Buvette Masthead

Gaming and kids: Upskilling or time wasting?

Holly Zapasnik

Having worked with children for some time now it never ceases to amaze me how obsessed they are with Minecraft.

The game has exploded in popularity recently and much to the puzzlement of older generations it continues to do so. But really, it isn’t so confusing if you think about it. It’s basically a digital version of LEGO without the excruciating pain of stepping on those tiny pieces and with extra added features like fighting monsters and collecting resources.

The game has gained such a huge following that even South Park had an episode dedicated to it; showcasing how in love with the game the children were and how bewildered the adults were with their obsession.

I’m a gamer myself. This isn’t a secret. But for me, gaming has always been about engaging storylines and completing objectives. But what kind of games are your children into? What makes them pick up a video game and choose it above all the others on the shelf and then dedicate hours playing?

It is easy to dismiss a lot of games as a waste of time or even worse, damaging. But what skills could your child be learning? In Minecraft, the player is creating whole worlds using their creativity and patience. I remember when I was younger playing the Harry Potter games which required the player to problem solve and complete puzzles to get to the next area and today the Zelda (a fantasy platformer and puzzle game) continue in popularity. These games are hard with puzzles that have made me Google the answers, whilst (embarrassingly enough for me) young children solve them effortlessly.

Consider the classic Mario games that require you to quickly tap the buttons in a specific order as fast as you can to ascend to the next level – these games could help with reaction speed in an engaging and enjoyable manner.

Of course, not all games are with educational benefit and some games intended for older audiences may even contain sexually explicit content, but this is why video games (just like movies or TV shows) are given a rating to suggest what games are appropriate for what age.

For teenagers, online gaming is another booming industry. The ever-popular World of Warcraft video game has players all over the world working together on quests in a fully immersive world straight out of a fantasy novel. Although there is the ever present ‘stranger danger’ aspect of this, if you explain to your children to not discuss personal details and instead just work together to play the game, team work and social skills can be improved by this unlikely medium.

As with anything online, an understanding of cyber safety is imperative for both you and your children. By talking to your children about what games they are interested in and why, it gives you an opportunity to bond with them but also rest assured in the fact that they are acting safely and responsibly online.

Now I don’t expect every child or teenager would necessarily jump at the chance for their parents to pick up a controller and join in on the fun, but why not try and get involved and get to know about their gaming interest? You may find that it opens a whole new realm of your relationship, or you may even find your own inner gamer geek begging to come out.


Holly Zapasnik

Holly is a final year public relations student at University of Canberra who will talk your ear off about her dog, Archie (who she will claim is the cutest kelpie in the world). As a Canberran who has lived here her entire life, Holly enjoys quaint little bookstores full of character and making people uncomfortable with her terribly bad puns. When she isn't at home geeking out on her computer, Holly can be found lurking around dog parks patting and playing with the best of them. More about the Author