Recently, video games have been victims of prejudice and have been accused of having a negative influence on mental and physical health of players. However, while it is true that a long use of video games could have negative effects, as every other activity practiced to excess, the latest studies show that healthy gaming habits can be a rewarding activity. Video games can have a positive impact on health and general well-being of children.
Changes in perception of digital games
For children of the latest generation, digital tools are almost a mother tongue, language that they use to communicate, express themselves and understand the world around them.
Digital natives also spend a lot of time playing video games and are passionate about social networks, sometimes in the form of virtual worlds. Therefore, some teachers find it difficult to engage and motivate this generation to take part in traditional learning activities, perhaps because the format used in formal teaching does not meet their needs, preferences and expectations.
Some teachers, who have understood that electronic tools may have an important role in education or training, have been using the game technology to meet their students’ needs and changed teaching methods supported by recent advances in technology.
As a result of this transformation, teachers are now eager to create educational digital games. They focus on their didactic characteristics rather than technology. For example, Game Maker is a free and intuitive graphics engine which is used by teachers of different schools to create digital games that fit their educational program. They are widely used for training in stimulating and realistic environments. Moreover, these digital games are addressed to a wide range of participants, including surgeons, soldiers and firefighters. They also create a virtual environment in which participants can browse, explore and attend virtual classes that provide communication and collaboration, regardless of geographical boundaries between students and the faculty.
Benefits of digital games<h/2>
Digital games offer several educational advantages. They can develop cognitive, spatial and motor skills and contribute to improvement of technological skills. They can be used to teach facts, improve ability to recall and memorize, as well as teach principles of cause and effect and complex problem-solving. Also, they enhance creativity and deliver practical examples of concepts and rules that would be difficult to illustrate in the real world. Finally, they can be particularly useful to conduct experiments that can be dangerous in real life, such as the use of potentially harmful chemical products.
Despite their pedagogical features, not all electronic games are designed for teaching; however, the common characteristic is that of possession of intrinsic learning qualities that challenge and promote cognitive skills of students. Digital games are based on the premise that players have to learn, memorize, explore or obtain additional information for progress in different levels of the game.
Playing is becoming synonymous to learning and one of the many advantages of digital games is the ability to allow players to learn in a stimulating environment in which they can make mistakes and learn by playing. This kind of environment could be particularly suitable for students who prefer the information to be repeated, which may help them to better understand some concepts that, otherwise, they might perceive as complicated or boring.
Digital games promote genuine collaboration among users and, to a certain extent, they are similar to collaborative learning environments or businesses in which participants share information and learn from one another. The games develop multiplayer competition and collaboration, motivating players to join teams and compete with opponents. Players can create teams, share information in writing or verbally, and learn from observing other players. Beginners can learn from their peers and improve their skills. Digital games can have an emotional impact on the players, so they can increase their self-esteem and enable them to engage in social activities.
Playing a game can have a calming effect on participants who like to express a wide range of emotions even in other entertaining activities, but in a safe and controlled environment. Emotions during a game can range from joy, empathy, anger, frustration or feeling of a triumph. This alternation of feelings causes players to remain captivated by the game. Furthermore, studies have shown that emotions can promote the process of memorization.
Provided that digital games induce different emotions, they can help players to remember facts more vividly, thus promoting the cognitive process. In addition, digital games can increase players’ self-confidence and enable them to obtain the possibility of achieving. This way of learning is suited to the skills of players and provides them with an appropriate feedback for advancing, so, they have more chances for realising their goals.
All the reasons mentioned above and examples that explain usefulness of playing digital games justify them as a rewarding activity. In the era of technology that we live in, it is necessary to use digital games as a means of education that definitely may have a positive impact on mental health of children and adults.