I grew up in a weird time – video and computer games existed, but they were still new enough that *I* didn’t actually have any. My brother and I got a Super Nintendo when I was about 13, and he’s always been about video and computer games, but I only even kind of got into Super Mario, Zelda (for like 10 seconds…I’ve been stuck on the same level for about 20 years), and a ridiculous computer game called Chip’s Challenge.

Since then, video games have been fine. I saw some lives get ruined by WoW in college, and I’m absolutely guilty of having Candy Crush on my phone, but they didn’t really mean a lot to me. I (and I’m saying this in my most snooty voice) preferred reading and didn’t get why people spent so much time on silly games.

Until I met my husband, and he said the fateful words: “I think you’d really like Civ.”

Sid Meier’s Civilization games, now in their sixth iteration (Civ 6), made me realize that video games could actually be useful and really fun. I’m not fully jumping on the gamification bandwagon yet (help me finish that level of Zelda and we’ll talk) but I definitely see some benefits!

Here are 5 reasons I’ve *reluctantly* learned to love video games in my own life and in teaching:

  1. Video games can help us learn more and be more curious about the people (and world) around us. For example, Civ 6 has so many leaders that I, an historian, know nothing about. Because I wanted those sweet mountain bonuses, I chose to be Pachacuti. Time for a Wikipedia journey! Learning about other civilizations and leaders – even in their fictional forms – is a great way to gain some knowledge about history!
  2. Being intentional is a skill in its own right. Many video games require strategy, planning, and lots of attention to detail. Learning these skills can be hard – especially for kids with executive functioning issues – but video game strategy can be a fun way to practice them!
  3. Time isn’t wasted if you’re having fun! I’m not saying you should start an online World of Warcraft experience – don’t do it – but video games can be fun learning tools! Games like Civ combine games with learning in an informal (and sometime inaccurate way – Gandhi didn’t really love nukes, a now-famous error in the Civ games) but other learning games, like Typing Club and Khan Academy’s lessons, can make learning fun and way more appealing for reluctant learners.
  4. Reading, reading, reading. Video games have words. Sometimes it’s like Final Fantasy or the Elder Scrolls games, where the whole story is basically in words, sometimes it’s like Civ where you need to know if that tile has resources or what your Great Admiral does, but kids who struggle with reading or claim they don’t like it will still get reading practice playing most games!
  5. It can bring families together. In my family, we really struggle to find time to spend together. My husband works long hours, I travel a lot, and my daughter has a lot of time management issues with homework, so we’re often helping her or worrying about her homework late into the night, even when we are home. Video games, especially ones we can all play together, are a nice way to have fun and learn without a huge time or money commitment, they help everyone reconnect in a way that watching TV doesn’t, and without the stress talking about our days can bring. They just better not cross me in Mario Kart. I love them, but that love comes with the constant threat of a blue shell.

Do you use video games in your home or classroom? How have you embraced gaming – or not?