5 Ways Video Games Teach Self-Control Skills

Many of the most popular video games, such as The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Fruit Ninja, and Batman: Arkham City are loaded with opportunities to practice and develop the skill of Self-Control. Video games teach self-control skills in two ways: the first is in games in which players need to learn to inhibit, or stop, an action (maybe one that was used earlier in the game) in order to be successful. The second is in the games in which players must regulate their emotions to overcome difficult challenges. This type of emotional regulation may have a direct impact on game performance, such as in motion-controlled games, where players’ level of excitement and emotion can  interfere with their effectiveness. Even controlling their sense of frustration and anger after losing a life or a level in the game can be difficult.

Players need to practice Self-Control when they repeatedly have to restart areas of a game, like in the indie hit Trials HD. Also, many of the games that adults like, such as Tetris and Bejeweled, also practice self-control. These games are structured so that in order to improve your skill and reach higher levels, you need to play and lose repeatedly.

5 Ways Video Games Teach Self-Control Skills

l. To read the directions or not. While some video games teach you as you play, many games feature optional tutorials and instruction booklets. Sometimes it is best to hold off jumping into a game until you’ve read the directions and learned the game’s mechanics.

2. Managing difficulty and frustration. By remaining calm, players are more likely to perform well and overcome a challenge. Learning where the toughest parts are in a game, just like in life, can help you to recognize that you’ll need extra effort and self-control to be successful.

3. Knowing how to pace yourself. Games like Fruit Ninja require that you delay an action for a particular amount of time in order to be successful (like not slicing bombs). Similar skills are needed in RPG (role-playing) games, as lengthy battles require the player not to use up all their special attacks and magic, instead waiting for strategic moments to maximize their effectiveness.

4. Improving self-esteem.  For some children, their success at games and their capacity to overcome adversity in games clearly results in a sense of positive emotion and optimism. It can feel like quite the accomplishment to finally finish that level you’ve been trying so hard to beat.

5. Controlling one’s behavior and emotions outside of the game. Players, particularly younger ones, need to learn to control their language, emotions, and anger when playing video games. This is also true while playing competitive games online, like Super Street Fighter IV, MAG and Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

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