What life skills can video games teach kids?

The Importance of Social Skills and Problem-solving

For those waiting for their turn, video games are sometimes a spectator sport.
For those waiting for their turn, video games are sometimes a spectator sport.
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Social skills are necessary for human beings to function successfully in society, and many of these skills are learned during childhood through play. For example, some video games require children to alternate use of the controller when there are too many players present, teaching the value of sharing and taking turns. Racing games like Nintendo's "Mario Kart" series and sports games like "Madden NFL" are often played in pairs or small groups, requiring kids to play fairly and share controllers.

Other games are centered on the importance of team work and setting goals. Rated T by the ESRB, "World of Warcraft" is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, or MMORPG. Thousands of players exist in the world at any given time, and the game encourages virtual teams to meet and work together to achieve a common goal. Since a single player's actions can affect the entire team, the game helps teens learn how to work and collaborate as part of a group and deal with both success and failure -- whether the outcome of a particular mission is a result of others' actions or their own.

Problem-solving is a central theme to many video games, and kids of all ages are taught to recognize patterns and strategize in order to win. For example, Nintendo's "The Legend of Zelda" series includes many puzzles and complex levels that challenge players. When Link gains an item, he must then use it to advance to what were previously inaccessible areas of the game. Many of the puzzles in each game also employ these items. Obstacles are often put in the way of achieving a goal in "Zelda," which is arguably similar to many situations kids face in real life, like working hard to learn a difficult mathematical concept in order to succeed on a test at school.

Games like "Portal 2" (rated E10+ by the ESRB) keep the mind sharp and alert through hours of unique, mind-bending puzzle solving. This game emphasizes the importance of navigating a new environment carefully and recognizing and utilizing the materials available in a game. These problem-solving video games teach kids the importance of patience and perseverance by forcing them to think cognitively when trying to master a challenge. By working hard and choosing not to give up, kids achieve an "a-ha!" moment, where they realize the solution to a problem and feel smart for doing so. In this way, games like "Portal 2" not only help stimulate a child's mind, they also boost confidence.