Are Computer Games Now Better Social Playgrounds Than Actual Playgrounds?

Ah the good old days when kids would go out after school, meet in the local park and play football, mess around and maybe stay out after dark just to freak out their parents. This used to be the normal sort of thing that you would expect from school age kids, but now it seems the streets are bare. Where are they? Playing computer games of course.

Now the usual idea of the square eyed kid playing games in bedroom styled on a dungeon was perhaps valid 10 years ago, when the internet was still rubbish, but now thanks to broadband and the super rapid advance of games consoles and online gaming worlds, not to mention social networks, computer games are a very social thing, despite the fact all the hanging it is virtual.
But are these online places better social playgrounds that real adventure playgrounds?

Let’s compare:

Real playgrounds:
+        Better for physical exercise
+        Good for face to face and body language skill building
-        Less safe late at night due to crime and traffic
-         More opportunity for smoking, drinking, drugs
-        Playgrounds may be dirty or dangerous
Online playgrounds:
+        Much safer for kids
+        Parents know where kids are
+        More elaborate playground
+        Can be educational depending on the game
-        Costs money
-        Some games are inappropriate for certain age groups
So there are pros and cons on both sides but the fact is that migrating from the playground to the internet isn’t an entirely bad thing for young people. Let’s look at some of the top games and what they offer in terms of social skill development.

Gardens of Time

Facebook is the world’s biggest social gaming hub where games like Farmville have become legendary. Currently the top dog with the most active users and the highest recommendations is Gardens of Time. It involves hunting for special objects and through time growing your personal garden.
Social Skills Gained: players can link with their friends in challenges, exchange gifts and hints and help each other out with quests.

World of Warcraft

This game holds the record for the most popular game in history. Players run around an enormous almost never ending fantasy world of wizards, dwarves and huge monsters improving themselves and completing quests.
Social Skills Gained: Players can build teams and spend long periods of time using team work and ingenuity to complete challenges. Good for problem solving, trust and teamwork.

Call of Duty Series

Modern Warfare 3 is the latest in this series; the most recent few have amassed huge online followings. The gameplay is battlefield based and players usually hunt each other alone or in teams.
Social Skills Gained: Assertiveness, peace skills and joining skills.
There is undoubtedly an array of social skills to be learned through today’s online social games, but do these skills transfer to real life?
What do you think?
Adrian Walls studies child psychology. He is researching the effect of soft play equipment and indoor play equipment on children’s psycho-social development. 

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