The Positive Effects of Video Games to Special Children

“Games can be powerful tools to improve our attention, our mood, our cognitive strengths, and our relationships.” — Jane McGonigal, PhD


Since the 1990’s, video games have been a subject of controversy to the public eye. When something violent happens and it was a teenager or a young adult who did it, parents and news reporters would point it out to video games and its developers as the source of that violent behavior. As a result, video games have become an easy target for many violent tendencies and antisocial behaviors.

Negative effects like increased aggression, increased anxiety, addiction, and also heath consequencences like obesity gets more media coverage than the positive ones. But have you ever wondered what those positive effects are? There is now a wealth of research which shows video games can be put to educational and therapeutic uses.

According to Miss Jane McGonigal, a world-renowned designer of alternate-reality games who has a Ph.D. in performance studies, wants to change people’s conception of video games as “just escapist, guilty pleasures.” Miss McGonigal tells Business Insider that she wants people to realize that games can be “powerful tools to improve our attention, our mood, our cognitive strengths, and our relationships.”

Also, a research from North Carolina State University and Florida State University suggests that mainstream games geared toward entertainment can help improve attention, spatial orientation, and problem-solving abilities. Video games can also enhance ones problem-solving skills because it requires the player to think logically, match or recognize patterns, complete sequences, or solve puzzles based on science, math, or language.

A recent discovery in biology is a good example of how problem-solving skills in video gamers helped solve a real-world problem. On the year 2008, researchers in the University of Washington created a game called Foldit, which let the players model a genetic makeup of proteins. The phase estimates made by high-scoring players helped in the the identification of the crystal structure for a monkey virus related to AIDS. This breakthrough can be largely attributed to the problem-solving skills exercised during the gameplay.

One of the most important positive effects of video games is that it develops ones interactivity. Playing with video games involves interacting with the characters of the game; though the characters aren’t real people, they do give the players a glimpse of real-world interactions and can also help induce leadership in children.

Video games can also be used for educational purposes. With the use of video games, learning becomes fun. Moreover, the games have reward systems; a players score points, advances to a new level, or gets a new treasure, or any kind of incentive for every achievement in the game. Video games that help cognitive development or those that boost creativity can be made a part of teaching.

About Autism:

Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences. The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism.

Three Different Types of Autism Spectrum Disorder:

  • Autistic Disorder (also called as “classic autism”) – This is what most people think of when hearing the word “autism.” People with autistic disorder usually have significant significant language delays, social and communication challenges, and unusual behaviours and interests. Many people with autistic disorder also have intellectual disability.
  • Asperger Syndrome – People with Asperger syndrome usually have some milder symptoms of autistic disorder. They might have social challenges and unusual interests. However, they typically do not have problems with language or intellectual disability.
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder –  Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS; also called “atypical autism”) – People who meet some of the criteria for autistic disorder or Asperger syndrome, but not all, may be diagnosed with PDD-NOS. People with PDD-NOS usually have fewer and milder symptoms that those with autistic disorder. The symptoms might cause only social and communication challenges.

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