While many employers and parents view computers and the Internet as a mixed blessing, most assume that there is no real upside to video games After all, the thousands of hours that young people spend playing with an Xbox, Playstation, or Wii gaming system are a waste of time: the cognitive equivalent of junk food.
Or, are they?
The members of today’s youngest generation, the Millennials or Generation Y, are the most technologically savvy in history. Unlike earlier generations, which had to adapt to new digital devices like personal computers, mobile phones, MP3 players, and video game consoles, Millennials have never known a world that wasn’t digital.
Much to the dismay of employers and parents (but to the glee of software and gaming companies) new research indicates that video games are not only not a waste of time, but they are actually a powerful tool for learning. Gaming skills as it turns out just might separate tomorrow’s most skilled, productive, successful, and wealthy performers from the rest of their generation.
Consider a few statistics that show how widespread the use of video games is for today’s American youth:
By age 21 years of age, it is estimated that the average child will have:
· Spent 10,000 hours playing video games
· Sent 200,000 emails
· Spent 20,000 hours watching TV
· Spent 10,000 hours on their cell phone
· Spent under 5,000 hours reading
But according to a recent research study at the University of Rochester, that is not all bad news. Published in the scientific journal Nature, the compared people who played video games to those who didn’t. It found that video game players consistently scored higher on standardized tests of attention span and information processing than non-players.
The Federation of American Scientists also has come out in favor of video games as a way to teach advanced mental skills, such as strategic thinking, problem solving, adapting to rapid change, forming and executing plans, and analyzing information. According to Discover.com, The Federation cites games that require teamwork, such as World of Warcraft, as useful for teaching people how to cooperate and communicate in the workplace, and it offers Madden NFL’s “owner mode,” which lets players manage the business side of a football team, as an example of a video game that teaches people how to succeed in business.
Authors John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade explain that video gamers will bring an extraordinary set of skills to the corporate world in The Kids Are Alright: How the Gamer Generation Is Changing the Workplace.
These skills include the following:
- They have developed an unprecedented ability to multi-task.
- They place a high value on being an expert.
- They creatively solve problems.
- They calculate risks and know the importance of getting a good return on investments.
- They aren’t afraid of competition.
- They love to win.
All of these qualities will make video gamers desirable employees, managers, and entrepreneurs. Moreover, Beck and Wade conducted a study that refutes the common perception of video gamers as social misfits. Gamers in their study were actually more social, more self-confident, and better leaders than non-players.
If gamers do truly possess the skills that innovative and growing businesses want, what implications will gamers have for your business? What accomodations will managers make to on-board this generation of gamers while their current workforce resists using email and the Internet? What about our educational system that continues to sprint through tar as a result of its failing technology, outdated curriculum, and aging workforce?