Gaming – good, bad or both?

Photo: Abdul Barie/ unsplash


By Matt Bentley

I don’t play computer games much anymore but they are certainly part of my past. Parents or caregivers might ask, are games really of any redeeming value or just an empty distraction with a danger of addiction?

The answer to both of those questions is, of course, yes. Games can be good, but often aren’t, and they certainly can do a number on your dopamine regulation.

Like any form of entertainment, games are typically designed to be as contagious and addictive as possible, and to appeal to our baser instincts. However they are also capable of both artistic endeavour and high education – like any other form of entertainment.

With that in mind I’ve compiled a list of games I recommend as being of actual value, either scholastically or artistically:

1. Fez. This mind-bending puzzle platform game is not only aesthetically pleasing, it also manages to be very engaging without a single violent act. Released in 2015, it’s had high praise ever since. Personally I like the music.
2. This War of Mine. A 2-dimensional simulation of what it’s like to be a civilian in an active war zone, the game teaches empathy by showing the hard, morally-grey choices that people in those situations have to face. It’s effective enough that it’s been integrated into the curriculum at some high schools. Not for kids.
3. Kerbal Space Program. Many people have said they learned more about physics from this game than they did from their actual study of physics. Very popular with kids.
4. Braid. A bit of a high-brow title, this puzzle game is based around time and perception. While on the surface it is very elegant and beautiful, thematically it contains nods to moral ambivalence of science and the building of the atomic bomb.
5. Human Resource Machine. This and it’s sequel, 7 Billion Humans, are both very quirky titles with a great sense of humour. Surreptitiously, however, they manage the almost-impossible task of teaching low-level programming and making it fun.

There are others I could recommend, all of which have merit. But there is even a downside to games which purport to be educational such as the above; gamification, or the idea that everything should be fun. As you know, a lot of life and learning is neither fun nor easy. Games, and particularly the more popular titles, tend to provide quick and easy dopamine hits which can detract from the motivation to achieve hard goals in real life. As with a lot of internet content, people can become accustomed to that quick fix, and neglect to do the hard yards to achieve longer-lasting happiness.

But games are hardly alone in this regard, so what this means is that like any other form of media, gaming should be in moderation – time should be monitored as well as content. For every Fez, there’s a Fortnite and for every ‘This war of Mine’, there’s an ‘Among us’. Games come and go as fads nowadays, and are kind of the modern equivalent of what music was in the 80s and 90s. So which concerts do you allow your kids to go to?

Photo of Matt BentleyIs your computer no longer fun? Phone Matt at 0211-348-576 or send him an email by clicking here.

Matt Bentley is the repair guy at Bentley Home PC Support.

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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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