions, mostly split-second. Ergo: games train minds to analyse data and make strategic choices, quickly. In a world of high-speed e-trade, problem-solving skills win CEO salaries.

Gamers can justify long hours spent “outsmarting enemy”, with one more argument. Games teach life skills. When Paxton Galvanek, who saved two car smash victims with medical expertise was asked where he learnt rescue procedures, said, “Playing American Army”.

Players of this game get medical training that real soldiers receive. On two occasions, these “combat medics” put the training to good use. They knew how to evaluate injury, control bleeding, recognise and treat shock, and give timely aid.

Therapeutic

It’s possible future surgeons will enter op theatres with fine motor skills acquired by playing the Nintendo Wii (Marble Mania). “Wiihabilitation”, uses Wii as rehab therapy for patients recovering from strokes, surgery and injuries.

“While I was abroad I watched something similar used in rehab,” said Dr. Sunder. “Administered by experts, video games can improve motor and cognitive skills.”

Which would a kid prefer?

“Games are good stress-busters apart from being good entertainment,” said Rohit Raja, a high school gamer.

“Playing video games on the computer helps me cool off after a long day in school.” He admits they can be addictive, may spoil his concentration while preparing for exams, but “with a little parental control, video games can have a positive effect on children.”

Parents aren’t convinced. “Today’s youngsters spend most of their spare time watching TV, playing games on computer or playing video games,” complained K.N. Raja, Rohit’s dad.

“Outdoor activity and outdoor games have taken a backseat with boys and have become nil for girls. While TV and computers tie them down at home, game gadgets keep them glued to a chair even outside and should be totally discouraged.”

“Defining video games as beneficial or harmful,” said Krish Raghav, college student and ardent gamer, “is trying to find a justification for a “time-killer”. Video games should be seen as cultural objects, like movies or books.

Pain reliever?

One study proves that gaming helps in pain management, as in “we forget the pain when we’re busy in the gaming arena.” It might help kids in chemotherapy and physiotherapy. Games could be a safety valve for frustration and anger.

For over-worked moms, games offer excellent day care.

Will schools make Doom 40 (or Mahabharatha 30) part of the curriculum in future? Will video games be recognised as marvels that make kids think sharp? Will they be hailed as a means of relaxation and training? Time to ponder!

GEETA PADMANABHAN

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