Impact of Games on Cognitive and Social Skills
The impact of games on people is one of the most difficult social challenges for scientists, who often propose two opposite approaches to this issue. This problem is especially crucial for most of the modern games, which have become more complex, realistic, and emotional than the old ones. Today, the question is not about blurring the boundaries between virtual and real life but about the need for adaptation to a new type of social activity. For some theorists, games have more negative characteristics, because a child has no free time for other activities, namely communication with friends and physical work. On the other hand, such game design theorists as Granic, Lobel, and Engels (2014) affirm positive benefits of playing video games, concentrating on cognitive, motivational, emotional, and social domains , which is the methodological basis of this paper. Following this approach, the essay deals with the argument that a game has a positive lasting impact since it improves cognitive functions as well as analytical logic and encourages teamwork, providing all the basic conditions for human socialization.
One of the most positive influences is that the game develops cognitive function by combining different types of brain activity. When a person plays some game, he/she can perform multiple tasks, using both the left and the right hemispheres of a human brain. For example, many RPG games teach how to orient in time and space to make a right decision. The theorists indicate these effects as “the special skills” (Granic, Lobel & Engels, 2014, p. 67). Moreover, role-playing games offer not only different locations and maps but also time for accomplishing some missions, maintaining own power and life: “In addition to spatial skills, scholars have also speculated that video games are an excellent means for developing problem-solving skills” (Granic, Lobel & Engels, 2014, p. 69). This feature is especially important in the game where a player needs to perform a task for a particular time, namely to save the victims from terrorists or villains. Besides, it also works in puzzle games where the gamer should find the quickest way from A to B, memorizing and analyzing ample information. In other words, it develops the concentration on specific tasks when the player needs to apply maximum efforts in realizing a goal.
This virtual practice is also useful in extreme situations in real life, because people often confront them but cannot adequately respond. Thus, a person does not only assess the risky situation but also provides the most optimal strategy of a decision. If someone had not experienced such challenge in the game, he/she would just randomly make a decision since the virtual world requires concentration and responsibility. Furthermore, Granic, Lobel and Engels (2014) add that game designers often provide instructions and guidelines on overcoming in-game problems, suggesting a range of solutions based on experience and intuition (p. 69). Accordingly, the virtual experience already prepares consciousness to act quickly and forces to be creative. Obviously, this does not mean that the experience of strategies and RPG (both single and multi) is universal. Nevertheless, games develop cognitive functions, and, therefore, teach a child to make his/her decision in the three-dimensional real world.
Following this assumption, games intensively develop analytical thinking through devising strategies and achieving specific objectives. This argument does not always apply to shooter games, which require a quick response to obstacles rather than much intelligence. However, Granic, Lobel and Engels (2014) state that shooters stimulate a wide range of cognitive skills (p. 68). In the most cases, children should solve an unexpected problem to move to the next level in the game. Hence, a person needs to possess not only common knowledge but also analytical skills. Typically, the player must deal with a puzzle or problem as it often happens in “Silent Hill” or “The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion”; otherwise he/she cannot overcome a level. These skills are useful in case people work on individual or collective projects, solving a problem from different perspectives. Moreover, the analytical tasks in games form a personality, which also represents person’s critical position on various issues. In this sense, games with multi choices are significant in this case, namely “The Witcher”, where the player must choose the most appropriate variant of events.
The third positive effect is that games develop the skills of collective cooperation in the multiplayer mode. Due to this peculiarity, players can complete cooperative tasks, distributing between different social roles: “Cooperative video game play is characterized by goals that are positively linked in that one player only attains her/his goals when other players also attain their goals” (Greitemeyer & Cox, 2013, p. 224). With the help of this feature, it gives a feeling of collective responsibility for the kind of work where such values as cooperation, friendship, and self-sacrifice construct the virtual world. The most famous example is the game “The Sims”, where the player has to build his/her house for life. For many players, this is a good chance to understand whether he/she is ready for certain social institutions or not. Therefore, the cooperative feature can also influence career choices in the future, so games are indicators of a useful quality in society. Furthermore, players can play a common game worldwide, and it also helps them adapt to other cultures and ethnic groups. As a result, the level of xenophobia and discrimination decreases, and a person becomes more tolerant to other people.
At the same time, the counterargument is that games do not develop cognitive and social skills since they lead to a vicious lifestyle and misanthropy. In fact, teenagers spend so much time playing computer games that they refuse to face real life, preferring to follow the simulated patterns of behavior rather than the real performances. For the gamers, the virtual world is important since they have more freedom and possibilities to construct their identity in terms of taboos and permits. As a result, the acquired skills do not have any connection with real life, and, therefore, exist only in the player’s imagination. One more counterargument is that not all games establish the priorities of life and some even lead to aggressive anti-social behavior since people cannot immediately realize themselves (Hasan, Bègue, Scharkow, & Bushman, 2013, p. 227). Thus, the impossibility to continue gaming style in real life does not lead to socialization, but it rather creates a distorted impression of the world. At some point, the players regularly quit social activities (school, university, work), immersing themselves into the world of fictional characters and stories.
In conclusion, games produce a positive lasting effect on cognitive and cooperative abilities of personality, setting the foundation for socialization. Many companies use simulation role plays for solving business cases. Accordingly, various games have already laid the challenges and obstacles that require to use analytical and creative abilities. Resolving different problems, the player prepares for real life, fulfilling temporal and spatial tasks through his/her intelligence and choice. The situational games are useful in this case since they have few instructions and tips, so the gamer has to make many decisions on his/her own. However, many critics claim that games have antisocial and aggressive features, but it is not an absolute indicator, because gamers can transform them to suit constructive purposes. Nevertheless, a game is a powerful tool for the development of various skills of a person for the future social life.