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The Case for Videogames as Powerful Tools for Learning

Not only are video games a great way for children to learn academic skills such as science, math and reading, but video games also have the ability to teach children better social skills and possibly even ethical and moral values.

A great deal of attention has been paid to the potential negative ramifications that playing video games can have on children. Some examples of this are concerns over how much time children spend sitting instead of being up and active or that more violent or intense video games can have a negative impact on behavior. The truth is, however, that video games have the potential to have just as positive of an impact as a negative one. Not only are video games a great way for children to learn academic skills such as science, math and reading, but video games also have the ability to teach children better social skills and possibly even ethical and moral values. 

For instance, video games have long been on the market that teach academic skills like reading or math. Video games that use actual words to offer in-game instructions encourage children to learn to read. Video games that utilize simple math problems are also prevalent and a great way for children to have fun while learning - which simply encourages them to learn more. 

Video games have the potential to go even further, however, by offering a range of problems that require, develop and hone good problem solving skills. In fact, there are few real world situations that can actually create the kinds of scenarios that video games can that allow children to learn how to work through a problem, not just give a correct answer. 

Video games also have the ability to teach children more than just "concrete" skills like science, math or reading. Video games also have the ability to teach children "soft skills" like leadership, teamwork and even empathy. Video games are a form of interactive storytelling that are able to put children in a position of having to make a decision about how to act or behave within the context of the game. When children make good choices, the game rewards them. This is important because many times in life, good behavior is not rewarded and bad behavior is sometimes rewarded inadvertently. 

Humans are wired in such a way that we repeat behaviors we are rewarded for and stop behaviors that we are punished for or that have a negative outcome. In some cases, however, well-meaning adults actually end up rewarding bad behavior without even knowing that they are. This only encourages the behavior to continue rather than stopping it. For instance, when the only time a child can get a parent's attention is when they do something wrong, they may continue to engage in bad behavior as a means of getting that attention. 

There is no doubt that video games have a strong effect on brain chemistry. Video games have long been blamed for being a contributing factor in any number of violent acts, and there is no way to 100% deny with assurance there isn't an element of truth to this. To be sure, video games alone are not, have never been and never will be the sole reason for any act of violence, but that does not mean they have not contributed in any way. Conversely, if video games can "edge" an individual already prone to certain tendencies farther in that direction, then the same should be true of "edging" children towards better behaviors such as exhibiting empathy and compassion. 

In addition, video games give children an opportunity to wrestle with more complex moral issues, such as the realities of finite resources. When you only have so many resources to go around, how do you decide how to distribute them? Perhaps the most valuable aspect of video games is that they give children - and even adults - the chance to wrestle with more complex issues in a no-fault context. In other words, if they make poor choices, there are no real-world ramifications. In addition, video games give them the opportunity to make different choices and explore different outcomes. 

The potential uses for VR and AR are already being explored in many business and training contexts. The next generation may not only learn about values from video games, but may even be better equipped to deal with the realities of life. In addition to being able to learn in a "no-fault" context, another benefit of video games is that they have the potential to create no-win scenarios and other situations that are actually more true to life than we sometimes want to admit. It just might be that video games have the potential to create more well-rounded human beings that are more resilient and capable of simply "going with the flow" of whatever life throws at them.

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