Faculty voice:

Rabindra (Robby) Ratan: Healthy gameplay for kids

Oct. 23, 2019

Rabindra (Robby) Ratan, is an associate professor and AT&T Scholar in the Department of Media and Information in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. Ratan is a researcher in the field of game studies.

Ratan is currently on sabbatical. He is a Visiting Research Fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, being hosted by the NTU Institute for Science and Technology for Humanity, or NISTH, for six months. He is exploring new avenues of research that relate to avatars and transportation technologies. In addition to avatars and car (avacars!), which he has looked at before, he is also studying the use of escooters.

The following faculty voice is repurposed content from MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences. To read the original story by Pierce Wiselogle, click here.

For many families, video games such as Fortnite have become a staple topic for discussion around the dinner table. A question we should all consider is when does gaming become unhealthy?

With games like Fortnite: Battle Royale — a cartoonish, multiplayer shooter game where players can work in teams or individually to be the last one standing — rising in popularity, MSU researchers in the Department of Media and Information have been exploring the negative and positive elements of playing these types of video games.

Some video games that are associated with increased short-term aggression, are also the ones that are associated with emotional control and can be used to help manage stress — teaching children how to cope with their emotions.

Fortnite is not very violent and this is one reason I allow my own children to play. Although it involves guns and shooting, Fortnite’s stylized, cartoonish scenario is far more fantastical than many of the hyper-realistic war-shooters on the market.

In fact, Fortnite may have positive effects on kids. The game mechanics of building and traversing structures in the heat of battle, may lead to a strong development of spatial skills.

According to a study published in American Psychologist, gamers have also been shown to present increased intelligence and academic performance.

I find that many of the gamers in my classes tend to be some of the smartest kids or, at least, the most engaged thinkers about complex topics.

However, there are also signs of unhealthy gameplay that parents should watch for.
 
There is a notion called displacement. It is basically the idea that the game has taken away or displaced healthy activities. That is a danger of playing games too much. Food is a great metaphor for games. If your kids eat too much of one kind of food, they probably won’t be that healthy, so with games, if they do too much of only one activity, it probably isn’t that healthy.
 
Signs of unhealthy gameplay that you can watch for include increased agitation and the inability to turn a game off. If your child is in a heightened emotional state for more than twenty minutes following gameplay, it might be a good idea to turn your child towards other games or activities.
 
There are other ways to counteract unhealthy gameplay and promote a more positive gameplay experience, including warning your child before you turn the game off.

Children have to anticipate when the game is going to end. Games don’t just stop after a half hour like a TV show because games have varied amounts of times that you invest. It depends on the game they’re playing. If a parent can figure out the time cycle of the game their kid is playing and can anticipate when the game is going to stop, and get their child to anticipate when it is going to stop, then they won’t feel cut off in the middle of a segment of gaming.

This is a technique I use with my own children to help them disconnect smoothly from the exciting games that they play, Fortnite included.