Okay, so you can't be a spy. And you can't be a professional football player. And you can't be a Chun-Li.
But if you've played games such as Sim Farm and Railworks 3, you've had a simplified run through a job you could actually have. Now, this isn't job training. You're not going to know how to actually run a ranch from Harvest Moon. But video games have made different jobs fun and interesting for a whole new generation.
Again, that isn't to say that pretending to be a soldier or a cop in a game gives us anything close to an understanding of what it's like to be in the line of fire. But it does teach us the terminology and some of the basic concepts behind the position knowledge that was much harder to gain before games.
What do you do when you're stuck in a video game? You find a way to get past the problem. What do you do when a game doesn't load on your computer? You look for a way to get it running. And that skill you're cultivating is oddly one of the most important you can ever have.
Stick with me here the ability to research and solve a problem is one of the most important things you can have in life. It will save you time, money, effort, and a lot of headaches if you know where and how to look for help with anything from home repairs to financial issues. We live in an age where people can repair red-ringed XBOX360's on their own, build their own gaming computers, and fix internal batteries in old GameBoy games. But even on a less "hands-on" basis, people know how to find other sources for information.
Despite our collective disdain for people who use walkthroughs and cheat codes, we all know how to find them. We all know which information is useful to our situation. We all know what keywords to look for when solving our problem. We can do it fast, easily, and we don't even think about it.
And many of us learned it as kids from video games. Now excuse me while I try yelling "ROSEBUD" over and over into the sky.
Even critics usually admit that video games give players good problem-solving skills. And they do. Almost every video game presents us with situations in which we need to respond to stimuli quickly and strategically. While sports and other activities improve situational awareness, the sheer variety of video games give us a far greater palette of reactions to choose from.
Again, like many things on the list, the result isn't direct. Playing Grand Theft Auto isn't going to teach you the best way to steal cars and rob hookers in real life. You're not shooting squirrels because you played Oregon Trail (Okay, maybe you are, but we really hope not).
Instead, playing games teaches you to quickly and easily watch your environment and look for subtle cues and hints that will benefit you in a variety of situations. Valve recently announced they would be providing Steam to classrooms and using Portal 2 to help teach kids. We can't imagine a better teacher for today's youth than GLaDOS.
What? But video games are for social morons who don't know how to talk to people. Surely playing online with thousands of people, coordinating with strangers on a workable strategy, and developing friendships through shared interests couldn't be the result of the IdiotBox360.
But it is.
Every time you play a game online, you're dealing with social situations. I know, I know, they aren't the same as talking to someone in a coffee shop. But they do involve working with (or against) another human being with their own needs and wants. Even basic teamwork requires providing for different people's needs and wants in the gameplay scenario. Tasks are distributed. Roles are taken. Help is given.
We're learning the importance of working in these social situations with strangers not classmates or family members from an early age with games. People are meeting friends and significant others in games. As gamers, we like to laugh at it because it's outside of the normal. "What a loser he's having sex because of World of WarCraft."
But at the end of the day, we're still learning how to talk to people, work together, and find love from video games. And ain't nothing that can help you do that can be all bad.