Fab Fridays 84: How Games Teach Kids To Think
Why the Father of Quantum Computing Loves Video Games
Over 70% of kids play video games every day.
Everyone thinks they should play less…but here’s an interesting case for why they should play more.
Before we go into it, I want to share with you my latest video on Specific Knowledge:
What you—and only you—can offer the world + how to help kids (& adults!) find and develop their unique knowledge stack.
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How Games Teach Kids To Think
David Deutsch is an Oxford physicist and the father of quantum computing. He’s also a huge advocate for gaming. Deutsch argues that we have few reasons to think gaming is harmful—and lots of reasons to think it’s amazing.
In this interview, Deutsch says the evidence against gaming boils down to this: kids like video games.
And some parents tend to regard children liking something as evidence that it is bad for them.
Deutsch says we should do the reverse:
"If children are spending a lot of time doing something, let's try to find ways of letting them do even more of it. The fact that they like doing it is an indication that it is good for them.”
So, what might make video games good for kids?
Deutsch argues that they teach kids how to think. Other things might teach kids some content or a particular skill, but video games teach something more valuable: how to interact with the world.
Video games are essentially simulations. They give kids a chance to practice solving complex problems that mirror real life. The thinking skills they need to win games set them up for success as adults.
For example, video games helped Tobi Lutke build Shopify. Games like Starcraft taught him how to develop strategies, manage resources, and invest for the long term. These lessons directly transferred to his role as a CEO. (Read more here)
But the benefits of video games go beyond any specific lesson. Their real value is teaching kids how to teach themselves.
In Deutsch’s words, with video games “you learn the mental skills with which you are learning the video game, and those skills are good for learning anything.”
For this reason, Deutsch says that video games are destined to be an important means of human learning for the rest of history. They give us something that humanity has never had before:
“An interactive complex entity that is accessible at low cost and zero risk."
That’s a big idea…let’s unpack it:
You can learn almost anything from a video game. They’re a way to store and transfer human knowledge, just like books. Both books and videos games are complex, but video games are also interactive.
You can't practice with a book, but you can with a video game. You get to learn from taking action, making mistakes, and course correcting. In this way, video games are like learning the piano—but better.
The piano is interactive but takes lots of time to learn—and few people go pro. It's risky. Video games are like conversations. You can dive in, learn, and not worry about losing a big investment. But for kids, conversations come at a cost…
Kids are afraid of looking stupid or getting in trouble when they talk to adults. It shouldn’t be this way, but that’s the reality. Video games have nearly zero costs. You can make many mistakes, learn from trial and error, and keep playing.
Perhaps we should stop finding ways to limit video games. When kids spend lots of time reading, playing the piano, or talking with adults, we feel proud!
Why not feel the same when they're gaming?
Of course, not all gaming is good. It’s important for kids to learn to play video games in a healthy way. Here are 7 tactics for healthy gaming recommended by Jane McGonigal, Phd game designer.
Screen addiction is also a valid concern for parents. I wrote about why screens are so captivating to kids and what we can do to help them in my article The Psychology of Screens.
Lastly, you can also learn more about kids and video games from this amazing interview with David Deutsch. Let me know what you think!
Until next week,
Ana Lorena Fabrega