Are video games good news or bad news? And is it really as simple as all that? Over the years there has been a tremendous amount of discussion, or sometimes argument, between those who feel that computer games and video games are harming children's health, their imagination and potential, and those who feel that they have no more effect than the many other calls on children's time, and may even in some cases have some positive impact.
Surely today there is a growing range of computer games and video games, and whilst many are still firmly rooted in the classic shoot 'em up model, there are many new games which are challenging some of the stereotypes to which people have become accustomed to seeing on the shelves.
Games that include ways to challenge your intelligence, video games designed to exercise your mind and increase your IQ, games that focus on problem solving and linguistic skills are all there, and proving to be every bit as popular as games designed purely to entertain, without any attempt to pret to be educational.
There are even games today promoting physical fitness, diet and nutrition, and with the Wii in particular, children and young people can be seen playing video games and computer games at the same time as running, jumping, dancing and gyrating in ways which can only have a positive impact on their health.
Another criticism launched at the publishers and retailers of video games and computer games is that they encourage children to seek their own company, spending more and more hours cooped up on their own, to the ultimate disadvantage of their communication skills and social skills. However, with the development of internet communications and broadband in particular, many games have now become multiplayer, providing ways to chat and communicate with friends and other players from all around the world.
This has often resulted in groups of people working together who may otherwise have never even met. As far as developing strategic thinking and teamwork skills, including communication, organization and compromise, these video games have been shown to have a very positive impact on children in terms of those skills which are of particular benefit in the workplace of the twenty first century.
But Let's not become too sentimental about video games and computer games adding to our children's education and life skills experience. Many computer games and video games are exactly that – games. We all need to unwind at the end of the day, and there is nothing wrong with spending a little time playing games. Some people choose to read a book, others to watch television or hang out with friends at the local park.
But who's to say that playing a computer game which is challenging reaction, strategy, logical thinking skills and team work is of less value that sitting slumped on the settee watching the television. The truth is, more snacks and sugary drinks are consumed by young people while watching television than whilst playing video games. Like anything, they have an excellent role to play if treated with respect and used in moderation.