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Gerardo Castillo, School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra
Video games: possibilities and risks for the development staff
A video game is an interactive application that reproduces on the screen of an electronic device a game whose rules have been previously programmed. Whether its purpose is purely recreational (entertainment) or learning, it enables the development of different capabilities.
One of the best known and most used historical video games is "The Enigma of Aceps". The player is faced with the challenge to reach the central chamber of a pyramid through a labyrinth full of traps and riddles. To get the goal you need a lot of patience and ingenuity.
The real video game fever broke out in 1992, when Japanese companies Nintendo and Sega entered the toy market. When the video game Dragon Quest was released in a Tokyo store, a queue of 13,000 buyers formed; many of them spent the night waiting on the street. It was a premonition of how popular video games would become worldwide, to the point of being the number one cultural entertainment industry in many countries.
Parents need to know whether or not it is convenient for their children to play video games, as opinion on topic is very divided. If they accept them, they should make sure that the chosen ones promote values, and not anti-values.
Unfortunately, there are many children and adolescents who acquire them without consulting their parents. In addition, some parents naively believe that all video games are innocent and educational, because they are a "game" and because they are "kids' stuff". Many video games are designed for adults and have violent and sexist content.
Most of the reasons against video games are due to negative experiences derived from poor choice and/or abuse of the time dedicated by consumers to this activity. Lately, video games contain a massive advertising that causes more impact than the one that appears in the mass average, due to its interactive nature, the video player is very involved. Reading a advertisement in a magazine about motorcycles is not the same as having the possibility of riding one or more of them, even if it is virtually.
Among the arguments against video games are the following: they can isolate from others, negatively affecting friendships and family life; cause irritability, anxiety and aggressive reactions; take away a lot of time from study and reading; replace the traditional free games that were played in the street.
Video games have an addictive potential, so excessive use can generate compulsive and maladaptive behaviors in children and adolescents followed by a possible addiction. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that playing video games is bad when the player loses control over the time spent playing and makes it a priority over other interests and daily activities, such as spending time with friends or sleeping. Proponents argue that video games can improve cognitive skills and problem-solving abilities; help children with dyslexia; develop inventiveness and creativity; motivate to overcome challenges; enhance mental agility and decision-making; facilitate the learning of computers and some languages; be a form of learning applicable to different situations and subjects.
Video games are already being used in some schools as an educational tool . They allow the teacher to discover new ways of communication and teaching-learning and students to develop different skills. In addition, they increase the motivation to learn, as it is done in the form of a game. An example is the "Programa de Acompañamiento Escolar (PAE), implemented in some Spanish schools, which aims to improve and reinforce the reading and arithmetic habits in Education Compulsory Secondary Education (ESO).
What is the role of parents with respect to video games? First of all, not to prohibit them by system, since they develop valuable competences and skills. Moreover, it is already a socially accepted habit.
Parents are expected to: supervise the contents before deciding on their acquisition; encourage alternative activities and hobbies; show understanding and "complicity" with the child; establish with the child a agreement regarding playtime; set a good example in the use of electronic devices.