How gaming can help your kids develop key skills

19th July 2023

Every parent seeks to help their kids through childhood, transferring knowledge at every turn to best prepare them to strike out on their own. But the world of work changes immeasurably with every generation – prioritising different skills as new industries come to the fore. While today’s parents might have grown up with video games as a mere pastime, this fast-growing space is already a colossal industry making a major impact on the way we live and work.

It helps to start early. According to Internet Matters, a trusted EE partner and leading expert in online safety, kids who game can build a diverse range of skills – including social skills – helping to set them up for a happier, healthier life.


Stay cool under pressure

What’s the first thing you look for in a surgeon? A steady hand under pressure no doubt. Fortunately, has been shown to gaming sharpens hand-eye coordination – including in the operating theatre. Any game where the player has to track or move an item on screen helps train muscles and nerves.

Experts from Penn State University and the University of Southern California showed that games which require quick reactions and movement tracking, such as Fortnite, offer the most benefit. Building games such as Minecraft, where coordination is key to getting the result you want, or Super Mario Bros. and other platformers that require precise timing, also help refine dexterity and efficiency.

These are transferable skills that carry over to careers and adult life.


Video games are modern social networks

Many video games are social spaces as much as virtual playgrounds – putting tired tropes of lone players in dark basements to bed as mere myth. These days, kids hang out with friends while exploring or competing in the digital environments of Fortnite, Roblox and other multiplayer titles.

Gaming teaches valuable communication and teamwork skills just like hanging out at the mall or playground. Popular online games such as Final Fantasy XIV, World of Warcraft and Destiny teach players to work together in groups to delegate tasks and agree plans.

They also tend to communicate more with others in general, even if not in person. A study from Internet Matters and Electronic Arts showed that when players aren’t speaking to one another within games themselves, they’re still finding ways to stay in touch. WhatsApp and text are common mediums, but gamers also often form or join servers on Discord with friends to coordinate play sessions via messaging or voice chat.


Press X to level up your brain

A growing trend in education research sees video games as uniquely suited for teaching creative, open-ended problem-solving skills – ones less regularly fostered in traditional education.

Sandbox and open-world games have the most to offer here. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom invites players to solve puzzles using intuitive engineering tools. The Witcher is full of moral quandaries, prompting players to think deeply about possible consequences for their actions. Minecraft and Roblox each give gamers a blank slate to construct living worlds
for themselves and other players.

It helps if you play as well. Parents who play with their children reported that the experience made their kids more creative and that it even helped improve their confidence. 

These benefits extend to more than just problem solving. Children who play games score better on tests measuring cognitive abilities in general. Navigating 3D worlds – whether in a shooter or adventure game – helps develop spatial recognition and other skills useful for complex careers, such as computer-aided design in architecture. Neuroscientists also believe that gaming builds new neural pathways, which improves brain health and makes the brain more resistant to decay as it ages.


Sparking creativity through gaming

At the centre of these brain-boosting powers is creativity. Parents might worry about the time kids spend in video game worlds, but this form of modern escapism has been shown to help rejuvenate the imagination for children and adults alike.

The idea is that gaming helps people enter a “flow state” that’s similar to meditation. This helps to promote new ideas and fresh approaches free from the constraints of normal life.

Games that put players in a positive mood and stimulate the senses are more likely to help transport them to that coveted flow state. This could come from the energetic release of Just Dance or the slow-paced zen of Animal Crossing. More serious games – try Case of the Golden Idol or Curse of the Obra Dinn – tend to promote analytical thinking, stimulating a different part of the brain. According to another study, titles like the aforementioned Minecraft and Roblox best encourage exploration and creation.

Whatever the game or platform, these experiences create unique incentives by letting players shape the world as they see fit, and the result is a substantial creative boost.


Powering up players

If your child is an avid player of video games, perhaps it’s time to acknowledge the potential benefits of their hobby – and even take part yourself. Setting limits around content of games and duration played is of course healthy, but engaging your child in open dialogue will help both parties understand one another – and could even improve your relationship. Ultimately, time spent in virtual worlds can prove valuable development for both body and mind.

The EE Game Store is your destination for all things gaming. Whatever your child’s interest, you’ll find a title that appeals.

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