If You Think Computer Games Are a Waste of Time…

 

Does you child like to play computer games? Maybe you wish he’d do something else because you think he’s wasting his time, doing nothing much at all. If you do, I have a story for you!

The other day, my girls were playing computer games at the Coolmath Games website.

“What game are you playing?” I asked.

Run!” said Gemma-Rose. “It’s great. Run 2 is even better.”

“Can I have a go?” I asked.

“Oh yes!”

A moment later, I had the computer on my knee and my fingers on the keyboard. Sophie and Gemma-Rose explained exactly what I needed to do.

“Ready, Mum?”

I nodded. This was going to be easy. All I had to do was direct the little alien down a tunnel, avoiding all the rectangular shaped pits along the way. I only had three controls to worry about: left and right keys and the space bar which was for jumping.

The game began. My little creature approached a pit. I pressed the space bar. He flew through the air. He landed safely on the other side. He ran around the next hole and over another. Soon he was at the end of the tunnel. I’d completed level 1. I grinned. I was still grinning a few levels later.

“You’re doing very well, Mum!” congratulated Sophie.

Those words were scarcely out of her mouth before things fell apart. I pressed the space bar. My alien shot up into the air and then disappeared down the very first hole. Game over. Back to the start. My alien set off again. I pressed the space bar. He shot up into the air and disappeared down the very first hole. Game over. Back to the start.

“Jump at the corner, Mum and rotate the wall with your left key.”

“Keep your touch on the keys light.”

My daughters’ suggestions didn’t seem to make any difference. I couldn’t move my little alien safely all the way through the tunnel.

Gemma-Rose sensed I was getting frustrated so she said, “Would you like me to do this level for you?”

“No,” I said firmly. “I’m going to do this myself.” And a long time later, I did.

On to the next level. And the next. I wiped my brow. I breathed deeply. I stretched my aching fingers. I was working hard.

“I thought this would be easy,” I confessed between levels. “I just don’t have the right skills.”

“You need good concentration and memory,” said Sophie.

“I think my biggest problem is I’m lacking the necessary connections in my brain. I just can’t think quickly enough. I can’t do everything I need to do all at the same time.”

After a while, my head started hurting from all the effort. “I think I’ve had enough for one day,” I said at last.

“You did very well, Mum!” Both my daughters were grinning at me with delight. “And you’ll get better with practice.”

I learnt a lot from this experience. Children certainly aren’t doing nothing when they’re playing computer games. They’re concentrating hard. They’re building connections in their brains. They’re learning how to think and act quickly. Depending on the game, they might be doing a whole lot of other things too.

And there’s something else I found out: Children love sharing their computer games.

One more thing: Until we share our children’s experiences, how can we really know what they’re doing?

So if you’re worried your child isn’t doing much at all while he’s playing a computer game, then how about asking if you can have a go? Sit side-by-side. Enter your child’s world. See what it’s all about. You could end up having a lot of fun. (I suppose you might also get a sore head!)

“What’s Run 2 like?” I ask my daughters.

“Run 2 is like the original game except you can skate as well as run.”

I’m looking at the game description:

This game requires enormous concentration and memorization!

Hmmm… I don’t think I’m going to conquer this game any time soon. But what if I worked at it? I might gain ‘enormous concentration and memorisation’ Now wouldn’t those skills be worth having?! 

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Comments

  1. Reply

    Yes, those skills would be worth having! This even makes ME (ancient, forgetful, distracted, did I eat lunch today?me) want to try computer games. Maybe my 5 year old granddaughter has one that's about my level. 🙂

    1. Reply

      Nancy,

      Oh, I could do with a big dose of those skills too! Is it worth playing computer games to get them? Maybe. I must admit I get frustrated when I can't play very well. But I'm also stubborn and don't like to be beaten. I wonder if your granddaughter has a game for me as well!

  2. Reply

    This is such a great post Sue. I agree with everything you have written. I tried my hand at Minecraft a couple of months ago…oh what a disaster! I couldn't even build a simple house and it made me appreciate the amazing structures our 8 yr son builds every day. I just can't do it.

    1. Reply

      Luminara,

      I've also had a go at Minecraft. I was hopeless! It all looks so easy from the outside, doesn't it? I think that's why we have to get involved and take a turn ourselves. See what it's all about. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  3. Reply

    Wow that's a hard game. Made it to leve l 3 But I'm soo good at confusing right and left, I have a very hard time doing it. Maybe with practise here, I would not turn the wrong way ever so often when driving. I agree that we all can learn skills playing computer games, but some skills are only learned using your body in real life – running for example.

    1. Reply

      Uglemor,

      You tried the game? Yes, it looks simple but is in fact quite difficult. I also get confused with left and right when I'm playing games, but, fortunately, I know which direction to turn when driving my car! It might be very convenient to be able to improve my running while on the computer, but I haven't yet found a way to do this. I have to close my laptop and head out the door and do it the old fashioned way!

  4. Well said, Sue! My son is mind-bogglingly good at computer games. I have no idea what he'll do as his un-career (?!) but I'm sure he'll use the skills he's developing as he plays. Occasionally I have a go alongside him, which he loves, but I'm so bad I don't last long! We talk about how I choose to put my time into learning to play the guitar and foreign languages instead of video games, but there's no judgement from me that those skills are better than the ones he is learning. And we talk the correlation between the amount of time we spend doing something and how good we are at it. I hope that way Jasper will feel confident about trying new things when he feels so inspired, knowing that whatever he puts time into he can master.

    1. Reply

      Lucinda,

      Oh yes, my mind boggles too when I watch children play computer games. Their brains work much faster than mine. I've also thought about the time commitment. I could spend more time playing games and improving my concentration skills, but I'd have less time for things like writing and all the many other things I want to get better at. (Or would better concentration improve all my other interests.)

      I once watched a TED talk about how the world needs more people playing more games for more hours. When I watched the video, quite a long time ago, I didn't really connect with it. Like most people (I imagine), I wondered if, in fact, our children need to get away from their computers and do 'real things' instead. Maybe I'd understand the message better if I watched it again.

      Maybe computer games will lead Jasper in a totally unexpected and exciting direction. Don't you just love it when that kind of thing happens?

  5. Reply

    I'd like to leave a comment on your podcast, but I can't seem to find the "leave a comment" button on that one or the next post, so I'm leaving it here. 🙂

    I enjoyed the podcast very much, and it made me think about the "do I agree" issue. I guess, when I read blogs, I don't see things through that lens. I think that some of the things that work marvelously for other bloggers wouldn't work for me (for lots of reasons), but I don't see that as not agreeing, since it seems to work so well for them. I agree that they should do it, even if I don't agree that I should do it, if that makes sense.

    The one exception I have found is sarcastic humor directed towards kids, I don't agree with that, but then I tend to stop reading the blog.

    Thanks again for the resources!

    1. Reply

      Wendy,

      I'm sorry you had trouble posting your comment. I got alarmed and rushed off to see if I'd disabled comments by mistake. As far as I can see, at least on my own computer, things look okay. I hope no one else has a similar problem.

      You have a wondefrul attitude about agreeing and not agreeing! Yes, we can acknowledge that what works for one family may not work for us, but that's okay! I wonder though if some people go looking for confirmation of their own ideas and feel more comfortable when the blogger agrees with their opinions and ways of doing things.

      Oh, I don't like sarcastic humour either. It can get very unkind.

      I hope you found something useful in my resources list. Thank you for listening to my podcast!

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