Minecraft, Candy Crush and mix tapes.

My kid loves Minecraft.

Every morning, I come down the stairs to find him building, battling, surviving in this weird pixelated world. I have tried to understand his obsession.  Heck, I even bought a book about how to play, but I admit, I don’t get it.

As the mom, when it comes to Minecraft, I thought it was my job was to:

  1. Strictly monitor and restrict them amount of time he spent playing.
  2. Watch out for cyber-predators and/or ultra-violent content.

Turns out that I may have only needed to worry about the latter of the two.

This past August, Forbes reported on the topic in an article entitled, “A Surprising New Study On How Video Games Impact Children.”  They share the findings of Author Andrew K. Przybylski, Phd., who conducted a study of “2436 male and 2463 female young people, ranging in age from 10 to 15 years.” The study is entitled “Electronic Gaming and Psychosocial Adjustment,”

…The findings do indicate “that electronic play has salutary functions similar to traditional forms of play; they present opportunities for identity development as well as cognitive and social challenges.” In other words, video games are comparable to other kinds of imaginative play.

Huh?  You mean all this time, there is a really good chance that I have been telling my kid not to PLAY at his favorite EDUCATIONAL activity in the world?

I know that play is critical, but I had just assumed that he needed to be outside with a ball or a bike, using Legos or creating with paints, paper and glue.

The Sudbury Valley School encourages kids to spend their time doing what they please.  That includes packs of kids playing video games in a social setting.  This is tough for some parents who are considering the Sudbury model.

If you are like me, you are asking yourself, “How will they learn anything?” and  “What if that is all they do?”  Their blog has a FAQ section that covers this popular topic.

[Some kids] spend tremendous amounts of time playing video games and [outsiders] see it as mind- numbing. We know – because we see the kids and we know the kids – that it’s the opposite of mind-numbing, that they only play a particular video game until they’ve mastered it and then they go on to something else. They also play in an extremely social situation with other kids, talking all the time, and they develop very deep social relationships. And we know that the kind of concentration they put into each video game is mind-building and not mind-numbing…

Video games like Minecraft foster creativity, ingenuity and social behavior.  Heck, even games like Candy Crush are beneficial to a point.  Adults who play have a chance to take a mental break and generate a small “win”, maybe a badly needed one on a tough day…so I have heard. (I might be on level 416.)

http://kretas95.deviantart.com/art/Minecraft-Wallpaper-426843152

Wallpaper from kretas95

In fact, Minecraft itself is getting notoriety for being an education tool.  In a recent online article, 2machines.com shares:

Through experimenting and working together, kids begin to develop skills in creative thinking, math and geometry, and even a bit of geology. And to complete large tasks, they need to plan a strategy, define goals and work together to execute and see the mission through — sort of like having a real job.

In fact, the Journal of Adolescent Research published a study comparing children that played video games to those that didn’t. “Video game players, regardless of gender, reported higher levels of family closeness, activity involvement, attachment to school and positive mental health,” Paul Adachi and Teena Willoughby, the authors of the study, concluded. “Video game players also had less risky friendship networks and a more favorable self-concept.”

What society deems is a waste of time has changed over the years and I am guessing we all have done something to fill the time that was not super-productive on the surface.  (Again, Candy Crush.)

Listening to music and making mix tapes was my “time-waster”, but it didn’t feel that way to me.  In retrospect, I can even find value in my hours and hours of hunching over the tape-recorder.  I learned patience (because I had to wait for the right song to come on the radio), organization (because I had to decide which songs I wanted, in what order and for what length of time on the cassette) and generosity (because we all know that it was the ultimate gift.)  Maybe it was not algebra or The Iliad, but I was having fun, I felt good about myself when I was making them, and I probably learned a thing or two.

I know that I have to re-frame how I see the role of video games like Minecraft in my house.

Lesson learned.

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2 comments

  1. Very nice post. Since you voiced some concerns about video game violence, I’m wondering if you’ve had a chance to read this essay from the SVS site: http://www.sudval.org/essays/062014.shtml I think it’s pretty illuminating and might alleviate some of your worries. Though I have to say, I’m not always thrilled by the content of some of the games my 13 year old plays, we’ve always talked very openly about them.

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