This is a subject that always annoys me, for a few reasons. Mainly as I work in the games industry so I see this as a knock on what I do but also because its usually stated by people who never play games.
Anyway.. this weekend I experienced first hand (not for the first time mind) how games can actually help kids learn and not from those ‘eudugames’ you get out there either, shock horror, proper games!
First up, Little Big Planet. A game that should need little introduction but in case you have been living under a rock this is a PS3 game that lets you take your custom made Sack Boy (cute huh) over various platform based levels in a bid to get through them in one piece. The main strength this game boasts is its powerful level editor, this is a tool even I struggle to get to grips with yet leave it in the hands of a six year old for a while and they start to use their imagination and also start to learn. It wasn’t long before he was using the in game physics engine to experience what size objects can hold other ones up (usually to get his Sack Boy squashed on purpose!) and setting up a little race that even included text triggered at the beginning and end of the levels. The level was obviously not of the same quality you see created by other users but come on he is only six after all! The point is he was actively using his imagination to try and create something while having a blast at the same time, how anyone can possible say this sort of thing is bad for a developing child is beyond me.
Second up is an iPhone game called Labyrinth (iTunes link), now I got his free during the iTunes 12 days of Xmas promotion and hadn’t really touched it since however the same six year old as above found in on my phone and discovered that you could also make levels for the game on your PC and download them straight to your iPhone to play them. To create a level you visit this site with the download code you get in the app and get creating, cue another few minutes of a very happy six year old making all sorts of odd levels and then trying to complete them, each time learning what will and won’t work. Not quite as complicated as Little Big Planet but the principle is the same.
Now I’m not saying go out and let your kids play the latest Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty if they aren’t old enough, just don’t taint all games with the same brush as there are plenty of games out there that can encourage a young child to use their brain. Just make sure its in small doses, advice I should probably listen to myself but nevermind 😉