Improving Planning with Video Games

It’s Dad’s day to cook at your house so you are busy planning the ingredients and steps you will need for a feast of grilled pizza, Caesar’s salad, and dessert. You observe your 13 year old who has just gotten off the computer after an hour of what appeared to be intense concentration. He seems happy and tells you that he was finally able to complete a new quest in his favorite game. He went on to say, “I had to get more weapons, repair my armor, stock up on health potions, and then learn a new magic spell so I could be strong enough to take on the dragon.  The dragon kept beating me, so I had to get more health potions in order to survive. My attacks weren’t hurting him so I had to learn a new spell, and finally I was able to beat him.”

After listening, you realize that just like how you planned out the ingredients and prepared your meal, your son had been using an array of Planning skills in order to beat his game. Planning involves skills such as foresight, applying previous experience to a new situation, and the ability to deal with impediments towards achieving a goal. It requires the ability to identify, and follow through with a specific goal. Good planning skills also involve recognizing your own strengths and skills, as well as thinking about the challenges you might face.

Video games have long been recognized as an opportunity for using problem-solving skills. The majority of great video games present players with challenges and problems to solve. While some non-gamers may think that video games are simply a “point and shoot,” or hand-eye coordination challenge, the fact is that games that kids (and adults) play the longest require a significant level of problem solving and oftentimes, direct planning.

The type of planning that is necessary to beat the challenges presented by video games may also be applied to particular problems around the house. Something as simple as cleaning up an incredibly messy room, or figuring out how to get ready for school in the morning, involves the use of good planning skills. You may notice that your child can be very thoughtful about the planning necessary to beat his favorite video game, but may need more prompting to apply these planning skills to his daily activities. However, helping your child to see that game-based planning is not all that different (although maybe not as much fun) from the planning skills needed for real-world activities, will be beneficial for him for years to come.

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