When you saw a teenager glued to a video game, did you think, “That kid is going to make seven million bucks!” That’s what people like Felix Kjellberg (PewDiePie) and Sean McLoughlin (Jacksepticeye) are making today. They play video games all day and then upload videos of themselves playing to the internet. And you thought playing video games was a waste of time, didn’t you?
What these guys do isn’t easy, by the way – getting subscribers is probably the hardest thing on earth. Editing eight-minute-videos to make them fun to watch for us—the average attention span is probably about 12 seconds—is no easy feat. These guys, as if all of that isn’t enough, have to be comedians too. And they can’t get away with making hit-and-miss jokes either – their humour has to be tight, fast and 100% reliable. But I’m not writing this post to congratulate all those amazing people with YouTube channels. What I want to point out is why it’s a good thing for your kid to spend an hour playing video games on school days.
Before we get into this, let’s talk about how kids in different age groups tend to play different sorts of games. Until we reach the age of eight, we play arcade games like Fruit Ninja and Temple Run. As we get a little older, say around eleven, we play more complex, role-playing games (RPG) like the Pokemon series. Then we ‘deteriorate’ into the blow-everything-up-and-kill-mindlessly-for-obscure-but-sound-reasons, Call of Duty-esque games. Or we get into more constructive games, like Minecraft and Garry’s Mod. Shortly after, comes an obsession with games like Grand Theft Auto – games about blowing up as many people as possible for non-obscure-but-unsound reasons.
I guess it’s not surprising then, that people accuse video games of causing children to behave violently. But people behave violently even without access to video games, thank you very much. Many of today’s, ah…, non-state actors (read: suicide bombers), were probably never exposed to video games. Our lovely friends in the American National Rifle Association (NRA – a non-profit that advocates for gun rights) are probably mostly non-gamers as well. I don’t think Hitler ever played GTA, either. I can’t claim, though, that video games don’t make people more aggressive, because they do.
However, if a video game can cause a person to get more angry, it can also cause a person to learn something. For instance, I learned how computers work at each level, from the XOR gate to the ALU to the OS that sits right on top of everything, because I once built a 16-bit computer in Minecraft. I have some understanding of kinematics, at least partially, because I’ve made things in Garry’s Mod. My point is, video games can actually be pretty good. Did you know that surgeons who played video games before surgery were less likely to *accidentally* poke their scalpels where they shouldn’t?
Let’s face it, going forward, I’m not going to have a notebook and a pencil, I’m going to have a joystick and a screen. Doctors already do robotic surgery using joysticks very much like video game controllers. If joysticks are the future, then we ought to be signing up to learn to use them!
I’m sure that video games have a lot to answer for in modern society, and no doubt some of them are simply too violent and gory to be allowed, but perhaps they deserve to be given a chance. And what’s the harm in chilling a bit after a long, hard day’s school-slavery?
P.S. For the love of god, stop calling them video games. If you say ‘games’ we know what you’re on about.