“These games are a waste of time!” Does this parent-rant sound familiar? We are all hooked on our screen activities, but gaming has a particularly addictive quality. We already covered that there are many benefits. One big benefit that we haven’t covered yet is that gaming is a great launch for professional ventures that connect players to other people all over the world. Why is gaming so popular, and what can be accomplished or gained by playing them?
Why Kids Are Hooked
A common belief about video games make us mindless. Many studies have found links to aggression and gamers. However, these studies primarily tested a small subset of games with violent shooters. In contrast, studies from role-playing games have shown benefits for the player.
Specifically, gamers have been shown to demonstrate and build emotional skills like feeling guilt and shame when a character acts immorally. Games also provide a fertile resource for building team play and social skills. For instance, in one study online gamers reported feelings of community and belonging while playing online. They claimed that the social relationships gained while playing provided them with social support and helped them develop a healthy social identity.
Action games, which do include shooters, have also been shown to increase our ability to hold visual information, increase the ability to multi-task and manage attention, and calm and de-stress.
Games are not simply a means of passing the time. The time spent playing is meaningful. Other exciting benefits include entertainment, identity exploration, and higher-order thinking and problem-solving. Gaming can even launch life-changing educational, entrepreneurial, networking, and earning opportunities!
What game do I want to play?
Each gamer is unique and expresses themselves through the genre or style of gameplay they choose. Each genre requires certain skills and characteristics for the player to succeed. There are five main genres in gaming: Action, Role-Playing, Simulation, Strategy, and Sports.
- The player is given challenges that can include climbing obstacles, solving puzzles, defeating enemies, or collecting certain key items.
- The player must have fast hand-eye coordination and quick reflexes to succeed.
- Popular games include Minecraft, Overwatch, Fortnite, Grand Theft Auto.
- Based on the tabletop game Dungeons and Dragons
- The player is tasked with completing missions to progress and strengthen their character(s).
- Contains immersive worlds and engaging stories
- Popular games include World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, Pokémon.
- Utilizes the use of virtual worlds to simulate aspects of reality and fantasy for training purposes
- There are no goals the player has to follow.
- Popular Games include The Sims, Farming Simulator, Flight Simulator.
- Gives the player control of multiple characters
- Players must use these characters to explore, engage in combat, and gather and utilize economic resources.
- To succeed the player must use strategy and great tactics.
- Popular Games include StarCraft, Civilization, Age of Empires.
- Allows the player to take control and play as their favorite sports team or player
- Some games in the genre try to recreate current sports as realistically as possible, while others create new sports with over-the-top effects and fast gameplay.
- Popular Games include Madden, FIFA, Rocket League.
What do I want to do in the game?
Through gaming, children are provided with unique freedoms and communicative abilities. In most games, the first goal is to decide what mission to pursue. Completion of the mission rewards the gamer by furthering the story, giving the gamer new items, or providing the gamer with experience points used to increase the skill of their character.
When deciding how to approach the mission, the gamer is given multiple options. In single-player games, the gamer can choose the look of their character, which missions to pursue, and how they wish to approach each mission. The gamer must decide if they want to take on the mission alone, team up with a friend, or tackle missions online with millions of other players worldwide. Cooperative games offer an intimate, fun experience that can be shared with friends and family on a single TV or in private online sessions. They also have to decide about strategy. For example, they can:
- charge straight in taking on all challenges at once,
- take a stealthy approach,
- scout the area and gather resources along the way, or
- create a tactic all their own.
Game Streaming & eSports
Social media sites have become an integral part of a gamer’s identity. They give players the ability to choose their online friends, the style of their home page, and what is posted and commented on their profile. Kids can communicate through private sessions with friends and live streams to a worldwide audience.
Dozens of video streaming sites and their users have taken advantage of this gaming movement. On YouTube and TikTok, popular personalities showcase themselves playing video games to garner more views and make revenue from advertisers.
Twitch TV is a video game streaming site that allow users to live-stream themselves playing games to global online audiences. Streamers are paid through viewer subscriptions, donations, and sponsorships. Sponsorships are given to gamers for unique and appealing personalities and highly acclaimed skills. Many gamers who are sponsored for their skills are also part of a rapidly growing eSports league.
The eSports league involves teams and tournaments similar to those seen in other professional sports leagues. Funding for tournaments and players comes through sponsorships, endorsements, advertisements, and online donations. Gamers are paid well for winning. For instance, a popular game, Dota 2, had a prize pool of over twenty million in 2016. Each player of the winning team took home $1.8 million.
eSports can also bring fame. The eSports league has become a huge phenomenon spanning the globe, rivaling and even surpassing long-standing professional sports. In 2014, a popular PC game, League of Legends had a tournament that garnered more viewers than game seven of the MLB finals and game seven of the NBA finals combined!
Universities have begun to pick up on the eSports trend as well. Robert Morris University recently launched the first sponsored eSports Team. Players of the team are students who receive scholarships for their play just as another student would receive a scholarship to play football or basketball. They train just as another collegiate team would. They are instructed by a coach, study the competition, and practice running drills.
In the past, the word gamer was associated with words like lazy and non-social. Fortunately, these stigmas are changing. Gamers today are seen as entrepreneurial (creating your own business), professional, and globally connected.
Thank you to CSUCI Intern, Dylan Smithson for teaching us about the skill-rich, lucrative world of gaming. If you enjoyed reading this article, feel free to share with friends and family, and give us a like on our GetKidsInternetSafe Facebook page.
I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.
Onward to More Awesome Parenting,
Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty
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