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Why You Should Let Your Kids Play Video Games

I played video games as a child and I (mostly) turned out fine.

When I was a kid video games were largely uncharted terrain for the majority of adults. While parents bought their children a Mario game or a Legend of Zelda game for their birthday or Christmas, they didn't really know what was happening on the screen when their kids sat down in front of that little grey box in their living room to play them. As is typically the case with any extra-curricular activity children indulge in that doesn't appear to benefit their health nor their education, video games inevitably became vilified. They were blamed for children not going outside, and parents were put in the stocks for not taking these things that made their children happy away from them and not forcing them to kick a ball/do their homework instead.

I was an only child, meaning that I had to "make my own fun" most of the time. Before video games came into my life, this largely revolved around crafting Shakespearean tragedies using my Batman action figures and building a series of increasingly large forts out of cardboard. A few of my school friends lived in my neighbourhood, and after school we'd sometimes play football (soccer for you American readers), though this often ended in tears.

minecraft

Minecraft - like building forts but without the cardboard.

 

My two best friends at the time, Sean and Richard, were quite volatile. Sean was one of those kids who seemed to break everything he touched. His action figures had missing legs, his VHS tapes of cartoons never worked properly, and on at least one occasion I remember spending a Saturday afternoon with him simply jumping up and down on the sofa in his living room until it eventually buckled underneath our weight. There was no rhyme or reason for doing it, it was simply how Sean spent his waking hours, so I felt obliged to join in with him.

On the other hand, Richard was the kind of kid whose mid-life crisis you could envisage before he'd even turned 10 years old. Once, I visited my Nan and Granddad after school, and while there I received a phone call from my Mom: "Paul, Richard's just been standing outside our house asking for you. He was crying." Richard was a nice lad, but he was also a prolific crier. 

Given the nature of my friends, then, it's unsurprising that a competitive game of football would bring out the worst in them. A friendly kick-about round the local park would often lead to tears shed and friendships broken, meaning that I'd often retreat home covered in mud and uncertain of whether me and my mates would still be talking the following day. Likewise, attempting to confine their personalities inside my house with nothing to occupy them but my Batman figures (which, as previously mentioned, were unsafe in the hands of Sean) would often lead to disaster, so much so that whenever I asked my Mom whether I could have my friends over on the weekend, she'd begrudgingly accept before begging me to not let them "wreck the house".

Then I started getting into video games. Thanks to a modicum of good fortune, I wound up being that kid who owned all of the games, like the English equivalent of Lucas from The Wizard (although I unfortunately did not own the Power Glove). As such, many of my school friends and other kids in the neighbourhood regularly frequented my house, but rather than turning it upside down, they would instead sit quietly in front of the TV as we took it in turns to play us some Nintendo.

This is where many criticisms were lobbied at video games. "Kids today need to stop sitting inside their homes playing these bloody video games and go outside and get some fresh air", is something that would frequently fall out of the mouths of the anti-fun brigade. We were told by people who didn't play video games that video games were ultimately destructive and, to some extent, this is still the case today. Video games and the internet are blamed for the lethargic nature of many children, and the word "gamer" is almost as derogative as branding someone a stamp collector or a train spotter.

Although the word "gamer" is the easiest way for me to describe someone who plays video games in these articles of mine, I loathe using it due to there being so many negative connotations behind it. "A 23-year old gamer died in South Korea today, after spending 23 hours playing an online role-playing game", you'll hear on the news. As such, when someone willingly describes themselves as a "gamer", the majority of people will from that point on think of them as a socially awkward shut-in (unless they're a female gamer, in which case they'll either think of them as an attractive cosplayer or a socially awkward lesbian).

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Today, those who don't play video games think of gamers as lonely guys spending their days pretending to be soldiers, shooting alongside people they've never met (but whom they would consider "friends") online. As such, they don't want their children growing up to be these lonely guys. As I don't currently father any younglings, I can't say that I can empathise with a parents' worry that this will be their child's future, but I can say from experience as someone who has been a "gamer" for the majority of his life whilst simultaneously being a fully-functioning human being, that just because your child enjoys doing something that doesn't ostensibly benefit them in terms of education or health, that doesn't mean that your child should then be prevented from doing that thing altogether.

As a child the real world seems so dull, meaning that the majority of your time is spent living inside your own imagination. Video games are an extension of this, as are movies, as are books, as are cartoons. When I have kids, as soon as they can walk they'll be watching Empire Strikes Back, but as soon as they can talk they'll be playing Super Mario World.


Paul Tamburro is the UK Editor of CraveOnline. Follow him on Twitter @PaulTamburro.