Video games take up time. More than ever, many games also have built-in addiction mechanics. Some games pump up their playtime with collectibles and repetitive challenges in order to make a 10-hour story into a 40-hour game. It’s good to be conscious about which games or parts of games use their gameplay to convey a story, and where games turn gameplay into a form of process addiction.
Children are less likely to put down a repetitive game or a game based around collectibles where there are no real end-goals. Beware of games that rely almost entirely on collection mechanics. In many of these games, the gameplay itself is a form of teaching process addiction. Story games need plot movement, puzzle games need solutions and harder puzzles, but collectible game mechanics essentially just repeat the same set of processes over and over again.
That 10-hour game artificially pumped up to 40 hours will still be finished in close to the same amount of real time, but length isn’t the greatest way to assess these games either. There are 100-hour games filled with quick-moving, emotional stories. There are six-hour games that are deeply repetitive. Treat games just like you would TV – sit with your child and talk to them about how they’re thinking during the game. Ask questions and be a partner. Are they utilizing their brain, empathizing with characters, and thinking creatively about challenges? Does the game make you think as you watch? Or are they simply repeating the same process over and over again without much thought? If they’re playing a game that makes them think, it can be healthy in moderation, just like reading. If they’re playing a game that turns their brain off, even a half-hour of it can be wasted time.
Also be aware of the online environment in which your child plays multiplayer games. Even innocuous games such as Minecraft can’t control online interactions or what other players online at the time choose to say.
Games and TV also can’t be the only regular activities your children do week after week. Martial arts is a good option for exercise, meeting new people, and developing coordination, self-discipline, and confidence. Even if you take another path, keep your children engaged away from the screen – in band, sports, dance, whatever it might be. Have them try different things, but also have them commit to one or two. Video games can be a healthy hobby in moderation. Like anything else, there are good ones and bad ones. Just make sure that it’s not the primary outlet your child has.