How do I stop playing computer games

Jürgen Fritz - Volume 15, game and learning software, Cologne, 2005/2006
“Those who play on the computer learn from mistakes, check themselves, find their own solutions, think complex, undercut given times, forget the end of the hour, do research at home, work in a team - even on weekends. You could also say: He learns to learn "
(Text in the USK's "Straight Pisa" poster from 2003)

Behind this text is the insight: Games promote what they demand. What do computer games require and what can they promote? Computer games in their diversity have a wide range of game requirements. By getting involved, the player is encouraged in these areas:

  • Sensorimotor (Hand-eye coordination, quick reactions, power of concentration, navigating and directing). The player "melts" with his character (his "avatar") and expands his body diagram through numerous exercise sequences, similar to a driver who has learned to become "one" with his car.
  • Cognitive (spatial orientation skills, memory skills, ability to combine, skills in convergent creativity, learning skills, willingness to experiment, time management, resource management, planning skills, problem-solving skills, technical skills). Depending on the genre (shooter, strategy game, adventure), the cognitive demands of the games can be very different.
  • Emotionally (Emotional management, stress resistance, self-discipline, motivation for success, perseverance). The emotional demands of the game can be quite considerable and are closely related to the self-assessment of the players and their willingness to perform. With an optimal balance between self-assessment and performance, the players can receive significant emotional bonuses through the game (emotional self-medication).
  • Social (Ability to cooperate, helpfulness, empathy). Many games are shared games. A team of players (clan, brotherhood, alliance) competes against other teams, so the games require a social orientation between competition and cooperation. The social component increases the emotional gratification considerably and contributes significantly to the motivation to play.

Players are promoted through the game and for the game. Whether the competencies are valid and effective in the real world is an open research question. It is entirely possible that key competencies that are acquired and trained in the game have a transfer suitability for the real world
(e.g. planning skills, ability to cooperate, problem-solving skills, stress resistance). Working on the screen has become an integral part of many professions. It cannot be ruled out that the virtual game worlds are a training ground for professional skills.

Computer games have (and this is their particular advantage over “traditional” learning arrangements) an immersive learning plan. The learning opportunities only open up when the player becomes “one” with the game, gets into the “flow of events” and at the same time develops the ability to pull himself out again and again, to set himself time limits for immersive lingering can.
Like every game, the computer game is "free", i. H. it has the characteristic of self-determination. It is "free" from external constraints and necessities. The player has the options:

  • What game do I play?
  • At what level do I play the game?
  • What game goals do I want to achieve?
  • Who am I playing with?
  • How long do i play? When do I start, when do I stop?

Thus, in computer games, there is an implicit request for self-control of the players: They have to decide how important it is to them to have fun and how to balance the game with other activities in a meaningful way. You need to develop the ability to prioritize and set your own boundaries.

In addition, computer games have an important self-reflective component: They enable (however limited) the self-knowledge of the players in the game and through their playful actions:

  • What are my desires and longings? What emotional bonuses will I get from playing the game?
  • How do I deal with stress and frustration? What are my earning limits?
  • What are my abilities? What are my limits?
  • How important is success to me? Can I also refrain from it?
  • To what extent does the game I prefer reflect something of my own life situation? To what extent is the game a mirror of society? And in what way have I threaded myself into these social patterns with my actions?
  • Do I find parallels in my playful actions to my actions in the real world? Do I use the game to compensate for unmet needs? Do I continue in the game what I am already doing and thinking?
  • Have I learned to use my own resources appropriately?

From this point of view, computer games are less of a danger than a fascinating and attractive challenge for the player and his environment. The implicit learning plan of every computer game calls for self-limitation and self-discipline and not for example delimitation. In this respect, the “educational optimism” is justified that the players experience self-training in the game, which could not be unimportant as an element of their self-socialization. This self-socialization also means that the players experience and learn that intensive game processes in virtual game worlds are “folded” into the contexts of the real world. Losing boundaries in virtual game worlds ultimately destroys the existential framework conditions for the game:

The secured life of the players in the real world. We can assume that this is exactly what the players are aware of and can be learned through the game.

Doesn't all of this sound too optimistic? Are the dangers that could emanate from computer games not inadmissibly withheld from such an approach? What the press is highlighting in terms of the possible effects of the computer game is a colorful kaleidoscope of fragments from scientific research.Media experts, experimental psychologists, educators and even brain researchers feel called to make general statements about the possible effects of computer games. School performance would be significantly reduced by the game, since computer games prevent school-based learning material from being retained. Others claim that computer games in particular increase the power of concentration of special children. Still others diagnose changes in the brain from computer games. Then there are empirical findings according to which computer games could promote spatial imagination. After all, research shows that surgeons who are avid video gamers work significantly faster and more correctly than their colleagues. This series of findings and findings could be continued as desired.

What is to be made of all this? Scientific research results in the field of media effects are only of limited informative value. They were obtained under certain conditions and generally only apply to these conditions. The experimental arrangements are often very artificial and do not correspond to the conditions under which children play computer games. Studies that compare different facts and findings are also very limited in terms of the amount of knowledge they can gain. What does the empirical finding that students with poor school grades say more often than those with good grades play computers? What does what? Does computer games lead to poor school performance or do poor performance in school lead children and young people to turn more to computer games? Or do both variables control each other? Or - what would still be most likely - poor school performance and excessive computer games are caused by completely different factors: e. B. a problematic domestic situation, little stimulus from family and environment, financial and social problems in the family. If you read the mostly extensive research reports of serious researchers, you will come across precisely these reservations and differentiations.

In the general public, these restrictions and differentiations are of little use. Here one looks for catchy formulas such as "Computer games make children stupid, fat and unhappy", which then claim general validity and are offered as orientation for parents and educators. You should be calm about what is rushing through the press and presented on the screen as “scientific knowledge”. Coarsening, exaggeration and scandalization are mechanisms to attract attention and to gain attention. However, this does not create any differentiation and offers little help for the orientation of parents and educators.

There is widespread agreement that computer games have a range of effects and are therefore fundamentally not without consequences. In general, however, it cannot be said which effects are to be expected. It depends on the specific individual case: Certain computer games could, due to their spectrum of activity, under certain conditions, in a certain situation, develop certain effects on certain players. This starts with the preferences of the players for certain games, continues with the differences in the perception of the game content, brings about differences in the handling of the game, this in turn relativized by the social setting and the situational conditions, controlled by a certain interest in use , through certain gaming experiences and competencies, and maybe ends with the values, life experiences and the concrete life situation with the special development tasks of the respective player. In other words: how computer games are integrated into the world of specific players can only be reliably clarified by examining the respective individual case. Such research would be very time-consuming and costly and, due to its complexity, might not satisfy the public's need for general statements about the effects of computer games.

For parents and educators, this means that they should neither rely on the generally positive nor on the generally negative attribution of effects and that their actions should not depend on what is currently being reported in the newspaper about the latest research results. Rather, the requirement remains

  • To keep talking to the child, to take part in their game preferences and to try to understand why the child is playing which games.
  • Making agreements about when and how long to play.
  • Make sure that computer games are only part of the child's activities.
  • engage in discussions with the child about certain game content and possibly learn to see the game through the child's eyes (also).