I’ve been talking to and reading articles about parents who are complaining about gaming to much and ruining their kids. It’s an old problem, and after some thought I think it’s a hard problem – bad parenting. I’m definitely not a parenting expert, but let me explain why and what needs to change.
Parents I talk to who understand the games they’re kids play are universally less negative about them. They still think it’s proportionally too much, but they perceive value in them. The negative writing I see almost always starts with the presumption that games are inherently useless (comparable to drugs). I think the key to balancing kids lives is to get kids thinking about this value. They need to practice critical gaming.
Think about books, for comparison. I spent the whole weekend reading The Golden Compass trilogy, and I’d hardly call it a good use of 15 hours. Highly unproductive, non-responsive to other tasks, etc. I enjoyed it sure, but most parents think that’s better because I was reading, rather then being a slob. And why is reading important? Because critical thinking is important. We test for critical reading, to determine how smart people are. I think, we even test for critical gaming. Analytical problems. How to seat people at a table, stay within a budget, quickly solve problems, these are all critical gaming skills.
So I encourage parents to foster critical gaming skills. Just like you don’t want your kids reading junk fiction all the time, you push them out of their comfort zone. You talk and encourage them to read other related, more complicated texts. You ask them critical questions about the book. You ask them what they like and don’t like and what they would change. You get them to write.
All these things we can do with games, and we do do with games. In fact, the inherent analysis part of every game mechanic already encourages critical thinking. If we just teach critical thinking as we do for books (or movies, or news, et all), we can work with kids to expand their horizons and be their best.