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Are games changing our (everyday) lives?

Everyone knows that playing video games is both fun and awesome, and unsurprisingly that learning is neither of those. They’re nearly polar opposites, with one being an escape from reality while the other is supposed to help you get better at real life. Unbeknownst to players, these lifelong enemies may be closer to each other than they thought. .

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“Gaming and learning could even be brothers, once separated at birth”That’s taking things a bit too far, but the fact of the matter is that video games could actually be teaching skills that you use in real life. What? You’ve already considered this? Reports have confirmed that virtual training is used in space and army programs? Games like Brain Age are designed to reinforce these notions? In that case, these claims are laid to rest as the truth. Case closed.

Now for fun, case re-opened. About a month ago I was driving between states (as in the United States) and hit a blizzard. Unfortunately for myself and most traffic on the road, conditions were akin to that of Lost Planet (see what I did there?), and nearly impossible to drive in. Within miles the road became a thin layer of ice and traffic was crawling at only a few miles per hour. I wouldn’t make it to my dinner date on time; I hope she understands. As it were, things got a bit better and drivers became more confident in how fast they could go. That is, until a semi jack-knifed and slid off the road into a ditch. Everyone including myself hit the brakes, but at even 15 MPH, there’s no stopping on ice. I began to spin out very slowly and began witnessing my firsthand collision with the back corner of another semi just yards ahead of me in what was literally slow motion.

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As fate would have it, my hands took over and I tapped the brakes while alternating opposite directions in steering until I had straightened myself out and successfully came to a stop far before smashing in my windshield. My journey would not, in fact end within the first hour of travel. 20 minutes or so later, when my testicles decided it was safe to come back down, I considered the events which had taken place. I have never been placed in a dangerous driving situation like this in real-life. In fact I’m quite sure I had no idea how to react at all, I’m not the best driver in the world. That is to say, I’m not the best driver in real-life.

Making sharp turns, hailing power drifts, and other steering maneuvers are akin to breathing in my favorite racing series, Project Gotham Racing. I can pull a heaven-sent 360 in the middle of a race and continue to place first. I wouldn’t put it past myself, or the game. That’s not to say that PGR is a perfect racing simulation—far from it, but that can’t discount the reaction which took place when I found myself in a scenario of which my old driving instructor’s training of years’ past had been far removed from my mind.

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“Could it possibly be that learning to control a car in a virtual snowstorm transposed into real life?”I should also call into consideration that for the most part I do sit on a couch instead of in a car. I’m just a student at a university, devoid of transportation, which I think solidifies my argument that I’m not too familiar with emergency driving techniques. That, and the fact that I rule in several racing titles.

My question is not that of concerning games which are meant to teach, such as the Training games; but in what ways other genres could possibly improve real life skills which could only be attributed to years of video games. For instance, is it possible that an FPS nut can locate something faster with their eyes? Could flight sim games help earning a pilot’s license come more naturally? Do games like Tetris or others in the puzzle genre teach people to be more conservative with layout and space design? Can playing hours of RTS titles improve multitasking? And can enough hours of Final Fantasy X level me up enough to learn Firaga?

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Surely most of these examples can be argued to great lengths, but this article more or less exists as a note that somewhere in the universe, someone was taught by a videogame: taught to drive a car and not end up in the freezing cold. And furthermore, on my way back home (I really did not have luck on this particular route), I was nearly run off the pavement by a careless pickup truck pulling a trailer of horses. My reaction was simple and precise—without hitting the horn I simply tapped my brakes and steered a bit away from him, saving at least my own life.

Odds are that gamers have learned some odd talent here or there by playing a game they naturally took to. Perhaps they weren’t learning at all, but simply sharpening their skills. In any case, video games are good for something, and kids remember to argue these points against your parents when your time’s up for the day. And feel free to take me up on that racing ego of mine; he [The Stig] needs a shove every now and then.

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in January 2008.

Gentle persuasion

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