I have been a gamer for basically my whole life. I started as the navigator, watching my brother play and giving him advice about how to beat a level or where to go next. As we got older, we’d occasionally play couch co-op games, but he moved on to other interests while I stayed invested in gaming. It has helped to shape my life and who I am; beyond the fact that I now get to write about video games for work, it helped to forge the very core of who I am as a person, and I hope that it’s something I can pass on to my kid.
Sure, it’s just a hobby, and a pretty common one at this point. However, the more I think about my unique skill set and where I acquired many of those skills, the more I think that gaming should be part of every kid’s upbringing. And yes, I know that people like to talk about playing outside and stuff too, but I do think that playing inside is also a valid pursuit and should be encouraged in kids.
I am one of those irritating people who is almost always oriented. I know where I am, how to get from point A to point B and even when I get lost, I can usually figure out my way to a familiar landmark without too much stress or the use of a GPS. Obviously, new locations need to be added to the memory banks and I might not always remember exactly how to get somewhere, but I do have an excellent sense of direction and mapping skills. Where does this come from? Probably from all the games I played that required maneuvering through levels, drawing my own maps of dungeons and figuring out the best path from one area to another. This was something I did from a very young age and has left me with the skills to read maps in real life, as well as maneuver through new areas without getting completely turned around.
Studies also show that gamers have superior decision making and problem solving skills. Games serve as trial runs for making decisions quickly and then dealing with the consequences. Will you save that character/jump across that pit/thoroughly explore an area? The choice is yours, but so is the consequence. It means that gamers are more able to make decisions and stick to them, recognizing that there will be a consequence. Having faith in her decision-making skills is important for me to impart to Harley – women so often second guess themselves (I also do it more than I would like to admit) and having confidence in her decision-making skills could help her gain self-confidence in general.
It’s not just about practical skills, though. Sure, I want those to be a part of her skill set, but there are also some interesting “soft skills” that come with gaming. I learned a ton about mythology from RPGs, and it sparked my curiosity to go and learn more. Same goes for the various music and aesthetic styles I encountered in games. It wasn’t just a matter of appreciating them in the moment, but it spurred me on to learn more about music, art and design.
I could go on and on about how gaming has changed my life for the better, introduced me to some really interesting people and brought me a ridiculously number of hours of joy. But, the long and short of it is, I think it’s an undervalued hobby, especially for girls, and that’s something I want to change when my little one comes along. Once she’s big enough to hold a controller, of course.