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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Video games bolster critical thinking skills

    As the semester winds down, students all over campus are planning how to prepare for finals. Most will put together study guides, or read the class materials they were supposed to have looked at weeks ago. I’m going to play a lot of video games.

    It isn’t that my finals aren’t hard, or that I don’t have a lot of them. So how is it that I have the audacity to do something recreational instead of studying? Video games help you think critically.

    Video games are seen as a diversion, but in reality, they are one of the most effective methods for getting people to think critically in today’s society.

    I doubt if given the choice between having to analyze data for a paper in class and figuring out the best way to beat a video game that anyone would choose the former. It’s mostly because one is seen as a chore and the other a form of entertainment. But it doesn’t matter as long as the person in question is thinking.

    Now, some video games can be tedious or mindless, but that isn’t always the case when looking at the details.

    Take “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” for example. Any idiot can jump onto the multiplayer, pick a gun, aim it and shoot. That idiot can also have some degree of success but their chances are pretty low.

    To raise them, a player has to consider a lot of factors. What gun suits my play style best while being the most effective? What perks are going to complement my weapon? Are there any upgrades available which can make me more effective? How should I approach the battlefield? Do I hang back and pick people off from a distance or try to maneuver around the map and surprise other players from behind?

    That’s just a sliver of the thought process for creating one class in “Call of Duty,” not to mention that there are four more classes to create and dozens of maps to be considered.

    The amazing thing is that, despite how much time that might take for the untrained gamer, thousands of college students answer the above questions in minutes and do so effectively. It takes some time, sure, but after a few hours of playing, a person starts to get the idea — almost like studying.

    If that example doesn’t do it for you, think about the choices made in a good role playing game.

    Look at “Mass Effect 3.” If a player takes the game seriously, it can be an excellent tool in teaching the consequences of military and political decisions.

    Do you cure the disease that has reduced the birth rate of a highly violent species to almost zero so that they’ll fight in your war? If you win and they survive, can you afford to risk the safety of the galaxy in peace-time? Then there’s the question of who deserves to live more — the emergent and generally peaceful artificial intelligences or the organic beings that created and subsequently tried to kill the AIs? Will your decision depend on the personalities of the two parties or do your loyalties automatically go to the organics because they’re more recognizable as alive?

    Just think of what it would be like if teachers could get students to consider so many options critically in the classroom instead of in a video game. No one would fail a class again and the world would be full of geniuses.

    Some might consider expecting teachers to integrate this kind of media in a college setting ahead of its time. But is it? The video game just serves as a jumping off point.

    Instead of thinking of gaming as a way to distract yourself from work, think of it as a way to spark your critical thinking. If you do pick the right game — one that’s both fun and thought provoking — studying or writing a paper should be much easier. Creative ideas will appear out of nowhere and the difficulty of finals will evaporate.

    At least that’s how it’s been for me the past three years. Maybe I’m on to something, I don’t know.

    _— Jason Krell is the assistant copy chief. He can be reached at arts@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatArts

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