Video Games: An IRL Character Builder

Gaming helps youth level up in life


Graphic by Leni Alexi Santos/SAC.Media.

“Video games teach violence.”

It’s a statement that plenty of parents have heard and plenty of gamers have been told. Sure, on your kid’s screen, you might see some blood and hear today’s youth screaming for someone to die before subsequently being killed themselves. A bit of fighting always gets the blood pumping, and it’s nice to get stress out somewhere rather than just drinking or doing drugs.

However, there’s a wide array of games that go beyond the mindlessness often portrayed in media and parents who are less knowledgeable. In fact, I could easily name a few games that could teach better social behaviors than school ever did.

Growing up, there were a few games that taught me some of the basics found any children’s show. The difference, though, is that these lessons were hands-on.

Take “Animal Crossing” for example. It’s a nice, peaceful game where players have a character that ultimately helps to build up a town from its lackluster state. Players go around bringing NPCs gifts, forming better relationships and even doing favors. Throughout the in-game day, players can also go around town to pull weeds and shake trees for fruit. These fruits then sometimes get sold to help pay for the player’s house upgrades or any furniture or clothes they might want to buy.

Wait, talking to strangers and picking fruits from trees doesn’t sound like the things children need to learn about. Well, these actions actually help to teach youth about building good relationships, the formation of good habits and personal responsibility.

Along with this, games such as “Minecraft” add the lesson of determination. Just like the previous game, the player has to build their life from scraps. This time, however, they have to find the materials they need and fight to stay alive as a variety of mobs move to attack the player.

Endermen beat players up for staring too long, and creepers are addicted to blowing up shelters. With this added risk of losing everything while you’re going on adventures, it’s easy to simply shut down the game and have an epic meltdown. Veteran players learn to hop back in though and keep going, building themselves up bigger and better each time.

Then, there are the games that take the formation of good relationships a step further and add scripts to the mix. Have you ever had a moment where you’ve had to debate on which answer to give and trying to figure out how that response might affect how that person perceives you?

Games such as “Detroit: Become Human,” “Life is Strange” and “Oxenfree” are a few games that include the element of building character relationships based on a player’s choices. With how good a relationship becomes depending on the dialogue and actions chosen, players learn more of what scripts to follow to get a desired result. Picking a quote, getting a bad reaction, then receiving the “…will remember that” text in the corners of the screen is horrifying.

I’d be lying if I were to say that I haven’t found myself feeling my friendship levels drop with some people in the real world after making a choice between various options of what to say. What do I do to resolve it? I learn which choices make them happy in an effort to avoid the dreaded “bad ending.”

Then there are the games that just straight up show the player choices between good and evil. Take for example, the game “Undertale.” The game is known for its three routes named passive, neutral and genocide. As the names imply, one ending is obtained by deciding to find a way to spare any and all attacking NPCs, another is obtained by killing at least one and the final ending is obtained by killing every single NPC in the game.

Generally, people play the genocide route to reach an infamously difficult boss battle at the very end of the game. However, a lot of players also find that this route is a bit more emotionally difficult to play, as all the relationships built through their previous playthroughs are completely destroyed by their own hands.

Then there’s also games such as “Red Dead Redemption,” which is more open-world with a variety of choices that influence your karma, determining how people look at your character after he inevitably dies. Let’s face it, there’s no better reality check to your kid than having your grave disrespected because they thought being an asshole would be fun.

At the end of this, I don’t want to hear any more claims of today’s school shooters being influenced by video games. If anything, many of the best people I know are gamers, and they’re more likely to talk about how much they love a character or boss battle than they would even think about attacking their fellow students.

They’re more likely to illegally download a copy of a game than find a way to purchase or assemble a firearm. I’ve heard enough about how children need to better themselves and quit video games. What I haven’t heard enough of is what parents should do for their children. Basically, stop worrying about how video games are influencing your children and instead think of ways you can influence them yourself.