Are video games good for you?

17 Jan 2020

Are video games good for you? 

Probably most gamers have asked themselves this kind of question at least once. Are video games good for children? Are video games good or bad? What are the advantages of video games?

Short answer: It depends! After all, “competent, and above all motivated and open parents are able to use almost every game in education, although some are better suited for it.” Today we’re bringing to you an article by Damian Gałuszka, a graduate of Game Studies and the author of several books about video games! 

Let us know what you think about the article! Share your own ideas and experiences. So, how can video games be beneficial?

Damian Gałuszka, The Faculty of Humanities of the AGH University of Science and Technology

Video games with educational potential

Many years ago, Henry Jenkins, a famous media expert, described the process of digitizing children’s play spaces. Citing his own example and juxtaposing it with the life of his teenage son, he noticed that modern children have access to an infinite number of alternative virtual worlds. The tone of Jenkins’s statement is surprising, as he sees it as an opportunity rather than a threat.

Every generation has their favorite toys. Before the digital revolution, they assumed a mainly physical character—dolls and their houses, teddy bears, cars, railroads and blocks. The latter are sometimes wooden, then plastic. Many of us remember the excitement of our first electric train and setting up the tracks and all the other pieces. There were also more complex sets, with cars, garages and other elements of a street system. From my own childhood I remember the electric version of a set like this. Two vehicles and controllers, plus a foldable track. All the fun came from pressing a button on the controller, which was responsible for the speed of the car moving along the track. So simple, but these simple races generated varied reactions—joy, sadness, and sometimes anger. They were also an opportunity to have fun together with playmates, and sometimes parents. With time, the plastic elements landed in the attic and I began exploring virtual racing. I remember games from the Rally Championship, Collin McRae Rally, DiRT, TOCA and the Need for Speed series, which were really exciting for me—both when playing against the computer and other players in split screen mode and online. These emotions are just as important to me as the ones stirred by playing with physical toy cars.

I mention this because the inspiration to write this text was the Little Racer game available on the Nintendo Switch console. The game reproduces the aforementioned type of playing, but at the same time expands it with several additional possibilities that widen the potential of this production for educational play with others—which I always support.

Pedagogues have long sensitized parents to numerous problems associated with early and intensive involvement of young people in the digital world. A common phenomenon is the use of digital devices and games as a kind of “babysitter”. A child put in front of a screen gets involved quickly, and often a busy parent gains some time for themselves. What’s more, many parents don’t even know what their children are actually doing, which is often the case with video games. This results from depreciating fun, a lack of interest in games or treating adult games as primitive or completely innocent entertainment. Sometimes, insufficient parental competence is an obstacle. I write more about all this in my book, Video Games in a Family Environment, Diagnosis and Recommendations, also showing how games can be used in the educational process.

A competent, and above all motivated and open parent is able to use almost every game in education, although some are better suited for it. Little Racer has several features of a family-friendly game, as it is relatively easy to use for creative and shared fun with children.

First of all, it is a game that can connect different generations. As I mentioned at the beginning, some adults or parents may from their own youth remember building tracks and then staging races on them with small cars. What is more, some of them may have felt excitement playing the games mentioned before. That’s what Little Racer is about. Nostalgia, sentiment for the adults, as well as constant fascination with “springs” among the younger generations at the very beginning creates a chance to play together. Another advantage is the colorful, simplified and non-violent audiovisual setting. The gameplay itself does not require special skills – a bit like in the old days it is enough to master just a few buttons on the Switch controller. This means that parents should not be overly concerned about their skills, or whether someone will have to wait too long for their turn. Four people can participate in the game at once, so almost the whole family can compete together. Little Racer is not complicated, but the developers have taken care to make the gameplay varied and engaging. The game has 30 levels in 10 toy worlds, as well as numerous achievements and unlockable performance vehicles. Finally, probably the most interesting functionality is the track editor, in which you can create your own custom races. The only limit here is the player’s imagination. In a family context, it can be used to develop just the right game. Depending on the child’s age, the parent can help to the degree needed in the process of building the track. Parents can inspire children with real tracks or planning completely crazy and unreal arenas. This is an example of a parent’s active mediation, which, using his own knowledge and commitment, not only understands what content the child is exposed to, but also builds common experiences with him, inspires specific activities and extends the time of play with additional educational value. Little Racer will certainly help in this, although of course, everything ultimately depends on the approach of the adult.

Little Racer is obviously not the only game worth mentioning in the context of family-friendly games that develop skills. I recommend the Common Sense Media website for parents who want to read reviews and opinions on family-friendly games, published there for years. It’s useful to read the website and acquire the knowledge important for every modern parent whose child is no longer functioning only in the physical world, but also the virtual one.

Little Racer

Little Racer is a dynamic racing game straight from your childhood. Enjoy various tracks, avoid obstacles and speed your way to the finish line. Slot cars are back in retro style!

Everything about Little Racer:

About the author:

Damian Gałuszka is a graduate of Game Studies. He published a few books and studies how video games influence people. 

About The Knights of Unity:

The Knights of Unity is a game development studio founded in 2015 in Wrocław, Poland. The team has outsourced more than 80 titles for companies like Team17, Interplay, and Daedalic. In 2018 The Knights of Unity launched their first internally developed game, Scythe: Digital Edition, an adaptation of the award winning board game. Their latest title Tools Up!, a party co-op game about home renovation, launched in December 2019 and was warmly received by players.