Perceptions of gaming have come a long way in recent years. Once widely held fears that video games were melting young minds have been challenged by proof of their positive impact on personal and professional development. So much so that businesses have been forced to sit up and take notice.
Games are everywhere thanks to the rise of smartphones and free mobile titles during the past decade. If there are a few minutes to be killed at any stage of the day, gaming has become a preferred method of filling the void for many Australians.
More committed gamers are spending many hours collaborating with other players in vast, virtual worlds. An elite few are earning six-figure salaries and representing their country as professional gamers. Whatever the level of personal commitment, gaming is now part of our everyday culture.
Bond University’s Digital Australia Report 2018 found that two out of three Australians play video games. It’s popular across demographics, breaking down the old stereotype that it’s dominated by boys and young men, with the average player spending almost an hour and a half in the zone every day.
Gaming is good for you
The gamers who were interviewed during the research phase of the report said playing helps them develop a range of professionally relevant skills. It improves patience and persistence, for example, encouraging open-mindedness while enhancing creativity and strategic thinking. Players bond with other gamers, forming communities of like-minded people and collaborating to win.
There are also a host of health and wellbeing benefits that are good for business. Many gamers reported that playing makes them feel challenged and mentally stimulated. It’s a great way to fight stress and reduce anxiety. It improves balance and dexterity.
The benefits of video games start early. They’ve been shown to improve early literacy in four- and five-year-olds. In The Modern Parent’s Guide to Kids and Video Games, Scott Steinberg says these younger gamers show improved letter recognition, sound associations and understanding of basic story concepts.
And the advantages are lifelong. At the other end of the age spectrum, some older gamers in the Digital Australia Report say it helps them manage the pain of arthritis or fight the onset of dementia.
Putting gameplay to work
So it’s no surprise that gaming has made its way into the modern workspace. The concept of gamification – the application of video game design and principles in non-gaming contexts – was coined 15 years ago by British computer programmer Nick Pelling. It became popular in 2010 and business has been putting it to work ever since.
Many of the Fortune 500 including Microsoft and Cisco use video games as a form of training. The benefits include looking at a problem in a different light, encouraging collaboration, creating competition and boosting confidence.
Walmart uses a mobile game to train warehousing and logistics workers how to do everyday jobs like drive a forklift truck. Employees are tested at the end to see how much they’re remembered. During a six-month trial with 5,000 staff, the number of reportable injuries almost halved.
A study published in Archives of Surgery earlier this year found that gaming was a great way to improve dexterity in the operating theatre. It found a strong correlation between video game skills and the ability to perform laparoscopic surgery. This involves manipulating surgical instruments through a small incision where the surgeon is guided via watching a television screen.
Gameplay has made it onto Australian road with freight operators, construction firms and mining companies among those using it to compare and improve the performance of drivers. Points are typically awarded for meeting safety standards, like staying within speed limits and taking scheduled breaks. Top-performers earn bonuses and are encouraged to coach other drivers.
Learning through simulation is everywhere. Australian Defence Force Simulation Training helps sharpen military decision making, leadership and other core skills. There are simulators that will teach you how to run an airline or develop the perfect marketing strategy.
The future of professional learning
The next generation of technologies including augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) offer even more immersive ways of learning new skills. Plumbers can already learn the trade in a VR house, while Medical Realities uses VR and 360° videos to give trainee surgeons and medical students real insight into surgical procedures.
Goldman Sachs estimates military spending on AR and VR for simulation training will reach $US1.4 billion by 2025. It’s easy to imagine similar scenario-based emergency response training for ambulance and fire crews.
For a wide range of jobs, many of which don’t even exist yet, gaming is likely to play an important role in how we learn relevant skills, such as at the recent La Trobe Cyber Games.
So don’t be so quick to tell the kids to put the controllers away at the weekend. It’s not just about having fun. They’re learning valuable lessons that will help them achieve future success.
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