Anyone who knows me well or has gotten into a discussion about the benefits of gaming knows I truly believe that they are more than just a game. A lot of the points below come through subliminally, and might go unnoticed to the average person, but that's where I, and this blog, come in. Read on for what games are really teaching you...
One of the main arguments by non/anti gamers is what good are video games. What can video games teach you? To be honest quite a bit more than they get credit for. In this post I will refer to World of Warcraft a lot as it is a game that I can personally provide the best example from, that's not to say there are not other games that provide similar examples.
Let's start with any dungeon crawler or sandbox game. You have a whole world to explore, its all open ended, no linear level design. You can go anywhere, and that's fun, but what happens when you have to go somewhere specific? What happens when a character gives you a mission to go across the city, or the world even? You open up your map, whether that be digital or physical, and plan your route. Yes, my main map reading skills came from video games.
Who needs to know how to read a map now a days, you ask? Well I still think everyone needs to, but let's move on. What about team work? Of course sports are a great example but we are talking games here. Any MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) and some shooters (Left 4 Dead comes to mind) will teach you teamwork, teaming up with groups of 5 or more to take down a stronger foe takes teamwork. Unless you are a badass warlock...but I won't get into my WoW skills. In any good MMO group you have a tank to spearhead the operation. He takes all the damage, which means you need someone to heal him. The healer also has to heal the whole group, including the select few dealing the damage. If you don't work as a team in that situation failure is an inevitable outcome. That is amplified when you get into the bigger groups of 25. This leads us into the next point:
Communication. When you are in a large group, good communication is key. This usually goes hand in hand with leadership, which we will get into later. To communicate with a team that big and still manage to come out on top is a skill few have. Even I would stay quiet in some of the more heated battles, only calling out if I desperately needed help. This is usually eased by giving certain people co-leader roles in which they communicate to their selected group of players; tanks, healers or damage dealers - allowing a more controlled environment to talk in. Of course when the target goes down all bets are off and it's all open chat and it get loud.
Leadership is a big part of any good team. Without someone leading the pack and controlling the group as a whole things get messy and people die. There are a lot of players who think they can handle this role and it ends terribly for all. By the end of my WoW days I would only run with a few guys I knew could handle it; Bear, Oiys, Verse, I'm talking about you! Being a leader in groups like those took a lot of work, you had to know who you were running with, what they were capable of and if you could trust them to handle the job. Credit to those guys for improving my experiences in the game.
Coaching or mentoring is prevalent in games too. Most of my coaching abilities were learned on the soccer pitch but I was exposed to it in game as well. As I mentioned before, about being a badass warlock, at one point I was asked if I would take on the role of the guilds warlock mentor. With our family friendly guild we had set up team leaders for every class of player. It was the mentor's job to help out the newer players of that specific class. This would include answering any questions someone might have, go on runs with them and teach them how they could improve and suggest alternate ways of doing stuff, in general just teach them to be a better player. This took a vast amount of knowledge of your characters full abilities, even if they were abilities that you never used. As well as a bit of skill as you would have to still fulfill your role in the group, while keeping an eye on your young padawan.
If those team oriented points don't convince you, what about economics? WoW had a fully functioning market that was all user based. If you really wanted to you could spend your whole time in game just on the market, making money. Simple rules of supply and demand, over saturation, under cutting, low buy outs and risk and reward all applied to this. You could buy out an entire product and repost it at a higher market value, controlling the market for that specific product. This, as any market venture, was risky, as there were others either doing the same or waiting to dump all their product and an under cut rate. That would mean you are stuck with your high priced items with no one willing to buy. Another aspect was to learn what would be in demand in the future. Buy everything you could and wait for the price spike, and repostFacebook during prime time!
Resource management is also apparent in most games. Whether it be ammo reserves, currency, space, energy, etc. Any RTS (Real Time Strategy) game will test your ability to gather, maintain and spend resources. Starcraft/Warcraft had you balancing 3 different resources; these were used to purchase troops, buildings and upgrades. Managing them so as to maximize your army strength while still having some for upgrades taught you to calculate and plan on the fly. If you spend all your resource on research and have no troops then you would die. Spend all of it on your troops with no upgrades then you would die. It was a delicate balance that took time to get right.
Time management is also a big part of gaming. Not necessarily in game, but in your real life. Being able to balance school/work, home work, social time, and the massive list of other real world issues we all have and still having time to play takes some work. Again, with WoW, I didn't manage my time well. If I was home, I was playing. Cooking, cleaning, socializing, all took a back seat to gaming. I have quit WoW (2+ years) and gone back to console gaming. Most console gaming allows you to jump in/out without having to make massive time commitment needed for an MMO. This is the one issue most people have with games, knowing when to stop, get off and go outside is sometimes hard for people. At the same time, it's not hard to see why some people would prefer to get lost in the game. When your life is to get up and go to a job that you hate, day in and day out, come home and turn on the news to see 100's of more people have died in terrorism, war, accidents, murder, etc, bills are stacking up and rent is over due... If you could escape all that, even for a few hours a night, into a fantasy realm why wouldn't you? This is, however, the start of a very long rant that I could go on and on about, so we will save that for another day.
My last point in this post is hand/eye coordination. I always love watching a non-gamer pick up a controller and try to play. You will see them twist or move the controller in an attempt to move their character. Watching them fumble with the buttons, contorting their hands in very awkward ways always makes me smile. At the same time if you watch a season gamer play they are relaxed, know exactly where their fingers are and what buttons they need to reach. This is even more spectacular with PC gamers. If you have a gamer in your office just watch their fingers on the keyboard as they work, I'm not talking normal typing either, I mean programs that use hot keys; Auto cad, Illustrator, Sketchup, Photoshop, etc. Watching their fingers bounce all around the keyboard hitting keys with out looking down, twisting their fingers to reach certain combination of keys at an amazing speed even brings a smile to my face.
These are examples of just some of the more hidden things I have learned from gaming. Of course there are games that are designed to teach you things; a lot of Nintendo's handheld games are great for that. If used right, and in the proper context, gaming can be a great asset to the development of a person's brain, personality and well being.
Steve, the Lazy Gamer