The Gaming IndusTree Part 1

posted by on 23rd January 2011, at 11:43am

I’ve noticed that recently the Gaming Industry has been getting hit pretty hard with things like “Video games are bad for your brain”, “Video games encourage killing”, or probably the most popular, “Video games are bad for your health.” Now while excessive playing of video games such as playing for 48 hours with no stops is bad for your health, for the most part I think most video games do actually encourage good things such as literacy, math skills, and even hand-eye coordination. Yes, surprising though it may be, using a mouse or game controller can increase your coordinational skills. The only difference is instead of moving a mouse or controller you’re moving your body.

For me, I started with the old but classic game Diablo from Blizzard. A friend of mine brought it over and we installed it on one of my computers. At that time my computer was by no means the best in the world but it did the job fine (this was around 10 years ago). Diablo required many skills:
Coordination, attacking, moving, and healing simultaneously.
Strategy, planning and creating ever-changing strategies based on the creatures encountered for each level and area of the dungeon.
Efficiency, choosing what to wear, sell and buy as well as what additional equipment to bring into the dungeon and which potions to carry.

These, together with others I haven’t named, created the foundation for other skills I would later learn.

The next step in my Tree was Diablo II, rather appropriately. The same friend brought it over a few years later. It was much like Diablo but required additional skills and more in-depth skills:
Increased Coordination, with many more skills, more ways of healing & need for quicker healing, and increased need for movement.
Dynamic Strategies, there were many more monsters, much larger areas to traverse, and a wider range of skills to fight with. This required me to be able to analyze a situation quickly and determine the best method of combating it based on what I had on me and what I knew of the enemy.
Research, Diablo II had many more aspects, as mentioned above. This brought the need to know more things, so I studied the game book to learn the strengths and weaknesses of creatures.
Planning, With increased knowledge of the game I was able to plan for rewards I knew I would get, allowing me to build other aspects of my character up to that point. I also knew when and where to expect certain monsters, which allowed me to plan and prepare myself accordingly.
More Precise Efficiency, Diablo II had many more weapons and armor so it was more difficult to choose a great weapon out of the good weapons. The correct armor had to be used, sometimes requiring the purchase of new armor, to combat the enemy’s attacks efficiently.

As you can see, some skills have already been built upon while more were added. Of course both of these games were the same type. A year or two after playing Diablo II the same friend introduced me to a web browser game called RuneScape. I was doubtful that it could stack up against Diablo II but after seeing him do some stuff I tried it when I came home.

Runescape mostly taught me new skills because its game play was pretty different from Diablo II’s:
Online Social Interaction, I was playing in a multiplayer environment with thousands of other players, this slowly trained my internet conversational skills.
Keyboard use, Runescape taught me how to actually use the keyboard rather than the hotkey punching I did in Diablo. Chatting to players required me to type intelligent sentences (because back in my day almost everyone spoke English, ‘noob-speak’ didn’t exist). The more I wanted to talk, the faster I typed. This increased my keyboard skills because my hands slowly learned the position of the keys and how to put them together to form the words my brain knew.
Money Management, Money was hard to come by when I first started playing and every decision concerning it was made carefully.

Runescape also slowly taught me other computer skills and uses for the computer, as odd as that might sound. Eventually I heard about a a good fansite which had calculators and quest guides. These helped me Plan how I would do a quest or train a skill.

Eventually I found one of the most important things in my computer career, RuneScape Bits & Bytes, affectionately called “RSBandB”. RSBandB brought me into my first major forum. The Graphics Community helped uncover my love of graphics and helped it grow. Much of what I know is due to either them teaching me or providing me with information. Now, even though I’m by no means the greatest graphics artist, that knowledge still helps me on a weekly basis.

RSBandB also helped grow some other skills, one of which should be no surprise: Writing! I wasn’t much of a writer before I came to RSBandB. Just posting on threads started the basis of my writing skills(when I say ‘writing skills’ I don’t mean ABC’s and stuff like that, I mean multi-paragraph intelligent writing). After some time I found a RR or ‘Round Robin’, a type of story where multiple writers (which are of course the readers as well) take turns posting a part of the story. This combined writing skills already learned from normal posting with stories learned from other games, books, and movies as well as a healthy dash of imagination to start my real writing or, as some Teachers call it, ‘Creative Writing’.

This really helped my writing skills because I started writing progressively longer posts which helped my ‘Writing Attention-span’, if you know what I mean. Eventually I joined the writing staff of the RSBandB Informer which was a great honor and learning experience. Over the years the management(Shane, Brad, MQ, & Kulla) as well as other writers have helped me write better. Encouragement from the readers also helped a lot.

I could probably go on and on about how the Gaming Industry has shaped my personal skills just by having seemingly ‘simple’ and amusing things. I’ve by no means talked about everything I’ve ever did or learned from computer games and the many mediums connected with them, but I hope this has helped shine a little light on the Good side of video and computer games.

And…come to think of it, I actually hadn’t planned to go this indepth about my personal experiences. I guess next month I’ll write the article I was actually planning on writing which helps show how skills learned throughout the gaming world affect lives and careers in a good way.

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  • Duke Juker Says:
    24th January 2011, at 4:03am

    An interesting take, though quite problematic. While it’s all fine and dandy to try and relate video games to worthwhile knowledge and experience, I feel that at best your only grasping at straws. In truth, I agree with you in saying that there is much hype over the damage video games cause. However, to move into the realm of equating pros and cons of gaming, your reaching a touchy subject.

    First and foremost, I would argue you could gain any of these skills doing any other activity (most likely more productive) besides gaming. I could easily learn coordination from yoga, gymnastics, or sports rather than playing a video game. And in truth, you’ll only gain coordination of your hands rather than of your entire body. Money management skills are best learned when you are dealing with real money and applyable cost-benefit analysis. It doesn’t hurt to loose 1 million gp in Runescape as it does to loose $1 million in real life. When risk is higher and closer to your real situation, you will manage your money and learn to do it fast.

    Next, most situations you encounter in a game do not happen in real life. For example, though terrorism is a threat, It’s highly unlikely you are going to fight the way you do in a game as you would in real life. You aren’t going to rush a building full of terrorists and make it out in one piece as you might in CoD or BFBC2. There is more careful planning and subtle tactics used to solve problems like that in real life.

    Lastly, gaming developers are trying to make money, not make smarter people. They may make a game that appeals to a person with high intelligence, but the bottom line of almost every developer is to make money. If this is the case, than it’s hard to imagine why they wouldn’t tailor a game to what a player wants for entertainment rather than for education. In essence, gamers want to have fun, not develop life skills. Granted, for something like an RPG, you need to have skills closely related to life, but it won’t hurt you terribly if you screw up in a game.

    Criticism aside, I do agree gaming does produce some good. While gaming portrays unrealistic scenarios, you are still engaged in thinking. “If I’m going to do this given the circumstances, what’s my best approach?” Take for example a guild on WoW (since I play it). “If I’m going to get better gear, I’m going to need people to help me. A guild will help me do that.” Guilds, though not encountered in real life as they are in games, are great ways to solving problems in games. People are able to pool their time and resources in order to gain what they want. Everybody essentially wins in the end, the catch being you have a good enough guild master and officers who aren’t corrupt by power and influence. Point is that problems you try to solve in games are similar to real life. The scenarios aren’t the same, but the underlying problems are.

    In the future, our markets will be full of “gaming-minded” labor. Gamers who think outside the box and with fewer restraints can get a lot more accomplished than normal minded people. The question is, how can we incorporate or realize the full potential of this thinking as well as the “skills” that are produced? Only time will tell. I’d like to end by saying that I don’t completely disagree with the article or fully agree either. There are good points and bad points. What I think we need to understand as time goes on is that there will always be gaming and people to play games. No matter how much people cry or believe games do harm, people will still game. As a result, I think we ought to embrace what we have and try to figure out how to use gaming for good rather than just trying to eliminate it entirely in whatever form it is in.

  • Sid Says:
    24th January 2011, at 4:46am

    I quite agree with you, with the ever-evolving progression and development of gaming, consoles and technology, certainly now, a wide range of games can actually be very beneficial whether this is educational, fitness oreientated or just good stimulation for the brain.

    As with anything in life though – too much of anything is bad for you.