President, Games for Change
Since the early days of video games — when Pong, Tetris, and others first captivated a generation — games have brought people together and offered a place for connection and belonging. And never has this been more true than during the challenging times of COVID-19.
While parents may have wondered about kids and too much game playing, over the past year, they have seen how games have been a bright spot for their kids — providing a space to hang out and play with friends when in-person activities were impossible. On a broader scale, games have also helped with mental health by providing a much needed de-stressor activity when the news and, well, life, has been too much.
Beyond the fun, there are also important skills that games foster in young people, particularly those that are becoming increasingly valuable in today’s job market: communication, collaboration, complex problem-solving and critical thinking. Even playing the most commercial multiplayer game provides an opportunity for children to work with other players to overcome challenges and master skills. For example, “leveling up,” a familiar game mechanic, incentivizes players to develop resilience.
A recent study (carried out by the National Literacy Trust, the Association of UK Interactive Entertainment, and Penguin Random House) set out to explore the effects video games have on children’s literacy at school. The research revealed that playing video games can support young people when it comes to their literacy skills, creativity, and empathy.
There is also the opportunity to convert a young person’s passion for consuming games into a career path where they can create video games. In December 2020, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) released a new economic impact report for the U.S. video game industry that indicated gaming directly generated economic output of $40.9 billion in 2019 and provided direct employment to 143,045 people.
These jobs range from programmers to artists, marketing executives to musicians, business development to finance to human resources. And gaming — from the tech to the theory — has expanded into other industries; from healthcare to education to civics and more. What better opportunity for a young gamer than to work in a growing sector that also meets their passions!
Next time mom or dad complains when their kid picks up the controller, remember there’s more to that game — from social interaction to skill development to fostering career aspirations.