(Long Island, N.Y.) It’s back-to-school time but is it all homework and no play at your house? Sure, the kids’ take-home assignments snag top priority but here’s a new reason to squeeze in special time for play: the results of a survey detailing some surprising attitudes of parents and grandparents toward their children/grandchildren’s time spent playing video games. PopCap Games, the leading developer and publisher of casual games, recently unveiled the results of the largest survey of players of “casual” computer/video games ever conducted.
Among the nearly 7,500 adult respondents who took part in the survey, nearly a third (31%) indicated they had children or grandchildren under 18 who played these family-friendly puzzle, word and simple action games in their home. And of these 2,298 “family gamers,” fully 80% said they played casual games with their children or grandchildren. Conservative estimates peg the casual games market as being more than 200 million people in size, meaning more than 50 million casual game players are “family gamers” who enjoy experiencing the games in the company of younger family members.
Of the 2,298 adult ‘family gamers’ surveyed:
- Nearly half observed educational advancements in their kids as a result of ‘casual’ game playing
- 9 out of 10 saw the games as a way of bonding with kids
- ALL saw benefits beyond pure entertainment/fun
While many video games are indeed violent, sexist and otherwise controversial, the fastest-growing sector of the video game industry is a very different story. “Casual” video games like Bookworm, Diner Dash, Insaniquarium and Bejeweled are purchased predominantly by women over age 30. And while moms and grandmothers may be the leading purchasers, literally everyone in the family is getting in on the fun – and a host of other benefits, from education to stress relief, bonding to cognitive exercise
Are causal games really different than video games and are there really substantial benefits at play? I asked Dr. Carl G. Arinoldo, a psychologist based in Stony Brook, NY, for his expert advice:
The results of this study are very intriguing. What are your thoughts about casual games?
Dr. Carl G. Arinoldo: I thoroughly enjoy the casual word and puzzle computer games. They are exciting, colorful, and quite engrossing. They are easily accessible and the games are family friendly. In addition, I appreciate all the cognitive and stress management benefits that these casual games provide.
Can you elaborate on some of the benefits?
Dr. Carl G. Arinoldo: The casual word/puzzle games tend to provide a wonderful avenue for the players to exercise and enhance their concentration and focusing abilities. Problem-solving and decision-making skills also appear to be enhanced. Playing these types of games can help a person learn how to distinguish important from unimportant details. In addition, studies seem to be showing that playing these types of games can help to keep the healthy brain active and vital. In fact, people have reported that they feel more “mentally alert” after a session with one of these games.
Aside from the cognitive benefits, playing the casual puzzle/word games help people in reducing their stress. By concentrating and focusing on the game, a person can take a “mental vacation” from whatever it is at the moment that is causing stress in his or her life. And, given the engrossing quality of these games, the concentration and focusing are quite easy to accomplish and stick with! Again, many people have been reporting that they feel less stressed after playing the games.
In fact, in my new book, “Essentials of Smart Parenting: Learning the Fine Art of Managing Your Children“, I recommend playing casual puzzle/word computer games for the cognitive and stress management benefits.
So, what exactly is the difference between casual games and video games?
Dr. Carl G. Arinoldo: There is a difference between these two and this difference would be based on, in part, the type of game and it’s content. The casual computer games would include the puzzle and word games that are available. These games seem to appeal to both genders as well as to people of all ages. They are simple, easy to learn, and they give parents and children a vehicle for some family interaction and bonding.
Video games, on the other hand, are games that are much more detailed, complex, and more graphic in content. These types of games are usually consist of more “hard-core action” and they appear to be geared toward a young male audience. These video games generally do not appeal to people of all ages. As such, when this type of game is in the household, I would tend to think that it would be the children—and not the parents—who would be drawn to them. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rules!
It’s great that these types of games appeal to all–I love a challenge! And it’s a perfect way to unwind with the kids–after homework or before bed. Got any tips to make playing a time for bonding?
Dr. Carl G. Arinoldo: The parent can actively engage the child in a casual computer game and they can play the game together. While playing, they can talk about the game and perhaps comment of various strategies of playing. They could also help each other with some of all of the plays. The parent can give the child a lot of positive feedback and reinforcement during and after playing. Through listening to whatever it is that the child says during play, and responding appropriately, the child should come to feel safe and secure and look forward to “playing with mom/dad” in the future! Depending on the make-up of the family, teams could also be established between the parents and the children for a variety of play experiences.
One last one: Do you play?
Dr. Carl G. Arinoldo: Yes. I do play casual computer games for fun and for all of the benefits listed above. The games that I like to play most frequently include: Bookworm, Bejeweled, and Venice.
BONUS: Get wordy–win a game!
That’s right, it’s all about: Words! Words! Words! Bookworm, a classic vocabulary challenge, is an addictive game that really knows how to spell f-u-n. Players link letters and build words to feed Lex, the insatiable bookworm. “But watch out for burning red tiles… they’ll send your library up in flames.” In Bookworm Adventures (the sequel launched last year) players fully take on the role of Lex the bookworm – leading him through a series of well-known books and fictional characters which Lex must overcome by forming words from an ever-changing set of letter tiles. From Dracula, the Wolf-man and other famous monsters to legendary Greek, Egyptian and Arabian tales, Lex explores many great works of fiction and takes on scores of enemies, all with their own unique characteristics and powers.
Making longer and more complex words gives Lex greater fighting prowess and generates special letter tiles with special power-up effects of their own. Various potions and treasures provide Lex with added power, defense and dozens of other automatic and one-time abilities to help him defeat the legions of bad guys standing between him and the safety of his beloved Cassandra and the safety of The Great Library. Three “mini-games” give players additional word puzzles to solve, with their level of success determining the number and strength of extra potions and power-up tiles they’ll take with them as they advance from one “chapter” of the game to the next. Word lovers–eat your heart out!
Want to get in on all the fun? Here’s the deal: The Long Island Exchange has some PopCap games to give away. Email me using the address below with the subject line: BOOKWORM. Try to stump me with a word I’ve never heard before. (It has to be a real word!) Give me the word and a short definition. My favorite “words” will win a PopCap game. There’s just a handful to go around, so get that dictionary out fast! Game over: October 1.