Mat Langford’s Gaming World: 5 things that kids can learn from video games to make themselves AWESOME.

As a champion for video games and gamers everywhere, it pains me when people refer to them as ‘time-wasters’. Video games can be an amazing source of inspiration and education. Seriously.

So, without further adieu, I give you the Top 5 things that kids can learn from video games to make themselves AWESOME.

5. Morality

You need to get off a planet before it’s destroyed, but in doing so, you have to leave one of your valued crew members behind to perish on said planet. Such is one scenario in Mass Effect. It – and games like it – revolutionized multiple choice, multiple ending games. You need to make either “good” or “bad” choices, which subsequently put you on a good or bad path. They reinforce moral values on the player, while also letting them live out the bad scenarios in a harm free medium.

Let’s get real, Grand Theft Auto gives players all of the tools necessary to kill everything in sight, yet it is still up to the player to deviate from the linear missions to run over a pedestrian filled bus shelter or walk into the Burger Shot and pay for a cheeseburger with a headshot from a grenade launcher.

Players, once invested in a game, may choose to live the life of a saint, or sinner, but being given that choice ultimately allows the gamer to use their own discretion.

4. Driving

Sure, games like GTA may not instill the best driving lessons on us. (the only important thing GTA can teach you about driving is the appropriate velocity that you much reach before you can T-bone another car clean off the road and into the ocean.) However, there are games that do simulate real driving, and can teach important – although virtual – points. Racing games such as Gran Turismo can be set so that players must work the clutch and shift gears, while understanding the dynamics of the track/road so as to not crash and fly into the stands a la Final Destination. They also allow gamers to upgrade their cars, showing them the inner working of their vehicle, and how specific upgrades work.

I think he took a wrong turn somewhere.

3. Stealth

Let’s face it. When I was younger, I wanted to be one of two things. A writer, or a ninja.

Ninja seemed way cooler, so I worked on that for a while, got a black belt in Karate and just generally kicked a lot of butt. But it was really the only choice I had as video games featuring stealth and missions where you had to stay undetected weren’t really around yet.

Now, games like Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid make gamers extremely effective at getting around unnoticed. The gamer needs to be silent, make sure that any bodies they’ve acquired along the way are out of sight, and use shadows and other dark hidden spots to their advantage. They’re practically ninjas in training without knowing it! It’s like that picture with an empty room and the caption under it says “there are 4 ninjas in this room.”

Ninjas!
There may even be more!

I’m guessing they were all Splinter Cell players.

2. Money Management

Although it has been accused of taking smart little kids and turning them into brain-dead drones, World of Warcraft is still one of the real-life virtual economy simulators out there. In-game, it thrives on the same type of supply and demand system that keeps our real world afloat.

Players start out broke and alone, and through hard work and manual labor, acquire a vast fortune that in turn stimulates the games’ economy.

Take it from my 13-year old cousin:

“Put it this way, if you’re broke, become a tailor. You can make your own clothes, and also sell your extra stuff for cash. Once you reach a high lever tailoring skill, you can then start making a lot of high-level stuff and sell them at a sale price, that way the people who buy your stuff think they’re getting a deal, but really you’re selling more of them , so you’re still making a profit.”

He’s 13!

He’s already thinking about economic gain! When I was 13, I was hoping the streetlights would stay on longer so I wouldn’t have to come inside from playing ball hockey.

The game features an Auction House as well, where players put their found and crafted items for sale in the hopes that another player will buy them. They must set a starting price and if they’re impatient, a buy it now price (much like Ebay). This demands kids make a rational assumption of what an item should cost, based on how long it took them to acquire it, and what they’d settle for in order to get the money faster.

Let’s not forget about the companies that ‘farm’ (do nothing but grind for) in game gold, and then sell it for real-life money!

There are so many ways to earn money in this game that apply to real life as well that it can’t be overlooked as a viable, albiet addictive, way of teaching kids about the value of a buck.

1. Survival/Gun skills

Anyone that has watched the weather channel lately knows that it’s not long before we’re all swallowed up in some sort of cataclysmic event. My vote is, and has always been, for a zombie apocalypse.

At some point, it’s going to be every man/woman for him/herself, and small groups all around the world are all going to be fighting for survival (read: Walking Dead). Based on the simple fact that Rad Racer for the NES made me a better driver, you have to assume that the multitude of first person shooter games are making kids better marksman. I know that after years of playing Call of Duty, I’m more accurate with a BB gun, that’s for sure. I can knock a tin can off a pole with razor-sharp precision.

Tin Can riddled.
I only needed ONE shot.

So, in a world ravaged by the undead, who will you want in your corner? Jeff the accountant? Christine with a 4.0 GPA and an honors degree in Telemarketing? Nope. You’d want ‘zombieslaya977′ from Xbox Live who has a 22,000 gamerscore garnered mostly from creatively and effectively annihilating zombies with headshots. Sure, he’s probably 14 and needs his parents’ permission to join your survival group, but I think they’d understand, given the apocalyptic circumstances.

So parents, listen up! Perhaps it’s okay to let your child play video games, and adult gamers, maybe this article can convince your significant other that staying in to play some more Call of Duty instead of going to your in-laws is necessary for the worlds survival! If it works, just remember where you read it!

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3 Replies to “Mat Langford’s Gaming World: 5 things that kids can learn from video games to make themselves AWESOME.”

  1. Oh man… Everything about this post was awesome. Especially the fact that the moral of this post was essentially, “If you’re kid becomes a skilled gamer, he/she will become a skilled zombie slayer. THAT’s a child to be proud of.”

    For the record, I think Rollercoaster Tycoon was one of the best games I’ve played to help me learn money management and how I would be with money in my adult years. I should have known then that I’d one day have debt issues…

    Oblivion has taught me that although “honest” merchants won’t buy stolen goods from you, sometimes you can turn those stolen goods into potions. Suddenly those goods are not marked “stolen” anymore, so “honest” merchants will buy them. And that’s just satisfying.

    Thanks for sharing this post, Mat. Next time I hear someone make claims that video games are useless, I’ll point them to this blog 😀

  2. Mat – you present some interesting points of view – actually makes you think.

    Socially, I find that there is there is chasm in your argument!

    I wish there was more time available for kids to play ball hockey – and devices learned to manage the “addictive” element of this wonderful new medium!

    1. Alas, if there were more time for road hockey, the world would be a better place!

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