Our society like to vilify video games. We like to blame them for the obesity epidemic. We attribute the apparent rise in societal violence to the violent themes of many games. We fret over the social isolation experienced when sitting in front of a computer screen.
And it’s all bullshit.
I’ve long-touted the benefits of video games. Anecdotal evidence suggests gamers aren’t significantly affected by their pass time. Research has repeatedly shown the fears listed above are unfounded. Dr. Peter Gray sums up the pro-gamer argument quite well in this article.
I’ll go a step farther. People that play video games today will rule the world tomorrow.
Our society is quickly being herded into two distinct groups. These groups are most apparent when observing parents and their attitude with their children.
Group One: The helicopter parents. This group obsesses over their children. They meddle in their children’s lives at every opportunity. They plan their child’s activities to assure future success. They routinely interfere to advocate for their child. They sterilize their children’s environment to minimize risk. In short, they don’t allow their kids to make decisions or take responsibility for their actions or take risks… unless it is directed by the parents. They take a “more is more” approach. This parent is preparing their kids to get a good job. This parenting philosophy is on the rise.
Group Two: The freedom parents. This group takes a hands-off approach to parenting. They allow their children to explore and play without adult interference. They give them solitude. They trust kids’ instincts and abilities. They foster independence. They develop their kids’ ability to assess their world, make decisions, and accept responsibility for their actions. They recognize that kids are like sculptures, not paintings… the goal is to remove barriers to allow them to bloom. They take a “less is more” approach. This parenting philosophy is preparing their kids to make a good job. This parenting philosophy is on the decline.
So what does this have to do with video games? Group one likes to limit or even forbid their kids from playing video games. Group two allows more or less unfettered access to video games. The kids in group two are far more likely to grow up as gamers. And rule the world.
Why Gamers Will Rule the World: Skill Set
The kids from group one will have spent their time doing what they’re told. They will get very good at following orders, memorization, and fitting in.
The kids from group two will have spent their time using their imagination to solve unique problems using creative solutions. They will have developed the confidence, independence, and social savvy to lead others. In short, they will have developed the skill set to be tomorrow’s leaders.
Why Gamers Will Rule the World: The Gamer Experience
Not all the people from group two will become leaders of the future. Gaming itself will give a select group a very special skill set: the ability to master technologically-fueled social interactions. The old guard is usually quite suspicious of the social aspect of technology. They’ll dismiss the interactions that occur on Facebook or Twitter as somehow not qualifying as social interaction. They laugh at the idea of a MMOG constituting “social interaction.”
It’s different than what previous generations did. We inherently fear new technologies. We believe the next generation needs to learn all the social skills we had to master for our own world. As such, we do a poor job of teaching the next generation the skills they need to navigate their world. The parents of group two produce more adaptable kids because the kids themselves learn the skills they need. Video games happen to be one of the best tools the new generation has to learn the skills they’ll need to successfully navigate the socio-technological world that’s emerging.
My Bold Prediction
The kids that are allowed to play video games will end up being the most successful people over the next 20-40 years. Furthermore, this success will be entirely independent of success as measured by traditional means, like grades in school, test scores, or degrees earned. Gamer experience will become a common thread to distinguish leaders from followers.
Contrarian Parenting Advice
So… if you’re a “group one” parent, give your kids some space. Work on becoming a \”group two” parent. If you already are a group two parent, let your kids play video games. In fact, encourage them. Let them set the limits of the amount of time they play, what they play, or whom they play with (warn them about the pedophiles posing as teens, though).
Of course, how you choose to parent your kids is entirely up to you… consider this a friendly suggestion.
But Aren’t Video Games Bad?
Many make the claim. After all, why would we want kids sitting on one place for a long time doing very little physical activity while intently focusing on a singular stimuli?
Most opposition to video games comes from Luddites that fear new technology. They make wild claims about video games causing our society to crumble. Their argument may have validity… if the exact same argument hasn’t been made by every single older generation throughout recorded history. Many cite research, but the research is sketchy and clearly divided. Some research shows a positive effect, some shows a negative effect. Most is poorly designed with results that cannot be generalized to a wider population. Most anti-video game rants end up sounding like a Pat Robertson sound bite. Logic and common sense are thrown out the window in favor of ignorance and good ‘ole fear mongering.
I suspect many in the anti-video game crowd simply don’t give kids enough credit. Odds are your kids are intelligent, well-adjusted social animals that are more than capable of consuming video games without ill effect.
What do you think? Are you a gamer? What skills do you think you gain from the experience? Has gaming been a positive experience? What about parents? What are your thoughts?
If you ARE a gamer, share the post with other gamers. I’m interested to hear gamer opinions…