“Shall we play a game?” In the movie WarGames, it is an innocuous question that almost leads to nuclear war. However, in just about every other situation, it is an invitation that offers the prospect of great fun. Executed properly, however, games offer much more than just the enjoyment that participants derive from playing.
The Sages took a dim view of games of chance and games played for money. When it comes to other types of games, though, count me in. I love going outside to play sports, which presents obvious physical benefits beyond the fun of the game, and I also derive great enjoyment from a category that has become something of a scourge to parents and educators, video games. Now, I am not talking about the mesmerizing games that require little more than staring at a device and tapping. (I’m looking at you, Cookie Clicker.) Rather, I am talking about complex games that develop cognitive and physical skills through play.
Well-designed games encourage players to find new ways of approaching problems. They require players to practice and persevere. They promote teamwork and creativity. They present opportunities to find solutions that could be applied to real-world problems. They provide positive reinforcement for successfully completing tasks both easy and difficult. And the feeling of fiero that one feels when completing the most difficult parts of a game is one that we should be trying to replicate in our everyday lives.
I am not arguing that kids should be spending entire days playing video games. However, in appropriate measures, video games can be positive influences; and taking the skills that one hones from playing well-designed games can help players change the real world for the better
Rabbi Eric Zaff