The white noise from the continued discussion on video games and violence often obscures the benefits that video games offer. In everyday use, video games are collaborative toys that invite multiple players to play simultaneously in a friendly and open environment, while learning new concepts, histories, and philosophies. The benefits of video games extend beyond the immediacy of game play with even mediocre games helping to improve eye-hand coordination, so much so that some surgeons are training with games to improve their technique.
Video games also offer players more serious benefits. Games allow players to play with autonomy and to explore and grow in a controlled space, which scientists have shown can help build self-esteem. Scientists have also shown that video games relax children going into surgery more effectively than tranquilizers. In fact, games offer dramatic benefits for all children, but especially for children who are ill and have restricted opportunities for benefits from other sources. Child's Play, Ben's Game, game designers, and gamers across the world are showing that video games help people.
The Penny Arcade webcomic artists Gabe and Tycho started Child's Play
. Child's Play sponsors children's hospitals so that gamers, geeks, and other involved citizens can directly purchase games for children in hospitals. Certainly a noble cause in its own right, what's even more impressive is that Child's Play has raised nearly a million dollars over the past three years and it collects no administrative fees-all of the money and games go directly to children in hospitals. Child's Play is expanding this year to include more hospitals in the US and Canada.
Child's Play works in conjunction with Amazon.com to create wish lists for participating hospitals. Individual donors can choose to give new items ranging from toddler toys to music CDs, video games, game consoles and accessories. Gifts are delivered directly to hospitals in need and are tax deductible. Part of what makes Child's Play so amazing is that it unites gamers, who are a concerned and motivated group, but who aren't normally mobilized for all the good that we can do. Child's Play allows gamers to combine forces in our native environment, the internet, which also means that nongamers can easily join in for the cause.
Like Child's Play, other gaming initiatives help sick children. One initiative comes from eleven year-old Ben Duskin, who requested an online game to help other children who were battling cancer like him. LucasArts software engineer Eric Johnston worked with Ben to develop a game and the game, entitled "Ben's Game" was subsequently released online. "Ben's Game" has now been downloaded by over a hundred-thousand people and translated into nine languages. The Dalai Lama even honored Ben and Eric on November 6 as two "Unsung Hero of Compassion."
Where Child's Play and Ben's Game focus on sick children in particular, video games offer benefits for all players in general. As gamers we already know this, but we need to spread the word so that nongamers also know about the benefits that games offer. Getting involved with Child's Play or sharing the benefits of gaming with a friend or relative is just the quickest and easiest way to show what games can do. After all, the time and energy spent on worries over video games and violence would be better used on making games more fun and more available for more players. References:
Games better than Tranquilizers: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6687019/
Ben's Game: http://www.makewish.org/ben
Donate to Child's Play through http://www.childsplaycharity.org.