English Composition 1
Professor Linda Miller
23 April 2018
Video Game Highschool: A Reality?
Videogames have been a popular pass-time for teens since Atari Incorporated released the Atari Gaming System in 1977. Even at its earliest stage, gaming was seen as a mind-numbing activity for the young minds of the time. Many people have heard their parents or grandparents say, “Those games will rot your brain!” but will they really? Jane McGonigal, a game developer for The Institute for the Future, says it’s quite the opposite. There’s plenty of research done on high school students that states the benefits of a certain amount of game time per day. Videogames produce massive improvements in problem solving skills and mental agility in teens and young adults.
The gaming population plays 3 billion hours of videogames a week, which sounds like too many hours to parents and teachers alike who view these games as useless time-wasters; However, McGonigal sees this as not nearly enough time. She believes the population needs to play at least 21 billion hours a week if we are to solve the world’s most pressing problems. She rationalizes this through her theory of the Epic Win, “An Epic Win is an outcome that is so extraordinarily positive, you had no idea is was even possible before you achieved it… you are shocked to discover what you are truly capable of.” To solve the most pressing problems plaguing humanity today, we need to see more faces of an Epic Win. In the game world people are more likely to help others, finish a mission, or persevere through obstacles than they are in the real world. In the real world we feel the consequences, we get anxious and depressed, things that mostly aren’t felt in the gaming world. McGonigal proposes that we take whatever it is that blocks those apprehensive feelings in the game world and try to bring it into the real world. Gamers tend to be the most cooperative, the best to function in a group, the best leaders, and best creative thinkers around the world. According to a study from Carnegie Melon University, the average person will; play 10,000 hours of videogames by the time they are 21. That is the same amount of time Americans spend in school from fifth to twelfth grade. This means that children spend the same amount of time learning through games as they do through standard curriculum.
An article written by Isabella Granic at Radboud University Nijmegen states that when thinking of the impact of videogames, we need a more balanced outlook. Many studies that circulate through the internet highlight the correlation of violent videogames and violent behavior (i.e. Mass Shootings). What they don’t mention is that when violent action and violent videogame use correlate, most of the time violent behavior was present before gaming. It’s inevitable that a more aggressive personality would gravitate to violent and aggressive gaming. Although they correlate, that doesn’t mean it has causation as the media would like you to believe. This research gathered by Granic highlights a study done on Gamers new to violent games, “…randomly assign them to play either a shooter video game or another type of video game for the same period of time… those in the shooter video game condition show faster and more accurate attention allocation, higher spatial resolution in visual processing, and enhanced mental rotation abilities.” (Granic 68) To summarize, this means that even violent shooter games such as Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, and Resident Evil have a positive impact on the adolescent and teen brain. Another Highlighted study focused on puzzle-oriented games “…showed that the more adolescents reported playing strategic video games (e.g., roleplaying games), the more improvements were evident in self-reported problem-solving skills the next year.” (Granic 69) It makes sense that a game or activity focused on exercising problem-solving skills, will train the brain to easier utilize these skills. When games force online players to work together, it builds teamwork skills and cooperation that is then transferred to the workplace or school environment.
McGonigal proposes that we integrate videogames in the school setting. Many high schools and middle schools offer this already through websites like Cool Math Games, and homeschool options for young children such as ABC Mouse. Not only do objectively educational games belong in the school system, but the integration of games like World of Warcraft and Portal would be beneficial as well. Even at face value, videogames can have a calming and relaxing effect on players, providing a break from the stressful, draining, and fast-paced school format. Disguised as a 30-45-minute gaming break, this time used to play games like portal or halo would enhance their attention span, spacial awareness, and problem-solving skills without staring at a power-point. One may ask where this extra time would come from, or if teachers would need to create a whole curriculum around it. The answer is already in their everyday schedule, the lunch block. By opening a few classrooms as game centers during lunch block, students can have a room and a console to play strategic games and occupy themselves while the teacher who uses the room can watch, eat lunch, and work on their next lesson plan. Testing can even be done on these students at the beginning and end of the year to see how their problem solving and cooperative skills have improved. If all goes well you’ll have a collection of brighter, more relaxed students.
Many may say that this is too much effort, or too complicated to pursue in a school setting. Funding is too low, or the kids might not take to the new schedule. Plenty of places sell old or used consoles at a cheap price, many games can be found online and don’t require purchase, and many students who would take interest in this extra activity most likely already own these games. There are many ways to solve these problems, and maybe if you played videogames they would be easier to solve.