There have been many times over the course of my life where I’ve heard people say, “Playing games rots the brain,” or “Get out and do something productive.” As a child or teenager, I didn’t care to listen. Nor did I want anything to take away from my hours of gameplay.
As an adult looking back, I can safely say that playing games has helped enrich my life—in some ways helped shape me into the person I am. Whether they were educational games that were very direct about what they taught or titles that imparted some skill or knowledge about the world, I feel I learned a lot from video games.
Below is my list—in no particular order—of things I picked up from playing games.
1) foreign languages – You wouldn’t think that video games would be a good source for learning another language, but I have picked up something of a vocabulary from doing so. From various titles, I have picked up a bit of Spanish, French, Japanese, Russian, and even Latin. Nothing’s really stuck, but I believe I can commit certain phrases to memory by replaying select games or watching clips on YouTube. Examples: Phantasmagoria, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, Fallout 4.
2) money management – Budgeting is a key factor when it comes to simulation games particularly those where you’re put in charge of a business such as a zoo or amusement park that has to stay profitable to remain open. It took me some time to learn that the trick is to pace yourself and not spend too much at one time on upgrades. I wouldn’t say I’m perfect at money management, but there are game titles that are a good teaching tool. Examples: Sim Theme Park, Big Pharma, Zoo Tycoon.
3) firearms – Until I started playing the immersive role-playing game Fallout 3, I didn’t have very much knowledge of firearms. I have since developed a greater understanding of guns—different types and how they operate—by playing more third-person or first-person shooters. Enough to know that I favor sniper rifles, assault rifles, or a bow and arrow. Examples: the Fallout series, Skyrim, Far Cry 3.
4) card/casino/board games – Though I grew up with a small collection of board games, they failed to hold my interest once I became a teenager. I would say I’ve played the classics – Monopoly, Clue, Chess – much more in digital form. There are certain video games that feature a wide array of vintage board and card games and serve as a great way to learn about their real-world counterparts. Through video games, I’ve learned the rules and gameplay for cribbage, Chinese checkers, backgammon, and variations of poker—Let It Ride, Texas Hold Em, Three Card Poker—featured in the casino. Examples: Hoyle Board Games, Hoyle Card Games, Fallout: New Vegas, Battle Chess, Governor of Poker.
5) the art of stealth – In both the real world and simulated world, I am someone who prefers to avoid conflict as much as possible. I’ve seen gameplay videos where other gamers rush wholeheartedly into battle, but that’s simply not me. I am patient enough to bide my time and slowly take down an adversary from the shadows or quietly vacate the area. I believe I once spent an hour navigating my way through a room where a dangerous creature resided because I didn’t want to fight. Examples: the Fallout series, Skyrim, Fortnite, PUBG, Far Cry 3.
6) human nature/psychology – One of the things I like best about story-driven video games is the look they give you into different mindsets. Video games aren’t my only source for learning about the human psyche, but they are one of the most prevalent. This look at how heroes and villains react to situations or to each other has helped me greatly when it comes to crafting my own stories. I would say I have a better intuition of what would or wouldn’t work for a given character. Some of my fanfiction readers have even praised me for my representation of characters from other mediums, such as Resident Evil and Transformers. Examples: the Resident Evil series, Life is Strange, Beyond: Two Souls.
7) politics – I’ve never been a fan of politics even though it is still very much a part of my life. I get more enjoyment from politics in video games than the real world—which might be because games give you more of a say over who gets put in charge of a nation or country. In a lot of ways, a fictional leader is more appealing and ideal to me than those in real life. I feel I’ve learned more from video games about what a political leader should be and that’s someone who never stops putting the people first and acting in their best interest. I do hope that someday I get to see a president in real life who has more of a positive impact on the state of the nation. Examples: the Tropico series, Cat President, Fallout: New Vegas.
8) building management\construction – I’ve played a wide array of video games where building a military base, settlement, or house is a key feature. I’m no expert at building a compact efficient living space, but I feel I’d be proficient at designing a colony if I had to. Examples: The Sims, the Dune series, Fallout 4.
9) ancient civilizations\mythology – I’ve been fascinated with mythology ever since I was a child. Video games have served as a good way to learn more about it. Select titles I’ve played have deepened my knowledge of Greek, Egyptian, and Norse mythology, as well as provided a glimpse at the way of life of ancient civilizations. Examples: Age of Empires, Age of Mythology, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Fallout: New Vegas.
10) food preparation – I don’t know if there are any actual video games out there that impart knowledge about cooking, but I have played plenty that show how to prepare meals. When it comes to making hamburgers, cakes, or omelettes, I at least have some idea of ingredients that would go good with each. Examples: Cooking Dash, Stand O’Food, Cake Mania.
11) logic\strategy – I’ve played more than my share of puzzle-based games in my life and they remain some of my all-time favorites even though they’ve fallen by the wayside. I’ve always been good at solving spatial or logic puzzles and video games have helped accentuate this skill. I don’t know who I’d be if I hadn’t had this consistent means of challenging myself. Examples: Portal 1 & 2, Words with Friends, Memory Match, Hoyle Puzzle Games, Tetris.
12) survival\resource management – For games where survival is the main priority, resource gathering can be the defining factor between life and death. Some survival-based games can be more challenging than others, but all make you really think about what is needed to stay alive. If I ever encounter a situation in real life where I’m forced to think about managing resources, my chances would be pretty good. Examples: Oregon Trail 2, Don’t Starve, Subnautica, 60 Seconds, The Forest.
13) interior design – My interest in the Sims series may have waned over the years, but it still has enriched my life to some degree. While I loved the Sims for the ability to bring my stories to life and create physical representations of fictional characters I’d dreamed up, one of the other perks was creating houses featured in my stories. Gameplay aside, the Sims can also serve as a good tool for testing out interior design ideas before actually implementing them in your home.
14) keen observation – I like to think that my many years of playing video games has made me hyper-aware of the world around me. In my everyday life, I am observant to the extent that I sometimes surprise people with how quickly I’m able to spot something. Video games—especially mystery games—have also greatly improved my listening skills. This has translated to me being a very good listener when it comes to my job. Examples: Panic in the Park, Treasure Quest, Tetris, Bubble Bobble, Jewel Quest.
15) good hand-eye coordination – Another way in which video games have helped enrich my life is by helping me develop exceptional reflexes. Not only am I able to quickly see something—such as a cellphone in danger of falling to the floor—I am able to react fast enough to prevent something bad from happening. I’d like to attribute this trait to the vintage Atari or arcade games I consistently played in my youth, but it realistically could have come from games I’ve played as a whole.
16) history – Of the many subjects I’ve picked up from video games, history or knowledge of historical figures has been the most prevalent. I have played a good amount of period-piece games that have deepened my understanding of past world events. I do hope that history remains an element present in video games for years to come. It’s always a thrill to learn something new. Examples: Fallout 3 & 4, Oregon Trail 2, Titanic: Adventure Out of Time.
17) geography – When it comes to learning geography, there are certain game titles that impart a good deal of knowledge. The Fallout series particularly is a good resource with its faithful representations of 50s-era Washington DC, Las Vegas, Boston, and the surrounding areas for each. Granted, the Fallout series is largely set in post-apocalyptic America, but it still gives you a good idea of locations and landmarks. Examples: Fallout 3 & 4, Fallout: New Vegas, Where in (Europe\the U.S.A.\the World) is Carmen Sandiego?
18) astronomy – I don’t know of many games that teach about astronomy or the Milky Way. But the educational\sleuthing game, Where in Space is Carmen Sandiego, has a heavy emphasis on the topic. This particular game was a good source for learning about our solar system, from the moons associated with each planet to info about the Asteroid Belt and the sun. It’s a shame that there aren’t a lot of other video games like it.
19) mathematics – I remember having a greater appreciation for math in my youth than I do now. As a child, I loved the challenge of solving basic math problems. It was even better to see addition and subtraction problems incorporated in video games I loved to play. My interest in mathematic may have waned over the years, but I still look back fondly on educational games that made it fun. Examples: Number Munchers, Troggle Trouble Math.
20) vocabulary – The way in which video games have enriched my life the most is by expanding my vocabulary. From educational to story-driven games to word puzzles, I don’t know who I’d be if games hadn’t been such a huge part of my life. In the long run, I’d say that video games have played a significant role in shaping who I am as a writer.
In general, video games can be so much more than a source of entertainment. If you really think about it, there is a lot of knowledge you can take away from games just by stopping to take a good look or listen.
I hope you found this blogpost interesting and thought-provoking. Please leave your comments below—I’d love to hear from you.
Jeanette, your extensive knowledge of video games is impressive. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for sharing of Video Games that are educational tools.