UK Celebration of Video Games
In the UK we are celebrating National Video Games day, acknowledging the history of video games. Your first thoughts may be why is a Health and Safety Training Provider posting about this, are they going to put a negative spin on video games? In fact I don’t want to put a downer on gaming which is a great recreation, more than what I think it is given credit for, but as the majority of our readers generally want to see Health and Safety content, we should also touch slightly on the dangers around gaming.
I am a huge gamer, I have played tens of thousands of hours of games with my favourites being DOTA 2, Street Fighter and more recently Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds. First of all I think as we specialize in eLearning I should talk about how I feel video games assisted me in learning throughout my childhood (and even my adulthood.)
I got my first computer when I was about 4. This was a Commodore 64 and my uncle taught me the basics of loading a datasette (cassette with data). I had to do this every time to play my games and it wasn’t as simple as selecting options from a Graphical User Interface like consoles provide nowadays. This is probably the first experience I had with command lines and it taught me about how to operate a computer with text.
Pros of gaming
Gaming as a reward
After a while I played quite a few games on the SNES and Sega and got incredibly proficient at most of the levels, but I wasn’t allowed to spend all of my spare time playing video games. If I came home from school, did my chores, homework and ate all of my tea I would be allowed to play games. This worked on a lot of levels and encouraged me to come back home and swiftly complete all of my tasks, I had a routine from a young age that I would complete without fail.
We are seeing gamification of eLearning content becoming more prevalent in the industry, we like to be challenged as we do rewarded. Being put against other students in a quiz with a leaderboard encourages the learners to do better and to become number one.
Games have also been proven to assist those with learning difficulties. Many games require teamwork and it can help to develop social skills as they communicate with teammates and friends to achieve a goal. Using controllers can aid in developing motor skills, aiding dyslexia and teaching them valuable points whilst they play.
I have never suffered with difficulties in learning however it was always a challenge for me to stay engaged with people who spoke to me, this included teachers. I tend to let my mind wander yet I find whilst playing a game I am able to focus my attention on one thing. What I started to find is that I had to be challenging myself constantly and I feel like this may have come from gaming where I was always competing with the game to try to beat it.
When I went to university I found that I set myself ridiculous challenges that I had to try and complete. This made me work harder than others in my class, this made me learn a lot of things myself. A few of the projects I was working on hadn’t been done previously as I experimented with QR Codes for Augmented Reality programs, this was an area I had to teach myself as my lecturers hadn’t experienced this previously. I think that gaming really helped me to develop this ability as I was thrown into all kinds of situations in my gaming career.
My favourite was a project we received where the brief was to create a game for between one and an unlimited amount of players in the city centre of Hull to help bring people together. This was a simple whack-a-mole idea that was supposed to be launched on a big screen that was stationed in the city centre that would see lots of people running to different locations to get the most points to hit the moles. A photo would be taken afterwards of the team. Unfortunately the project was pulled halfway through due to the big screen being pulled, but it would have been both a physical and social game. As time goes on physical games are becoming more popular with consoles like the Wii-U or add-ons like the Kinect or PlayStation Camera lowly ridding many peoples view of “lazy gamers”.
Cons of gaming (and what can be done)
Negative conceptions of gaming
I am completely against the opinion that video game content damages young people’s minds. I only believe this is the case if guidelines are not understood. I regularly see parents buying games with an 18 rating on for their child who isn’t half the recommended age. Many of these games are quite disturbing and even as an adult some have put me on edge.
Health and Safety
Health and safety is something that is commonly overlooked when gaming, yet it is a real concern.
RSI – Repetitive Strain Injury
I do rarely get a mild pain in my right wrist after spending a few hours playing video games. Primarily because I tend to angle my hand when playing games. I know the dangers of this and understand DSE regulations in the workplace. But at home it is my own comfort whilst gaming that is my primary focus. Whilst it isn’t great advice I do try to use my PowerBall regularly which uses a Gyro to strengthen and exercise my wrists. This is proven to reduce RSI and should be considered for any gamers that find themselves stuck in one position for hours at a time.
Virtual Reality Headsets
The problem with virtual reality is that your attention is immersed in a virtual world yet your body is still in front of your console. My living room is not the largest room of the house, yet it is where my console is set up. The issue I would face with VR is trip hazards. Now there is the obvious solution of moving everything out of the way, clearing space and giving yourself distance between the walls. But if for example I was playing a sword fighting game in VR, the last thing I would want to do is swing and hit someone as they come into the room. I also have a dog; he would be a major trip hazard. If you own animals and a VR headset, it may be worth having a baby gate to keep animals out whilst playing. If it is a small dog, the other solution is to simply shut the door.
Anger and Gamer Rage
I have seen a lot of people have something known as “Gamer Rage.” Aside from the usual cursing I have seen a friend throw a PlayStation Controller at the wall after I beat him at a beat-em-up game. Not only could this have seriously injured someone (they are pretty heavy) it is also quite costly to replace. This is just a mild example and if you look online, you will see some outrageous displays of gamer rage.
Video Game Epilepsy
I have seen a few people experience epileptic fits; it is worth noting that these were not all caused by gaming. In those situations it can be one of the most terrifying moments of your life (in my opinion.) Fortunately I have always been around people who have been trained to deal with this. There are quite a few things that can be done to reduce the chance of a seizure. Taking regular breaks and ensuring you are sleeping well can help prevent fits.
It’s not uncommon for many gamers to experience headaches, eye discomfort and blurry vision after playing games for some time. As mentioned previously, taking regular breaks and looking out the window whilst a game loads the next level should be considered with the recommended breaks being 5 minutes for every 20 minutes of gameplay. Another thing you can do is sit at least 6 feet away from the display screen.
I am excited to celebrate National Video Games day. They have been a large part of my life and have encouraged my learning. Whilst it may not be for some, I feel like the advancements in gaming are benefiting multiple industries and without them it is unlikely we would have such advanced interactive education. This is something that has shown to benefit primarily the medical industry, giving them an almost realistic experience.
Games are everywhere both for recreation and education, and it is nice to see new ways that these are being used.
Have games enhanced your learning? If you feel like someone else needs to take a few steps to preventing injury to themselves or others whilst gaming feel free to give us a quick share.