A collage of different characters from different video games

Shutterstock.com (Background, Nintendo Switch); CB2/ZOB/WENN.com/Newscom (FIFA); urbanbuzz/Alamy Stock Photo (Minecraft); Epic Games (Fortnite); Thanos/MEGA/Newscom (Madden); Courtesy of Nintendo (Splatoon)

STANDARDS

Common Core: RH.6-8.1, RH.6-8.2, RH.6-8.4, RH.6-8.7, WHST.6-8.1, WHST.6-8.9, RI.6-8.1, RI.6-8.2, RI.6-8.4, RI.6-8.7, W.6-8.1, W.6-8.9, SL.6-8.1

NCSS: Culture • Time, Continuity, and Change • Individual Development and Identity • Science, Technology, and Society

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Gaming to the Rescue!

Video games like Animal Crossing and NBA 2K have helped millions of Americans get through the pandemic. Is this changing the way adults think about gaming? 

As You Read, Think About: What are some of the benefits of playing video games?

At first, 13-year-old Anna Blackburn struggled to adjust to life during the Covid-19 pandemic. Last year, when her middle school in Vermont shut down in-person classes, her social life took a big hit. For months, there were no sleepovers or soccer games. 

“I was pretty lonely,” Anna says.

But then a friend discovered the game Among Us, and Anna started playing. A couple of times a week, she’d get on FaceTime with a few people and open the app. The teen enjoyed cruising around in a spaceship, looking for impostors. Most of all, she loved connecting with her friends. 

“It wasn’t just about playing the game,” she explains. “It was a chance to talk about our lives.”

At first, 13-year-old Anna Blackburn struggled to adjust to life during the Covid-19 pandemic. Last year, her middle school in Vermont shut down in-person classes. Her social life took a big hit. For months, there were no sleepovers or soccer games.

“I was pretty lonely,” Anna says.

But then a friend discovered the game Among Us. Anna started playing. A couple of times a week, she would get on FaceTime with a few people and open the app. The teen enjoyed cruising around in a spaceship, looking for impostors. Most of all, she loved connecting with her friends.

“It wasn’t just about playing the game,” she explains. “It was a chance to talk about our lives.”

The global video game industry made nearly $180 billion in 2020.

Anna and her buddies aren’t the only ones who turned to gaming during the pandemic. In fact, video game use has skyrocketed since March 2020. About half a billion people played Among Us last November alone, the most monthly players ever for a mobile game. The market research firm IDC estimates that, in total, the global video game industry made nearly $180 billion in revenue in 2020, up 20 percent from 2019.

But is that rise in gaming good for teens? Many parents have long been concerned about their kids playing video games that are violent or otherwise inappropriate for children. Another worry is that kids will get hooked on gaming and lose interest in school, sports, and friends. Some experts estimate that about 8 percent of kids are addicted to gaming. For young people like Anna, however, gaming wasn’t unhealthy. It was a way to help ease her feelings of isolation. 

Experts say witnessing that experience may be changing the way many adults think about gaming. 

“A lot of parents are finally seeing the benefits,” says Jordan Shapiro, a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who studies screen time. “They’re seeing how . . . social it is.”

Anna and her buddies are not the only ones who turned to gaming during the pandemic. In fact, video game use has shot up since March 2020. About half a billion people played Among Us last November alone. That was the most monthly players ever for a mobile game. IDC is a market research firm. It estimates that, in total, the global video game industry made nearly $180 billion in revenue in 2020. That was up 20 percent from 2019.

But is that rise in gaming good for teens? Many parents have long been concerned about their kids playing video games that are violent or otherwise not suitable for children. Another worry is that kids will get hooked on gaming and lose interest in school, sports, and friends. Some experts estimate that about 8 percent of kids are addicted to gaming. But for young people like Anna, gaming was not unhealthy. It was a way to help ease her feelings of isolation.

Experts say seeing that experience may be changing the way many adults think about gaming.

“A lot of parents are finally seeing the benefits,” says Jordan Shapiro. He is a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He studies screen time. “They’re seeing how . . . social it is.”

Hanging Out Online 

Gaming has changed a lot from when your parents were young. Whether they played Super Mario Bros. or NBA Jam, they often competed one-on-one against a computer.

Then, about 20 years ago, playing video games online started to take off—and gaming became more of a group activity. Today, when you play online, you’re often competing against other people—sometimes in different countries. At the same time, you’re engaging with other players and learning how to get along. Some experts even believe that gamers may have better social skills than nongamers. 

Playing video games can have other important benefits too, experts say. Research suggests that games that let you build and design things, such as Minecraft, can make you more creative. Other games can help strengthen your memory and teach you to overcome obstacles. 

Plus, Shapiro says, all that time spent online can help prepare teens for careers in today’s digital world. 

“Screen time is part of how we all live our lives now,” he points out. “Who’s going to do better in a world of Zoom than a kid who grew up playing Fortnite?”

Gaming has changed a lot from when your parents were young. Whether they played Super Mario Bros. or NBA Jam, they often competed one-on-one against a computer.

Then, about 20 years ago, playing video games online started to take off.  Gaming became more of a group activity. Today, when you play online, you are often competing against other people. Sometimes they are in different countries. At the same time, you are engaging with other players and learning how to get along. Some experts even believe that gamers may have better social skills than nongamers.

Playing video games can have other important benefits too, experts say. Research suggests that games that let you build and design things, such as Minecraft, can make you more creative. Other games can help strengthen your memory and teach you to overcome obstacles.

Plus, Shapiro says, all that time spent online can help prepare teens for careers in today’s digital world.

“Screen time is part of how we all live our lives now,” he points out. “Who’s going to do better in a world of Zoom than a kid who grew up playing Fortnite?”

“Here to Stay”

Of course, it’s important to be cautious when playing video games online with people you don’t know. And there is such a thing as too much gaming. Experts say being able to recognize when you’ve reached your limit is key—if you’re skipping meals, not getting enough sleep, or canceling plans, for example.

Make sure to spend time away from the screen too, they suggest. Go outside, listen to music, or meet up with a group of friends in person—as long as it’s safe to do so, of course. 

But take comfort in knowing that your video game hobby can actually be a good thing—and invite your parents to play with you. After all, experts say, gaming isn’t going away anytime soon. 

According to a report from the market research firm Nielsen: “The long-term habits formed during lockdown are here to stay.”

Of course, it is important to be cautious when playing video games online with people you do not know. And there is such a thing as too much gaming. Experts say being able to recognize when you have reached your limit is key—if you are skipping meals, not getting enough sleep, or canceling plans, for example.

Make sure to spend time away from the screen too, they suggest. Go outside. Listen to music. Meet up with a group of friends in person—as long as it is safe to do so, of course.

But take comfort in knowing that your video game hobby can actually be a good thing. Invite your parents to play with you. After all, experts say, gaming is not going away anytime soon.

According to a report from the market research firm Nielsen, “The long-term habits formed during lockdown are here to stay.”

Write About It! Is playing video games mostly beneficial or harmful for teens? Write an argument that supports your claim. Use evidence from the article as well as your own experiences or research.

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