One of the things I’ve always seemed to have had a knack for is my ability to write. I have always seemed to have been able to put pen to paper and take an idea that I’ve had and put the words to paper to describe it as I’ve best seen fit. Okay, so on occasion those words may not have been good as what I have originally thought them to be, but as time passed, and my vocabulary enlarged, my ability to articulate what I wanted to say through words grew, and my writing grew stronger.
The other problem I had when I first started writing was my utter inability to create anything resembling an original character, outside of using myself as a main character. I remember vividly taking the Pocket Boglins you got in little packets from toy stores for about 50p and using them as characters in my first proper story. Then, around the age of ten, I discovered video games and I opened my eyes to a new possibility. Sonic and Mario could both be in my stories. And be on the same side!
The reason I bring this up is because of a comment that my English teacher, Mr Wharton, made once during a program that was shown on BBC2 about the difference between boys and girls current GCSE results. Mr Wharton spoke some words that are still faintly etched into my mind at the moment (I can’t find the exact quote, so this may be a little inaccurate.)
“Video games can be a distraction to boys who are studying in class, and as a result it may be affecting their performance in exam results when compared to girls at GCSE level.”
So this asks the question of what I am going to discuss in this article: - Do video games hinder the education? Or are they helpful tools in helping children develop?
I went up to have a word with Mr Wharton after hearing his comment about video games on the program. I told him that whereas he views video games as a negative thing for education, in me, they had been a positive thing, because I had been able to develop my use of the English language by using these characters that already had life to me. The only thing he really had to say in reply to that was “Yeah, but Adam, you’re a good student. There are others out there who ARE affected by it.”
That can be viewed as true. Children get home from school, and rather than go and do their homework (which is boring, as we all know), they’d rather spend three hours playing the latest first person shooter on the PC. They put off doing the homework until “later” and unfortunately “later” turns out to be in detention at school when they’ve forgotten all about it. Homework may be dull, but it also directs people to the areas that they should be learning to see that they understand it.
In the extreme case, video games could also be disruptive in the social development of children. Rather than go out with friends and play football or cricket (or netball or bowls or something), they’d rather sit in their room and play games. If this starts off at a very young age, then the child’s outlook on society could be very distorted, and may be irreparable. They may wish only to spend time with video games rather than with other children, and miss out on learning basic social skills that will be essential in later life.
Okay, so that’s the bad side covered. What about the good? I’ve already discussed about how video games can help imagination through my writing, but it can also help children in the same way as TV. Characters on TV take on a certain form of life and marvel, especially in cartoons. Video games are no different, and children can easily identify to them, and have them as their “friends” during games with other children.
There’s also the realm of edutainment. These games never really seemed to take off. The only title I can think of off the top of my head for console is Mario is Missing, and that was pretty much slated as being too easy. Being able to teach children through games is an art that companies can look to tap into. Wouldn’t it be great if a child didn’t know something about binary counting, turn on a game, and then be taught how to do binary in order to solve a puzzle in order to progress further in an RPG? Not only do they learn something for their homework, but they get further in their game at the same time.
There can be a certain amount of social development between children using computer games also. During two player games, there is friendly competition to see who is the better, or in the case of my sister and I, two player Nintendo World Cup on the same team where upon we learnt a certain amount of co-operation that saw England win the World Cup (well, we can always hope…) Plus, when one child does something that the other cannot do, there can be the teaching of how to do that skill for further interaction and basic team-work skills.
Then there is if you are playing a game where upon the language used in it isn’t your first choice language. I know that there are a range of nationalities that visit this site, some of which probably don’t get RPGs in their own language (or they do, but with such disastrous translation that it might as well be in a foreign one.) In this case, the game itself can be an education in the English language. The need to look up certain words to understand what the characters are saying, and then learning that word for their own vocabulary.
As with most things, too much playing of video games probably can have a detrimental effect on education. But so can too much TV. In the end, it is down to parental guidance to set certain ground rules for time limits on games, or certain provisions (you MUST do your homework first, you ONLY get an hour per evening, etc.) I know that video games have, to an extent, helped my development of my English and writing skills.
Now back to getting Sonic out of the Massive Mountain with Pikachu hard in chase of him in an attempt to assassinate the poor hedgehog. Still, it’s lucky I’m there ready to set an ambush on that damn Pokemon…
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