Thursday, May 09, 2013

Why I Love Video Games

The Kid has a habit of leaving his room a "creative" mess, with Legos strewn everywhere from his latest building project. I can relate - my study requires a periodic whirlwind cleanup to excavate important pieces of paper. But this post isn't about the fact that video games create no mess.

Every once in a while, we work together to scoop up all the Legos and sometimes even sort them into bins, and the kid exclaims how nice it is to have a calm, clean room. The problem is, he assumes EVERY TIME that dumping out another bin of Legos on the floor will not lead to needing to do it all over again. (Much as I tell myself that it's ok not to put the dishes away right this second and then find a few hours later that the house has become a sinkhole of clutter).

In the last few months, he's picked up some benign kiddie games on the Roku player, things like downhill bowling (collect stars and knock over pins!) and frisbee (collect stars and go through hoops!) and Angry Birds (shoot vicious avians into precariously constructed structures full of green pigs and watch the carnage!). The common thread is that the better he does, the harder the game gets.

It's called "leveling up."

And it's seriously the best life lesson this year.

We could see that at school, once he'd behaved well for one period, he thought his job was done for the day. Now he could goof off as much as he wanted, because, hey, he did a "good job." Once. As we've gone through a series of diagnoses and behavior modification attempts, the metaphor of "leveling up" has become our go-to explanation of stepping up his game. What's the reward for a job well done? Another job, of course, and probably a more challenging one.

He went from tracking and self-monitoring one behavior a day to several, in several different circumstances, and is getting better and better at meeting his peers' and teachers' expectations. Although we're proud, it's more relevant that he's proud of himself. He has finally taken on responsibility for his own efforts and the rewards that come with them.

So thank you, video game makers, for teaching The Kid how a challenge can be its own reward.


Blogger The back of the hill said...

That's an aspect of video games that I had never thought of.

Rather frightening, really. Eventually today's youth may be more able and more clever than I am.

I'll have to polish my game.

5/09/2013 12:45 PM  

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