Video gaming has a bad reputation. In the aisles of Wal-Mart or Target, you see potato chips or other junk foods under newly released games. In the eyes of many, video games are just a way to procrastinate or pass time.
However, recent research has shown there are cognitive benefits to video gaming.
According to Psychology Today, an experiment conducted by a group of psychologists found improvements in basic visual processes, paying attention and vigilance, increased use of mental resources (such as memory) and improvements in job-related skills due to gaming.
Shannon Mortimore-Smith, an English professor at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, teaches a video game course and gave some personal insight on the topic. She is an avid video game player, with her favorites being role-playing games (RPGs) and massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs).
“As a teacher, educator and an avid gamer, I’m very interested in the way that video games inform good teaching practices,” Mortimore-Smith said.
She credits the work of a particular scholar, James Paul Gee. Gee is the author of “What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy.”
In his book, Gee talks about the learning principles teachers can use through video games in the classroom. For example, a teacher could use video games to challenge students and motivate them to try and beat the game and show others how to do the same.
Pedagogy, which is the discipline that deals with the practice of education, according to Dictionary.com, should be altered and fit to cater more toward using video games, in Mortimore-Smith’s opinion.
Mortimore-Smith speaks on how, as a society, we cannot ignore the presence of video games in our culture. She cites another author, Jane McGonigal, who writes in her book “Reality is Broken,” that the average 21-year-old has already spent more than 10,000 hours gaming. In comparison, this is how much time someone will spend in school from kindergarten to graduation.
Mortimore-Smith is very passionate about using video games as teaching aides, but realizes there should be limitations set. She thinks boundaries, including how long a child plays a game and with whom, should be enforced to maintain a stable mind.
“Not all games are good games, nor are they appropriate for all players,” Mortimore-Smith said. With the right technique and supervision, a game can be an important tool in the classroom.
Not only are video games important for educational purposes, but they can also be relaxing. Just like reading a book is an outlet for some people, others, like Mortimore-Smith, prefer playing video games.
The busy mother of two uses this time to relax and “escape” the world where she is also a teacher and scholar.
“My own immersion in video games provides me with an outlet for exploring tremendously beautiful and vast new worlds,” Mortimore-Smith said.
Mortimore-Smith believes more games involving real world problems will emerge and help us continue to grow.
Mental health and video games will be different for every individual. But if used correctly, many researchers think video games can change the course of pedagogy and improve the way we learn for future generations.
The world will only continue to see the rapid growth of technology and how it intertwines into our everyday life. Mortimore-Smith suggests we embrace this change and turn it into a positive.