Vol. 14, Issue No. 3

Should students be allowed to play video games?

The population of gamers in the Philippines have steadily increased over the decade. Mobile games are dominating the industry as a result of the smartphone and tablet boom of recent years. Because of this, it’s becoming easier for younger kids to have access to these games, with 10-20 year olds making up a total of 34% of the gaming population.

 

Video gaming in the Philippines has not always been such a prominent industry. Only in recent years have there been strides in pushing eSports and video games forward in the country. Several institutions, like Sony and a South Korean government agency, have recognized the growing market for video games in the Philippines, launching partnerships that aim to “help in building a robust game development ecosystem in the country”. And in a groundbreaking move last August 2017, the Gaming and Amusements Board started allowing professional eSports players in the Philippines to secure athletic licenses.

But regardless of the advancements made in the industry, there have always been debates on whether exposure to these video games are ultimately beneficial or detrimental to the youth.

A cause for concern?

 

Video games have a long history of being perceived negatively by authority figures.

 

In 19 November 1981, at the height of Martial Law, former President Ferdinand Marcos issued a ban on video game machines following complaints from parents and teachers that games like Space Invaders and Asteroids “wreak havoc on the morals and discipline of our youth”. The ban was eventually lifted after the 1986 People Power Revolution.

 

Even in modern times when technology has permeated almost every aspect of people’s lives, some groups are still wary of the adverse effects of playing video games. In January 2018, there were talks that the new edition of World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases would include video game addiction as a mental health disorder.

 

The value in letting students play

 

However, recent studies have also suggested that video games can have a lasting positive impact when it comes to helping develop certain skills in students.

1.  Video games improve cognitive abilities.

A 2014 study published in Molecular Psychiatry by researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Germany found that playing Super Mario 64 caused an increase in the size of the brain regions responsible for spatial orientation, memory formation, strategic planning, and fine motor skills. There are also several games, specifically in the action genre, that can help kids with dyslexia read better.

2.  Video games develop problem solving and communication skills.

It may come as no surprise that strategic video games have been known to improve players’ problem solving skills. Meanwhile, multiplayer games that have recently been such a hit on online and mobile platforms, like Clash of Clans and World of Warcraft, can help children develop their social and communication skills, as these kinds of games rely on community-building to advance.

From left to right:  Filipino-made video games Conquered, Mayari, and Sunday at the Memories. (photo from GMA Network)

3.  Video games help students cope with stress.

The question of whether playing violent games makes kids more aggressive is an age-old debate, with studies being inconclusive as to the correlation of the two. What studies have found, however, is that the more hours spent playing first person shooter and action games, the better and faster the overall recovery from stress, helping players become less depressed and hostile in high stress environments.

4.  Video games teach students about history and culture.

The onset of gamification in education brought about a plethora of educational games and apps that teachers can incorporate in class. But even non-educational mainstream video games can surreptitiously teach children bits about history and culture. Assassin’s Creed, for example, is known for having a history graduate on their staff to help with accurate world-building. There are also Filipino-made video games that give students a glimpse of Philippine culture.

5.  Video games spark students’ interest in STEM.

Enthusiasm for video games can go beyond the gameplay for students. It can jumpstart their interest in STEM and ICT in particular, encouraging them to pursue careers in fields like design, animation, or game development.

 

What the video game discourse boils down to especially when it comes to the youth is proper guidance and moderation. As one of the few figures that kids interact with regularly, educators have a shared responsibility in making sure that students are reaping benefits instead of harm from playing video games.

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A quarterly journal for Filipino educators who strive to become excellent at what they do