Kathy Ward, in the early 21st century
by Kathy Ward, California homeschooling mother of nine
My husband, the kids, and I have spent hours discussing video games and their fascination for some of ut. Many parents that I know (of homeschooled and not homeschooled children) spend a lot of time and effort trying to find ways to limit their children's access to video games. I've seen articles that try to answer the question "Are they addictive?" I've seen articles both pro and con—it's something most of us are going to have to deal with if we have children that are at all interested in video games. Most of my children find them at least somewhat appealing, some of my children find them very appealing.
I'd like to list here some of the benefits to being given access to video games that my oldest children (teens and grown) have come up with.
The first game that they mentioned was Tetris, which has been around for a while but some of the younger kids enjoy playing. Everyone agreed that it was a great game for developing and improving mathematical thinking. The puzzles require some thinking about patterns and ability to recognize and recall geometric designs. Even the little kids enjoy it. I don't know why a parent would love to see a child spend an hour at a time figuring out puzzles like this in a workbook or on paper but be dismayed that the same child was doing this on a computer or a video game system. In fact, the whole thing is more challenging on the game system because it moves and changes, it's more interactive than geometric puzzles on a piece of paper.
When I told the older children that I was interested in putting their ideas about video games on this webpage the main thing that they all wanted me to address was role playing games (RPGs). Currently these are what they find the most interesting. [Below] are some specific games that they mentioned and what they think can be learned from these games. I imagine that any game could be examined for this kind of content.
The kids all agreed that the games serve to develop thinking skills and problem solving skills. They felt that the role playing games they enjoy the most served to develop logical thinking and sequential reasoning ability. Some of the games have enlarged their vocabularies. Some of the games have introduced them to foreign languages and to cultural differences that they've continued to investigate.
Some games make it necessary to memorize floor plans and develop spatial reasoning in order to be successful. One of these is the old computer game Doom. My kids don't play this much since they've discovered the more intricate role playing games. Doom is basically a shoot-the-bad-guys game but it does require a lot of spatial reasoning to work your way through the levels. It's still a somewhat popular game with my 10 year old son and his friends. The adventure/horror game Resident Evil requires a fairly high level of spatial reasoning to navigate successfully.
The game Final Fantasy 7 is artistically appealing to all of the older kids. They enjoy viewing the different worlds that are portrayed and observing the continuity within each world. They think that this particular game is, in fact, artistically inspiring. My daughter in law in an artist who has drawn inspiration from this game and others in some of her work. When I get a better scanner, maybe she'll let me scan some of her work to illustrated this.
The game Gran Turismo has what appears to be some pretty realistic physics of motion happening. And a big vocabulary of auto mechanics, for anyone interested in that subject.
Xenogears is full of Biblical references and moral issues that the players can discuss and deal with. It has plot twists that have a literary feel to them.
Metal Gear Solid has a military flavor along with a military vocabulary and has provoked much discussion about history, various cultures, warfare, and questions of morality that surround those things. Geography is something that can be learned from this and other games.
Each of the kids felt that RPGs were a springboard to investigating subjects that he or she might not have considered. Some of these investigations have turned into long-range and intensive studies. Sure, there may be other ways to happen upon these interests but I'm glad we didn't cut off this avenue. The RPGs have provided enjoyment and further learning.
To read more about Kathy Ward's family, go to http://rainshadowfarm.wordpress.com
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