Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Is Gaming All Bad?

In recent years, “Gaming” is almost deemed as a dirty word as parents are concerned with the time that their children spend on games. So is “gaming” all that bad for kids? Are there any merits to “gaming” at all?

In this guest post, I reached out to Pamela Tan, mother of 3 preschoolers and founder of MyFirstGames. Here's part 1 of our chat. :)

Me: Pamela, how did you start on Gaming?

Pam: I first started out being a board game enthusiast 12 years back and I would play them with friends, my then-boyfriend who later became my husband. No surprises that one of our hobbies was and still is playing board games. After I became a mother, I enthusiastically searched out games that were suitable for young children and would play them with my son, my nieces, and now my two youngest children too.

Some parents react negatively when they hear the word “gaming” as they associate “gaming” with “computer games” and as such, all forms of games are bad. However, “gaming” in its traditional form of board games, can be beneficial.

Me: When is Gaming bad?

Pam: Gaming is bad when it turns into an obsession. When the individual (the child or the adult) is so obsessed with gaming to the point that he skips meals, does not bother with personal hygiene (does not brush teeth, bathe etc), does not want to go to school/work and does not even want to talk to anyone face-to-face.

Gaming is bad when it isolates the individual as a result of zero social interaction whilst gaming. This is especially apparent in computer gaming. Whilst it is true that some computer games are played against “human” opponents, most of these opponents are either seated opposite the room, on the other side of the country, or on the flip side of the globe. There is also minimal communication between the opponents during the game. Hence, for all intents and purposes, there is little or no social interaction during playing of computer games.

In this day and age of technological advancement where phones have games, iPads are commonplace, and television sets have never been cheaper, it is no wonder that these gadgets have been harnessed (using appropriate applications and programmes) and turned into nannies for children. As it is, we are already moving towards the day when all the textbooks in schools would be replaced with a slim touch screen tablet computer.

Given how quickly children can get the hang of using such gadgets, it is really not necessary to start them on it at such a young age. In fact, in view of this state of affairs and what we are moving towards, it is all the more important that children be exposed to as much human-to-human interaction as possible.

Therein lies the main difference between computer games and board games and the best reason why board games are better and more preferable to computer games.

Me: When and how is Gaming good?

Pam: One of the biggest disadvantages to playing board games is that you need to find someone to play them with. But this is also its biggest advantage, for by playing a board game with another person, there is face-to-face interaction with another person. This is fantastic for parent-child bonding. I love playing games with my children. We get to spend time with each other. I get to analyze my child to see what his temperaments are, to observe how he reacts to different situations, to teach him and see him learn, understand, and grow. It is a very satisfying experience. And when it is just the kids playing the games on their own, the lessons I have taught my children get put to the test.

With your guidance, let your child learn the lessons of life while they play board games with you. Here is a sampling of what I have taught my son, Isaac:

• It’s a dog eat dog world out there.
Everyone wants to win. Everyone plays to win. “Isaac, there is no such thing as “Mummy should let you win.” Because Mummy wants to win too.”

• Channel the child’s energies toward positive avenues.
“Isaac, if you want to win, then you should work towards winning. Perhaps you have to pay more attention to the game, or use a better strategy or technique, or maybe you simply need to persevere and practice more often. Just try, and try again. So, rather than throw tantrums, you should spend your time and energy towards doing all these things, to work towards winning. No use wasting your time and energy crying.”

• In life, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
There are some games out there, where, no matter how good the strategy or technique you employ, you may still lose. This is very true for games which are based on chances – where dice throws determines pretty much everything (a good example is Snake & Ladders). Isaac would get dejected and frustrated because no matter what he does, he cannot control whether he wins or not, in that particular game. I would talk to him, and tell him that games are like that, sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose… which leads us to…

• Winning is not everything.
That there are more important things in life than “winning everything” (Isaac has started to compete with his brother and sister in everything a la “I finish drinking my milk the fastest!” and “I press for the lift first!”). “Isaac, winning is not everything. When you play games, it is more important to have fun. Are you having fun? Yes? Then you’re a winner already. We play games to have fun together. What’s the point in winning if you end up not having fun?”

• Be gracious.
When you lose, lose graciously. Everyone knows to teach that with playing games. No throwing tantrums, no crying. Teach the child to channel his “fear of losing” or “want to win” to positive actions like trying harder etc, as mentioned above. However, just as important, is to teach the child to win graciously. No taunting opponents about their loss. No “neh-neh-ni-boo-boo”s. No sticking out tongues and blowing raspberries.

• Have integrity. Be honest.
When you play board games, there is actually a lot of opportunity to cheat, if your opponents are not paying attention. You can take more resources than you are supposed to, go an extra turn if no one is looking… etc. Teach that it is important to be honest to oneself. So what if you win the game if you did it through dishonest means? Even if none of your opponents have found out that you cheated, YOU know. How does it make you feel if you know that you did not win the game honestly? Not good.

• Take responsibility for your own actions.
 In games, in life, you can make choices. You can choose whatever you want to (within confines of the game rules), but for whichever choice or decision you make you take responsibility for it, you bear the consequences. “Isaac, why are you crying? Because the cat ate your mice? But just now you chose to move your mice straight instead of going into the hole to take cheese and stay safe, right? So that is the choice you make, and the consequence is that the cat ate up the mice still in the race. Don’t cry. Learn from this. So maybe next time, you may want some of your mice to move into the hole, take cheese, and be safe. Alright? No use crying over dead mice.”

• Play by the rules.
Playing a board game is very much like life, in which, there are rules. You cannot do anything you like simply because you “feel like it”. You have to learn to play by the rules, and do the best you can with whatever resources you have. You can be creative and think out of the box, so long as you do not cross the lines and break any rules. Board games have rules, but there is sometimes grey areas it is not certain if something can be done; rules are silent. When Isaac comes up with a strategy or technique to win which is not prohibited in the rules that were laid out, I will allow him to win. Sometimes, especially when learning a new game, or if the child is very young, they may want to play the game “their own way”. This is fine in the beginning, so long as the child knows that this is not the proper way to play the game by the rules. Sometimes Isaac just wants to play it a certain way, that he knows makes it easier for him to win. I will tell him “Okay, just this once. But you know this is not playing by the rules, right? Because if you play this game with other people, everyone will play by the rules. If you don’t want to play by the rules, no one would want to play with you.”

Pamela Tan is a board games enthusiast with a personal collection of more than 300 board games. She is a mother of three young children, the oldest turning 5 years old this year. Initially starting out with the intention to train her children to play strategy boardgames with her in future, she found that boardgames are an excellent educational tool when she started playing them with her son and went on to start up her own online games store:!

Pamela blogs about her parenting thoughts and journey regularly at

From now till 31 July, readers who quote "SMB-BEANIENUS" will receive a 10% off your purchases. (Does not apply on delivery / shipping)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Be warned: All content in this blog is copyright protected. Registered & Protected