Growing up gamer

Matt Morgan
Apr 17, 2014


Despite its many stereotypes, video and tabletop gaming have much to offer and teach their players.
In the wild, we can see lion cubs playing with each other by wrestling around, grabbing at ears and throats, or even sneaking up to ambush a pride member. While it certainly appears cute and quaint, this is very much a learning behavior for them. It is practice before the big hunt when they'll have to help take down a meal for their family to eat. It's job practice, a way to learn how to survive.
The exact same concept can be translated to human play! Even with simple dolls it is an easy thought to conjure of boys and girls playing house, war, or even "survival instincts" such as hide-and-seek. Unlike other animals, we are fortunate as a species to have something they don't: the ability to tell a story. Imagination is a wonderful trait to have developed as it opens up endless possibilities for us to pursue. That said, and especially with younger gamers, it is imperative that someone close to them who is older and more mature can provide context to the game so any content it may introduce doesn't get turned into curiosity-turned-cruelty.
Collectable Card Games
These are games such as Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Magic: the Gathering. The premise of each is the same. You start with a simple set of rules. As the game goes on each player uses cards to change the rules in their favor in order to win. At their hearts, every one of these games is based on pure math. Statistics are heavily involved as are concepts in arithmetic, algebra, and even modes. Because the nature of the game is a fun challenge that is often associated with lavish "flavor text" and myriad art and art styles, math doesn't seem cumbersome. Often mathematical concepts can be taught easier with CCGs being educational flash cards.
As mentioned, CCGs often contain amazing art. I personally can recount a time when an art teacher came into the store to pick up various samples to use in her class. Many different media are used with Pokemon probably being the most diverse as its pictures range from complex 3D computer-generated designs to simple crayon pictures to small plastic models in real life locations. Reading is fostered and a necessity, too. The pictures alone only do so much, but the player must be able to read and understand how the card changes the rules to his/her favor. Often there is a chance to learn new vocabulary words that don't come up often in conversation but could lead to better conversational skills with practice.
Board & Tabletop Miniature Games
These would probably be considered the most traditional of tabletop games. Chess is an excellent example of a fusion of both. When it comes to board games there are so many different varieties that go beyond the standard Monopoly and Chutes and Ladders. When asked, Wil Wheaton who is a vocal celebrity for tabletop games, advised a fan as such regarding board game selection:
"it depends on what kind of gaming experience you want to have.

Munchkin is silly, pun-filled, and about messing with your friends. It also has about nine million expansions. Pandemic is about working together in a game that you’re probably going to have fun losing. Elder Sign is about working together in a heavily-themed game that is very random because of the dice. Betrayal is about working together — until you find out that one of you is trying to murder the rest of you with kill death. It’s more of an RPG in a box, and is really fun if you treat it that way."

In today's gaming world there is a board game for any kind of theme, genre, rule set, or skill level you have. In fact, not only are there a myriad of board games which encourage face to face socialization, but lessons in business and economics come into play if you decide to help create such a game through programs like Kickstarter. Creativity and socialization are abundant. Many stories can be told years into the future about an epic dice roll or savvy resource trade in Settlers of Catan. Of course everything from CCGs carries over too with intrinsic math skills, thematic artwork, and reading comprehension.
When it comes to the miniature games, an extra layer of strategy is employed. Both because many of these games offer model kits to build and paint your own units but because the boards tend to be more free-form. The emphasis then is on your own strategic thinking skills in 2 and 3D environments to capture an objective, defeat the enemy army, or recreate historical battles. Fantasy, science fiction, and nonfiction history are all creative topics brought up through these games along with a plethora of vocabulary words that will see repeated, contextual use throughout the games.
Roleplaying Games
Most often characterized (and stereotyped) by Dungeons & Dragons, RPGs perhaps offer some of the most in-depth "edutainment" opportunities of all the other games. The rules are what you make them. Reality is a mutually-consented existence around the table. Every RPG draws on the other elements discussed above but takes it a step further by actually giving you the ability to put yourself in a situation. Many moral conundrums can be discussed through this medium as well as different cultures and perspectives can be delved into through the eyes of your character.
Have you ever wanted to be the hero who ascends to the second floor of a dining hall to defeat the bad guy by severing the rope that holds the chandelier above the table? Well, you just did it in your mind. But roleplaying games give you the opportunity to make it happen your way without needing a movie-sized budget or stunt doubles. If you ever have the fortune to happen across a roleplayer, be sure to ask him/her what was their favorite moment. In a matter of moments a situation as vivid as any Hollywood blockbuster will come alive before you.
This is a very good summary:
Finally we have video games, but that will have to wait for another installment of LFG. We brought up a great many topics today as it is! Would you like to provide any examples of your own gaming experience?
Are you a parent or teacher who has successfully used games to teach or encourage certain behavior?
Have you grown up with games and want to testify how they have influenced your life?
Please share below. It's always good to know that you aren't the only one who enjoys these sometimes secret hobbies.




Sadly, there are not many groups in our area. I have been trying to find a RPG group for my teen son for over a year, to no avail.

Licorice Schtick

There are those who think there is no such thing as a gamer who has grown up.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

It is unfortunate that pessimistic people like that exist. It is those people who often turn immature themselves through bullying. But, there are many kinds of gamer. Some are immature due to age, and others for other reasons.

What you said is true, however, and the reason why I wrote this piece. What is your opinion on that topic?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

If I can help you do so please let me know!

JMOP's picture

Grew up gaming. I couldn't imagine not having a console in my house.

Some people have a bad misconception of gamers, but with the help of Kinect and more interactive games like yoga, dancing, and Zumba, more adults are getting back into gaming. It's way more fun than watching a workout video, and it shows instant progress from the last session.

Then there's the brain games. Exercise of the mind. Most play on their phones for that.

On online gaming you can meet many different types of people, from different countries. So it's cultural. You can make friends, or start a friendly rivalry.

For every action there's a reaction, so choose your next move wisely. You don't have to be the best, just be better than your opponent!

I could go on and on about the positives of gaming, and I'm anticipating your next installment.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Thank you for your contribution to the discussion. I hope you will enjoy the other piece once it's put up.

Stop It

I used to play a lot of Backgammon then Othello. Someone stole our chips for Othello. (Don't ask how because there is a place and cover for them on the game. We were in the USAF and it was a community game bought by friends.)

Anyway, A bud of mine and I decided to see how far we could go with memory and no chips to flip. We had an audience of other buds to keep it under control. We almost had the whole board 'virtually' covered when we both went meltdown. That is one game I'll never forget.

Edit to add: That was in 1978. No electronic hand held computer stuff back then. Real board and chips or nothing. We ended up getting black and white poster board and glued the cutouts together. Last guy in our circle before transferred got to keep the board.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

That was a really interesting story! There are many people in the military who are gamers. Thanks for sharing. If you have any more stories I'd encourage you to post them.