Many parents and educators ae highly concerned about the amount of screen time consumed by kids these days. While parents can control how much time their children can spend on video games and/or computers by requiring designated play times while at home, that only takes care of part of the problem.
Perhaps an offshoot of the “if you can’t beat them, join them” philosophy, parents may want to consider steering their children to video and computer games that have proven brain-building components in them. The editors of ADDitude magazine provide descriptions of seven games, along with the appropriate age group for each, that are great not only for those with ADHD, but for anyone who might play them.
“Bad Piggies,” rated E for everyone, is a puzzle game by the makers of “Angry Birds”. Players are challenged to build contraptions that transport “piggies” to their destinations. Players are shown the level layout and are provided a collection of parts at the beginning of each stage. The player is required to invent a solution to each puzzle. Part of the beauty of the game is there is more than one right answer.
“Guitar Hero,” rated T for teen, is an exercise in focus and reflex. Teens are offered the opportunity to fine-tune their ability to pay attention and to turn visual stimulation into physical reaction. Working memory is required to master the game, as it relies on the repetition of complex patterns. Plastic, guitar-shaped controllers are used by players to “play along” with their favorite songs. Guitar Hero is available for PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Windows and Mac as well as Nintendo DS.
“Minecraft,” rated E, is a game where players are placed in a borderless, randomly generated land without supplies, directions or objectives. Players have to decide what to do as well as how to do it. Players collect materials from the world about them in order to “craft” items and build whatever their minds can imagine. Minecraft improves the planning skills of players as they must set and achieve goals within a given time frame. As a player begins the game, he will need to collect mined materials, build a workbench on which to craft things, and construct a shelter.
“Portal and Portal 2 (Portal Series),” rated T, are considered revolutionary because they value gameplay over complex narratives or flashy graphics. Players navigate a character through an abandoned research center using a “portal” gun. The portal gun opens doors between chambers that players or objects are then able to maneuver through, like a puzzle set in a three-dimensional world. This game is both engaging and cognitively fruitful. Players are required to use executive skills – planning, time management and working memory – which kids, especially those with ADHD, need to enhance. The Portal Series have been the recipient of multiple “game of the year” awards from a variety of publications. It is available for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC users.
“Roblox,” rated E, is an online virtual playground and workshop. Players are provided basic tools with which to construct buildings, machines and other creations to explore the Roblox world. Players must use working-memory skills as they learn and remember how to use different tools for arranging and building objects and altering their appearance.
“Starcraft and Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty,” are Real Time Strategy (RTS) games which are built around environments or maps viewed from overhead. Players construct different types of units and harvest materials, all with the goal of defeating an enemy (human or computer) in battle. Players must devote maximum attention to ensure they are producing units at peak efficiency while anticipating attacks and planning assaults on the enemy. Successful Starcraft players need to use metacognition, sustained attention and working memory. Professional competitions that routinely offer prize pools in the hundreds of thousands of dollars are held for both games. These are computer games available for Mac and Windows.
“The Zelda Franchise,” rated E, reigns supreme in the realm of “oldies but goodies,” particularly the Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask editions. Players are challenged by a puzzle-filled world, requiring critical thinking and goal-directed persistence – in other words, completing a goal in spite of competing interests and distractions. These games are available for the N64 game system, however newer versions have been released for the Wii and Nintendo’s handheld devices.