Do Video Games Make Kids Smarter? Librarians Want to Find Out

Tucson’s News-4 has a report on a study being conducted by the American Library Association to see whether games can make kids smarter and more literate:

Pima County’s library system is one of a dozen in the country participating in a study to find out if video games improve literacy… 


…Luis Aguilar, 11, helped organize a video game club.  In the process, he learned filmmaking skills to create a five minute movie about it. Luis believes the games are making him smarter, "Because it helps you with memory, memorizing stuff and hand eye coordination."


If national research verifies these kids’ experiences, the American Library Association would like to create a video game curriculum for all libraries to use. 



Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on RedditEmail this to someone


  1. Anonymous says:

     Videogames definitely bolster problem solving skills. Additionally, they can be a "gateway drug" to other, more educational, forms of media – as was already said above. In my case, videogames got me into programming (Interplay’s Learn To Program BASIC) years ago, and now, it’s what I do professionally. I owe it all to videogames.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It’s sad they need to do studies.  The stereotype "geeky but extremely intelligent gamer" is slowly being replaced by "fat, stupid, lazy, rude, and psycopathic gamer".

  3. grifter_tm ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Hell yes. RPGs and RTS provides a lot of challenges for a budding young mind. If you’ve ever played Starcraft or Red Alert or any other RTS, you’ll learn a little bit about resource management, which is an absolute necessity when it come to the business world. RPG’s function like an interactive storyteller with the child/student as the central character. Fighting games teaches kids about game theory (block, attack, throw?). Sports sims can help teach strategies and plays which can be helpful when playing, well, sports. Racing and flight sims can teach physics (if the game decides to adhere to reality).

    The only thing you probably wouldn’t learn from a video game is algebra.

  4. SomeChristianKid says:

    I’ve been playing games for years and I pretty much do that than study, sure you can learn some things in games like uh civilization or something but lets face it, its just meant to be pure mindless and not so mindless joy but I guess saving your planet from evil alien forces does teach you survival tactics 😀


  5. Overcast32 says:

    If they played video games, they’d be smart enough to just easily recognize and realize this long known and understood fact 😉

    But seriously – I learned all the basics of memory management and driver installation from DOS games, I became familiar with TCP and other protocols from Doom and other Network Games.

    Ended up making a career out of it, and now manage servers in multiple states for a fortune 100 company :O

  6. GRIZZAM PRIME says:

    There’s more to being smart than just math and science and other school crap. Everything can teach you something useful.

    -Entertainment isn’t the reason the world sucks. It’s the reason we know the world sucks. For information on games and psychology, look up: Jonathan Freedman(2002)Block & Crain(2007)Grand Theft Childhood, by Harvard researchers Larry Kutner&Cheryl Olson

  7. Ryno (still awaiting my login info) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Yay, Tucson made GP, and it didn’t involve any deaths or laws!

  8. Jeff says:

    Another often overlooked benefit of games besides learning is STRESS RELIEF. This world can be stressful and games make good releases and relieve stress.

  9. ZippyDSMlee says:

    Define smarter?

    Text laden games are good for kids most "twitch" games offer nothing but entertainment, but move beyond that to the multiple story’s in fictional settings one can see the weaving of thoughts and  mindsets in those story’s and see the smaller design elements in the game, I would say its more beneficial than TV  but only in moderation.

    I is fuzzy brained mew =^^=
    (in need of a bad overhaul)


  10. Outrun ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I definitely think video games make kids smarter.  Compare a kid that doesn’t play video games with one that does, you will see the difference.  Its practically a necessity that children play video games these days, not only for the benefits the games offer, but because video games can help children find common ground with other children and this helps them develop friendships.  Playing video games together as a family and kids playing games together can also be very beneficial to friendships, social life in general and family bonding.  With the introduction of the Nintendo Wii more families are playing video games together than ever.  I can’t imagine kids not playing games nowadays, if a kid wasn’t allowed to play video games I am betting they would be behind in a number of ways at school and they wouldn’t have a lot of friends since they would feel left out.  Parents don’t realize how much some kids TRULY love video games, and really need that to get them through the social perils of school.

    Video games also teach one VERY important skill that a lot of kids are lacking in: PATIENCE!!!  What teaches patience better than a video game, in order to get to the end goal, you have to do this and that and pass through this etc.  You cannot "cheat" at video games like you can at board games.  Ever play board games with kids, they try to change the rules and basically do nothing but cheat so that they always win.  Its not very fun.  Video games prevent kids from doing that, you have to play by the rules of the game or you don’t play at all.  Video games also teach kids how to be a good loser in this way, again, something that most children haven’t experienced enough in today’s win-win society.  Plus once they complete the game they will have confidence to complete more games, giving them more confidence that they can do more things in life.

    Also, when kids play video games, they think its fun, they don’t even realize they are learning important life skills like problem solving and patience, and many other skills.

    Oh and my library currently rents out about 30 Playstation 2 titles for free.

  11. Amauriel ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    In the words of the great Professor Membrane:

    "Videogames develop hand eye coordination, and make kids into better human beings."

    In all seriousness, I agree with those here that although Guitar Hero may not be the best choice, I think that games like SimCity or Zelda can really improve a person’s knowledge.

    When I was a kid, I was on the Quiz Bowl team (Jeopardy with 4 people for High School, basically) and I was always first string.  Why?  My knowlege of armor, weapons, and Greek and Roman mythology always came in handy for those strange questions.  When asked where I learned about those things, teachers were always amazed to find out it was video games.

    Give kids a healthy diet of Oregon Trail, Carmen Sandiego, text-centric RPGs (without voice actors), Tetris, and even Pokemon (management skills as well as reading skills) and they’ll do fine.  Better than putting them in front of a static television any day, that’s for sure.

  12. Paul says:

    I’m part of an American Library Association group to study and promote the benefits of video games and literacy.  I’m also a longtime reader of Gamepolitics.

    There is a wide variety of research out there beyond Anderson’s book that Dargon mentioned.  The thought process, critical thinking, information management, prediciation, communication, and a host of other practical skills.  James Paul Gee, Kurt Squire, Henry Jenkins, David Shaffer, Richard Van Eck, and a number of other academic researchers found studied and educational aspects of gaming and how people play games.

    Libraries are looking at video games in terms of traditional literacy (reading), but we are also looking at games in terms of media literacy and other new literacies (knowledge, skill, fluency of technologies).  We are learner as we play and what we are learning is more than the exagerated media reports.  Hopefully libraries can help bring this learning into the public eye and increase the perception gaming.

  13. chadachada(123) says:

    That is a good puzzle game, very good. Some of the younger kids might be able to use a simpler form of the game to really help problem-solving skills.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Oh great I can see it now

    Kid A: WTF wherez mah car

    Kid B: LOLZ Noob! Its in teh parkin lot

    Kid A: PwneD!


    MMO kids really do talk like that to each other. And its super annoying! LOL

    I can hardly see how MMO’s will help kids "Interact socially"

  15. Dargon says:

    Actually, there’s lots of evidence that video games are good for you beyond the "hand-eye-coordination" arguement.

    This book argues that games may be one of the best ways to learn problem solving skills like what it calls "telescoping" (keeping an eye on your end goal, while individually thinking of each of the smaller goals it will take to complete the end goal. i.e. In order to save the princess I need to get the key, in order to get the key I need to kill the goblin, in order to kill the goblin, I need a magic potion, etc.)

    Not only that, but online games like MMOs can be the best way for many children to learn/experience social interactions, and all the complications thereof.

    His arguements are basically that books are good, and for some things, the best way to learn or develop a skill are with books.  But some skills books are no good at developing, and the best ways to develop these skills is to play games or watch t.v. shows.  Basically that games and tv aren’t all bad, there’s a lot of good there too.

  16. ZippyDSMlee says:

    "I would easily encourage kids to play Interactive Fiction as a way of promoting Literacy"

    This is why I say if CP owners do not keep things in publication they have no right to stop the free trade of  CP works, expanding the mind of the masses is more important than profits on things that have already made more than enough profit.


    I is fuzzy brained mew =^^=
    (in need of a bad overhaul)


  17. SS says:

    how the heck do video games other than those on Wii improve hand-eye coordination?  The wii may help with its waggle stick but everything eles seems to only improve hand-finger coordination.  There’s a difference between hand-eye and hand-finger coordination. 

  18. Mune says:

    They definetly do, I don’t see why studies are needed at this point. Video games can potentially improve:

    Hand-Eye Coordination





    Critical Thinking

    Problem Solving

    Organizational skills

    Leadership skills


  19. SS says:

    I’d say eye-finger coordination can be improved not hand-eye coordination.

    Maybe the wii can improve hand-eye but the other consoles can’t.

    If i had guitar hero when i was small I could have probably learned how to play guitar in my music class instead of miserably failing at it.

  20. kurisu7885 (can't log in) says:

    One thing about videos games compared to other learning tools, other learning tools can have a hard time keeping ones’ attention, putting it in a form that’s interesting and seems ot have more reward, IE RPGs.

    Hell, put someone in the Forge in Halo 3 and they can make some complex stunts that require problem solving skills.

  21. Bad Wolf says:

    I definitely agree that video games can teach. Parasite Eve pushed me towards learning more about mitochondria and the Mitochondria Eve theory.

  22. sheppy says:

    Simple enough, old chap…

    Hand Eye coordination can be greatly improved as well as memorization.  Coupled with Pattern recognition, forward planning, and yes, even problem solving as some sequences really are problems needing to be solved.  On top of a general sense of rhythmn which many hope, me including, will lead to the downfall of Radio Disney.

  23. Greg ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Here we run in to the important impass, the one the clip really failed to cover:

    What do you mean, "smarter"?

    Guitar Hero is actually an excellent game for developing a number of skills in coordination and perception. Math? Not so much. Risk assessment? Quite certainly.

    So what do you mean when you say "smarter"?

  24. Jack Wessels says:

    Guitar Hero makes you smarter? OK, listen, yes there are video games meant to help kids learn, but GH is meant for one thing and one thing only, to entertain. This isn’t a bad thing. But trying to see if this game in particular is going to do anything other than maybe help you with rhythm, or even hand-eye coordination is a waste of time.

    Still, putting games in locations most kids usually avoid is a sure way to draw them in, and like Gaffit said, it could be a "gateway drug" to reading.


    -"A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject." -Sir Winston Churchill

  25. Kris O. says:

    Likewise. I played MUDs (multiplayer text-based games) for a decade, which did far more for my own literacy than 16 years of school and college. I’ve learned more from video games than I had learned during my 16 years of officially recognized education. That’s either impressive on the game industry’s behalf, or excrutiatingly depressing on offical education’s behalf.

    If you want a crash-course in psychology, load up a multiplayer first-person shooter or a strategy game. RPGs are a great entry into Greek, Roman, Asian, and Egyptian mythology, as well as modern folklore. Other RPGs present chemistry in a fantasy setting, but base it on reality–which inspired me to learn the fundamentals of chemistry, and then some. Everything that I am is due to digital gaming, from all genres. Basically, I see or hear something that interests me, and it makes me want to learn more about the subject.

    It frustrates me to no end that this sort of experience and information isn’t globally recognized and accepted. A person is required to have the drive to learn, and the will to continue learning. If these conditions are met, everything is a learning experience–including entertainment.

  26. Krono says:

    Similar here. Playing old RPG’s with my sister is what made my mom realize that I read faster than my sister.


  27. Greg ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I would easily encourage kids to play Interactive Fiction as a way of promoting Literacy — good old Zork, and the whole genre that exists nowadays around it. Good stuff.

  28. Gaffit says:

    Not sure about improving literacy with games like Guitar Hero, but I practically learned to read by playing old RPG’s. And some of the games had a good enoughb plot convinced me to turn to books for more compelling stories.

    So to me, video games were a gateway drug to books.

  29. Liz ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Actually, the academics have been studying this for over a decade. The libraries are making this move because the research is already in. Read: "Got Game: How the Videogame Generation is Changing the Face of Business Forever" (Beck/Wade), "What Videogames Have To Teach Us About Literacy and Learning" (Gee), "Everything Bad is Good for You" (Johnson), and "Grand Theft Childhood" (Kutner/Olson). And yes, I’m a librarian who games.

  30. sortableturnip says:

    Look, it’s Beavis and Butthead!

    Dun, dun, dun da dun dun, dun da dun da dun, dun da dun dun….

  31. gs2005 says:

    You could use FlashBlock on Firefox if you really get tired of Flash video’s (and other Flash components from auto-launching, including annoying advertisements) autoplaying…

  32. HalfShadow says:

    Yeah, how about making the video a click-starter?

    Auto-start anything really pisses me off.

Comments are closed.