The Value of Games to a Non-Gamer (a guest blog)

Research indicates that education needs to start early and it starts best at home, which I tend to agree with. Early examples of how important and exciting education is instil curiosity in young people,  which grows into a love of learning . Paired with practicing critical thinking skills and logic, a child can quickly grow up into a confident, passionate student.

That’s my origin story at least. My family is a big game family, so from birth almost it was board games, cards, and puzzles. In the beginning it was all about the chase. The impossible task of beating our Dad at Boggle–or literally any game to be honest–was a challenge my brother and I were obsessed with. We read voraciously, asked questions non stop to any adult that would listen, and forced our parents to explain every move they made when we played. We didn’t do any of that because we consciously loved school or education, we did it because we wanted to finally win. But looking back, that dogged pursuit of information and shameless questioning of the world around us was the start of everything. When I got older I transferred to a competitive admissions high school because I wanted to push my capabilities and intellectual boundaries. Then, I studied abroad in Hungary for a full year, because I wanted to experience personal growth that a traditional classroom can’t give you. After that was four years of college crammed with a demanding major and two minors and lots of extracurricular work. Now I’m in grad school to learn about how I can use my skills and talents–many of which are owed to the curiosity and thinking skills I got from gaming–to benefit the health and lives of other people that may not have benefitted from a strong foundation and background like I did.

I know it’s a bit dramatic to say that I owe everything to games. The skills I gained could have been gotten elsewhere, and other factors most certainly molded me. It is my opinion however, that games of all kinds offer us a uniquely efficient means of instilling important qualities in people and fostering the natural inclinations that will make them thriving human beings. Few other pursuits can teach you logic, humility, how to accept failure, social skills, using prior experience to make better decisions, emphasizing your skill sets, team building–the list could go on–as quickly and as enjoyably as gaming does. For the small price of one hour, we could be giving kids concrete examples of the behaviors they can and should mirror for success in the real world. So why aren’t we?

When the idea of the Dietz Foundation was brought to me, that’s why I loved it. Many of my college friends are going to be teachers soon (which, that’s a scary thought). I hear all the time about how every student needs a different approach, and that “non-traditional” methods are really beneficial to students. Yet, when push comes to shove, teachers are pressured for test scores and statistical growth. It can be hard to do what you know is good for your students when you know you’ll be heavily scrutinized for going for it. The more we can support our teachers in doing what they know is right for their classroom, the more well-adjusted, well equipped students we will have in society.

—-Brigitte Dietz  (Dietz is the daughter of Foundation CEO Jim Dietz and serves as the Dietz Foundation’s Social Media Director.  She holds a B.S. in Community Health Promotion from Illinois State University and is currently pursuing a Master’s of Public Health.)