Games can make all of us feel good, whether we admit it or not. For children especially, games can teach valuable skills like problem solving, confidence, cooperation, sportsmanship and patience. Parents who know the benefits of their children’s participation in games also benefit from their teaching methods.
A good dictionary definition of “game” is: An interactive activity with established rules where the outcome is determined by efforts of individuals or teams. Clearly, some games are more structured than others, and often rules seem essential to define the game and keep participants within the confines of the rules. For example, consider the differences between a casino poker game and a land-based bingo game. While the players on either version of these games have a clear goal, in a casino poker game the objective is to be the first player to “buy in” at a specific price (the pay-off), while in a bingo game the objective is much more loosely defined – luck, skill, chance, etc.
So how does all of this apply to playing games in the virtual world? One way that playing games in the virtual world helps kids learn is that in most cases the outcome of real world situations is unlikely to be identical to that of virtual events. Consider the real world physics, for example: In a game like chess, one player may pin his opponent’s pieces while another player is moving his own piece forward, threatening to remove that player’s key piece. However, the outcome of this particular chess match would depend on whether each side wants to remove the corresponding key piece. In the virtual world, the virtual game world doesn’t have access to such variables, so the outcome of a chess game in this world would be completely different from the outcome in a computer game. This helps kids understand the nature of reality in a more realistic way, helping them make better decisions in the future.