Denigrated or Defended, Video Games Hold Educational Promise

There's no two ways about it: kids love video games. Photo by sean dreilinger

There's no two ways about it: kids love video games. Photo by sean dreilinger

Do you have a convincing argument about the evils of video games? Pamela Eakes of Mother’s Against Violence does. In her article posted on a PBS website examining the impact of games, she enumerates the various problems video games can cause — addiction, increased aggression, and social isolation among others — and she urges parents to take an active role in monitoring, as well as restricting, their kids’ game usage.

In certain circles, hers are commonly held beliefs, supported in part by studies like one presented in a 2008 Washington Post story, which indicates that violent video games really does raise children’s hostility levels.

Eakes’s views, however, are not unanimous. While MIT professor Henry Jenkins probably wouldn’t encourage parents to ignore their offspring’s gaming habits, he details a series of misconceptions about video games on that same PBS website, many of which seem to contradict Eakes’ fears.

Jenkins suggests that games have become a scapegoat for certain social problems and actions that have nothing to do with gaming at all, and there is certainly some evidence to support this. Revelations about the school shooting in Columbine, like these myths illuminated by CNN, revealed that the assailants were not part of the “Trench Coat Mafia” gaming culture as previously supposed.

As with many controversial topics it becomes difficult to get the facts exactly straight. Virtually everyone can agree, however, that video games do hold tremendous power to capture the kid’s attention — something a recent edition of the NPR radio show Soundprint addressed, with a focus in particular on educational gaming.

Because of their appeal to youngsters, the information they allow people to access, and the skills they can develop, many educators and game developers believe video games have incredible potential in the field of education; the difficulty so far has been finding that balance between entertainment, learning value, and of course, profitability.

Achieve it, and you could very well have a product that everyone one can get behind, but the day that sees an ideal blend of teaching tool and adventure saga remains a ways off, so kids and parents will have to make do with the current offerings, as well as the concerns they continue, rightly or wrongly, to produce.