Video games have been around since 1958 when a physicist invented what would become known as the tennis game ‘Pong’. Since then, video games have come a long way both in graphic quality and storytelling, leading to video games currently being the most popular and profitable form of entertainment. There are many varieties of games, with a style or story for everyone. Video games are more accessible than ever, with anyone able to play games on either a computer, console, tablet, or phone.
In recent years, video games have moved from just a playable experience to a visual media, thanks in part to the rise of YouTube and streaming platforms such as Twitch. Today, you can find content online about your favourite games. Top-level professional tournaments currently draw millions of views, with peak viewership equal to that of the NRL and AFL Grand Finals. Video games currently occupy a significant amount of the media, that young people consume.
Gaming can be an enjoyable experience and can also have positive benefits such as improving basic visual processing, enhancing executive functioning, enhance hand-eye coordination, improve working memory, and rapid decision-making ability. Games also have the ability to support us to learn social cues and initiate relationships. There is also research to suggest that certain games may be able to support the reduction of anxiety and depression symptoms.
Video games can provide an opportunity to build rapport with a child or adolescent and support a non-threatening atmosphere for them to open up. A 2007 study reported that only 5% of boys and 6% of girls said that they played video games with their parents or caregivers at home. Engaging with children with a focus on their interests is an important part of establishing a positive relationship.
Ways to engage with your child around games:
Take an interest in their interests:
Be interested in what they are playing, do it in a way that shows them that you are actually interested in what they are doing. Start by asking little questions like what the aim of the game is (e.g. are they building a house in Minecraft or trying to be the last player alive in Fortnite). Maybe they are trying to build up and unlock a skin. While the aim may not important to you, to them it is important.
Ask/want to learn:
As adults, we often don’t take the time to learn from children. When it comes to games, for the most part, children have an incredible knowledge of the games they play. It’s ok not to know about the newest mob added to Minecraft, sit down and ask your child to teach you about the game they play.
Put aside some time to do something with your child, that they want to do. Schedule a regular time that you will be able to keep and make sure that your child knows it is happening. At first, you might start off just watching them play a game, but over time start to build up how much you are engaging and participating.
Use the games to discuss complex and difficult issues:
Games offer a unique opportunity to explore difficult concepts and discuss them in a way that makes sense to your child. For example, Minecraft mobs (e.g. an Ender man) can be used to look at anxiety. By talking about things in a way that fits the child’s interest, not only do they feel like you are interested in them, but they also have a greater understanding of what is being discussed.