Our new Indie Games subforum is now open for business in G&T. Go and check it out, you might land a code for a free game. If you're developing an indie game and want to post about it, follow these directions. If you don't, he'll break your legs! Hahaha! Seriously though.
Our rules have been updated and given their own forum. Go and look at them! They are nice, and there may be new ones that you didn't know about! Hooray for rules! Hooray for The System! Hooray for Conforming!
We all keep hearing from people who rarely play video games or who are afraid of them that they're useless, mindless, "not art" (that one insults me the most) and that they have no value save being entertaining to the player.
In more than 20 years of playing video games, I know this is not true, and I've started thinking back on all the useful things I've learned while playing video games. By this, I mean things that were useful outside of video games (i.e. not "By playing Super Mario Brothers I learned to become really good at 2D platformers.")
Anyway, here are some of the things I can think of:
- A friend of mine got an NES a couple of years before I did, and one of the first games he got was Contra: a game that was then notorious (in my area, at least) for its violence. But to us, the violence was secondary to the gameplay, and in particular, we learned to play cooperatively, to make compromises on our own advancement so that the other player could stay "in the game" and help out later on. Cooperation is a powerful skill to have, regardless of the context.
- A lot of games help develop problem-solving skills (if someone could post some links to recent studies I remember reading about that show that kids who play more video games tend to have better problem-solving skills in general, I would be very grateful) but I think the first one, for me, was Dragon Warrior. It was one of the first games I remember playing that actively encouraged solving puzzles and developing strategies to progress. Problem-solving is now one of my main skills.
- Civilization. Where to start? The amount of real knowledge to be found in this game was, and still is (with the sequels) impressive. And the best part: if you're into the game, the historical learning is a painless side-effect. But the one thing that Civilization teaches that is otherwise hard to convey in books or school lectures is the scope of progress that human civilization has made in the past 5000 years or so. Only by playing the game can you really "grok" what an accomplishment our current civilization is (if, after reading that last sentence you feel like posting a cynical reply about our current civilization, I suggest you go back and play the game again... see if that sense of wonder doesn't come back to you just a little...)
I could go on about some of the games that blew me away so much that they made me want to learn computer programming and later become a video game designer, but that would still be too close to home; I'm looking for things that are useful outside the context of video games.