For many of you, your knee-jerk reaction will be to disagree with that statement. To you, I say, “Let’s look at some facts first, shall we?” I’ll even go so far as to propose that you may change your tune after reading this (if you don’t support games already).
Let me back up a bit …
Professionally, I used to work at Cranium, and I still freelance as a games writer. Personally, I just love games. Both kinds: video and board. So does my husband. He’s a 12-year vet of the video game industry with an affinity for board games akin to Cookie Monster and cookies.
All of those reasons recently led me to PAX Prime, a big Seattle convention for people who make and enjoy games.
I was surprised to hear three themes keep coming up at PAX, and I’m happy to report they all bode well for families who game.
Given what you’ve read in the news, you may scoff at this, particularly regarding video games (or God forbid Dragons & Dragons). But as Dr. Tyler Black, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at BC Children’s Hospital, pointed out (among other speakers), the media-touted “research” we’ve been fed is largely biased, unscientific, and simply wrong.
The facts are:
- The rate of violent crime has halved since 1991, despite a steady rise in video game sales.
- So many kids are playing video games now (91%) that NOT playing them has become a psychiatric red flag for socialization, learning, or movement problems.
- Video games provide many positive developmental benefits, including hand-eye coordination, working toward a goal, storytelling, creativity, validation, socialization, and (with some Wii and Kinect games) even exercise.
Check out the PDF of Dr. Black’s presentation, if you want more details.
Sure, you probably still don’t want your kid playing gory shooters, and I’d completely agree with that. Luckily, that’s not all that’s out there. You just need to look a little harder. Need help? Message me in the comments below. I’d be happy to give you some recommendations, according to your child’s age and interest.
2. There are Davids out there fighting to make the “other games” families want, and we should support them.
Indie development is on the rise, and these small ventures are actively seeking underserved markets to give them the video games they want, too. Check out Kickstarter for several good examples. Support these guys! They’re our best chance of getting games outside of the standard alien- or war-shooter box.
Same goes with board games. Go to your local game store and get something not produced by the two juggernauts, Mattel and Hasbro. Often the best executed, most creative, and most challenging (in a good way) games come from the Davids, not the Goliaths. So let’s support them and the stores that sell their stuff.
It’s this little thing I like to call putting your money where your brain is.
This point may deserve its own post. I can’t stress enough how many truly inspiring stories I heard at PAX from both game makers and players. This industry empowers people to tell their stories, be themselves, think strategically, be creative, and live playfully. Sue inspired me to live thusly, and it’s been a fire in my soul ever since. I want these things for Szaba, too. And I want to support and encourage all those people who are making that happen for themselves, for us, and for our kiddos.
Make whatever decision for your kids you choose, but that’s why I want my daughter to be a gamer.