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Do Computer Games Make the World a Better Place?

Computer games are becoming an increasing central part of our lives.  Today, it is estimated that people around the world spend 3 billion hours a week playing online games.  Many people might think that this is a cause of problems and that this time could be much better spent in other ways.  However, researcher Jane McGonigal carried out a study which concluded that this figure is not nearly enough if we want to learn to solve the increasing number of real-world issues.  The gaming researcher believes that gamers should actually be playing 21 billion hours of gameplay per week.  If we are to manage to tackle global problems like global conflict, poverty, hunger, climate change and obesity, an increase in game time is essential.

Education
One of the main reasons why gaming is essential to the world is the education value that it provides and there are many ways in which it does this.  Spending time engrossed in the objectives set out by computer games teaches people about many subject areas and issues which are central to life and survival. In particular for the younger generation of gamers who are learning at a greater speed, playing games makes subjects interesting which would not otherwise be.  Gamers are growing up with an active interest in topics such as nationalism, the relationships between the church and the state and our historic roots. In making these subjects interesting, overall awareness for the issues is increased, leading to more a more problem solving outlook and a more proactive approach to tackling such issues.

Gaming is also beginning to contribute to the education system.  Some forward-thinking schools have acknowledged that students take in more when they are interested and engaged with a subject and are trying to use the interaction of gaming to educate.  Instead of a situation where students are sitting in front of a whiteboard, begrudgingly listening to a teacher/lecturer speak, these innovative schools believe that this interactive approach is far more effective.

Core Skills
As a form of recreation/relaxation, gaming has numerous benefits over other methods.  For example, in comparison to watching the television or a movie, gamers are submerged in what they are doing.  Instead of mindlessly watching a screen, they are involved and engaged with the current challenge.  They are constantly using their minds to deal with the various problems which they are faced with.  The way that games are structured means that the challenges increase in difficulty as the player improves in skill, so there are always more testing challenges for a player to take on.  The way in which gamers interact with computer games teaches them many core transferrable skills which are central to many aspects of life.  When playing many games, players must make decisions about time management, resource allocation, organisation and team work in order to complete missions in the most effective possible way.  Players must also use their memory to recall certain information from earlier in the game.

Social Skills
One of the benefits of gaming which has increased in significance over the past decade in particular is the development of social skills.  Many people think that gamers are unsociable hermits, locked away from real people and the real world.  However, most gamers today are constantly working with other players, forming relationships and using effective teamwork to succeed in the game.  This has become a far more prominent benefit with the development in internet speeds and online networked gaming.  Now, the technology offered by the internet and modern computer games allows players to connect to other players around the world with little-to-no lag or interference.  Playing games against other real-life players, as opposed to playing against artificial intelligence computer-generated players has obvious advantages, the main of which is the unpredictability and human error which cannot be generated by a computer program.  Before this age of social online gaming, players would simply play against the computer until they complete the game, at which point it becomes obsolete.  Now that players can play against other real people over the internet means there is a constant challenge for players to overcome.  No matter how skilled you become in a game, there will always be other players who will give you a run for your money.

Another advantage of social gaming is honing the social skills of gamers. In the past, the stigma was that gamers have absolutely no interaction with the outside world. Today, they interact and cooperate with other players, and even chat with others while they play. Even sites that operate classic games such as bingo have realized the great potential of social interaction. According to a survey conducted by kasyno online wpłata blik, more than 50% of players proclaimed that they prefer to play on mobile bingo sites that have an option to chat with others.

The social factor which is now central to gaming is leading to players developing the social skills which can be used in the real world.  For example, when players must work in teams to compete a mission, it is essential for them to work together, using effective communication and cooperation to successfully complete goals.  When gaming together, players are given the social fabric to help develop deeper relationships, which creating bonds and trust between them.

Optimism
One of the main reasons gamers love to play computer games is that is provides a way for them to escape real life.  In a reality increasing surrounded by economic and social issues, these games allow players to take a step back and submerge themselves in an alternative world where things can be achieved.  Faced with the world’s current issues, people are developing a ‘cannot do’ attitude. Computer games are designed in a way which does not present this issue.  They are structured so that the missions are achievable by all players and that the difficulty will increase simultaneously with the player’s skill level.  This structure helps to enforce a more optimistic outlook among players, which would benefit them tremendously if applied to the real world.  Gamers believe that the next goal is achievable and that hard work will inevitably get them where they want to be.  It is a lack of this attitude which contributes to many of the social problem we face today. Computer games make players feel satisfaction when they reach a target creating “super-powered hopeful individuals” (Jane McGonigal, 2010) who believe in and are capable of achieving anything in the virtual world.

Crowd Sourcing Science
More recently, researchers have developed games which have contributed towards various scientific developments. Many science projects require a lot of tedious work to be done.  By turning these tasks into a simple puzzle games, players are given an incentive to get involved and make their contribution towards the cause.  In this way, thousands of people get involved in completing a task, which lowers its completion time significantly.  A game called ‘Foldit’ was recently developed, which helped to fight HIV and AIDS by using the collective work of many gamers.

Moving Forward
With the help of researchers such as Jane McGonigal, we must develop games which are designed similarly to ‘Foldit’ to help us achieve more in life.  With the increasing number of issues we face around the world today, it is essential that we use the power of video games to focus our energy of problem solving and creating a better world.

Sources:
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Interview-Jane-McGonigal-Computer-Game-Developer.html

http://venturebeat.com/2010/05/08/can-video-games-make-the-world-a-better-place-part-5-education/

http://www.policymic.com/articles/35525/7-unexpected-ways-video-games-are-making-the-world-a-better-place

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