I play video games. I have since I was big enough to pick up a controller. From classics like Duck Hunt and Tecmo Bowl, to modern day marvels like the God of War series and NCAA Football 2010, you name it, I’ve probably played it. With an estimated 40 percent of Americans playing video games too, this use of time often comes into question.
Are my fellow video-gamers and I simply being “massaged” by the mass media? I think not. Video games and simulations are showing their teeth as tools, not just as pass-time entertainment. I’ll use the world of sports as an example.
“I didn’t get any test or practice time here at Pocono [raceway] this year because of rain-so, I just spent hours playing this year’s Nascar game by EA Sports,” Nascar driver Kasey Kahne told Krista Voda of Fox Sports in 2008.
“I used the simulators to learn my marks on the track and I’m blown away at how well the game racing translates to the real racecar,” he said. The realistic simulation helped Kahne win the race without taking even a single practice lap.
Sure, I’ll be the first to say that playing a game of EA’s NBA ’11 definitely won’t help an athlete jump higher or run faster, but gaming can help develop that athlete’s cognition, situational awareness, and understanding of a play or playbook.
This is why it’s not uncommon and certainly not shocking to see athletes playing the video games that showcase their particular sport. While nothing can ever substitute for real practice and training, there may be a great advantage in keeping game situations fresh on the mind. Sports video games can aid with this process.
Even in the real world, gaming has very practical applications. The US Military uses simulations to train many of our soldiers. There’s even word of first-person shooters like the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series being used as recruiting and training tools for the armed forces.
Pilots, doctors and police officers all use virtual simulations before coming into contact with their real-life work scenarios. These are the people we trust with our lives and if we’re using game-like simulations in these fields, we should think about expanding the use of the simulations.
Current program software for video gaming is a modern day marvel. The physics technology in today’s sports video games gives a hyper-realistic simulation of how high a baseball will bounce off of grass versus a dirt in-field, and can even calculate how a boxer’s height and reach truly impact a bout.
In the future, simulations and games will only become more realistic. Take a look at the Major League Baseball video game line-up this past spring-the visual detail is unparalleled, and so is the way the game is presented. Full major league announcing crews voice the ballgames, and everything is layered to look just like the TV broadcasts. The lines between virtual and live action are becoming ever more blurry.
Bottom line: Too much of a good thing is bad. We don’t want our kids to grow up vegging out in front of the ‘tube’ for six straight hours, but there is substance to the spoils here. In moderation, I feel that gaming is not only an entertaining hobby, but also a worthwhile one. Not much beats sitting down to your favorite new video game at the end of a stressful day of school, work and life. If you’re not a gamer, I suggest that you give it a try-you might even find yourself learning something.