Professor Meets with Parents on Healthy Gameplay

For many families, video games such as Fortnite have become a staple topic around the dinner table and a struggle for some. So, when does gaming become unhealthy?

Rabindra Ratan, Ph.D, is an Associate Professor and AT&T Scholar in the Department of Media and Information at Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences. Ratan is a researcher in the field of game studies and also a father of young gamers and will be hosting a Fortnite focused event in partnership with ITEC for parents and children in Lansing.

Fortnite: Battle Royale is a cartoonish multiplayer shooter game where players can work in teams or individually to be the last one standing. 

With games like these rising in popularity, MSU researchers in the Media and Information Department have been exploring the negative and positive elements of playing these types of video games and is looking forward to sharing results of their research and answering questions.

Ratan says some video games that are associated with increased short-term aggression, are also the ones that are associated with emotional control and can be used to help manage stress - teaching children how to cope with their emotions. Fortnite, according to Ratan, is not very violent and this is one reason he allows his own children to play. Although it involves guns and shooting, Fortnite’s stylized, cartoonish scenario is far more fantastical than many of the hyper-realistic war-shooters on the market. 

In fact, Fortnight may have positive effects on kids. Ratan says that the game mechanics of building and traversing structures in the heat of battle, may lead to a strong development of spatial skills.

According to a study published in American Psychologist, gamers have also been shown to present increased intelligence and academic performance. 

“I find that many of the gamers in my classes tend to be some of the smartest kids, or at least the most engaged thinkers about complex topics,” said Ratan. 

Ratan said there are also signs of unhealthy gameplay that parents should watch for. 
“There is a notion called displacement. It is basically the idea that the game has taken away or displaced healthy activities. So, that is a danger of playing games too much,” said Ratan. “Food is a great metaphor for games. If your kids eat too much of one kind of food they probably won’t be that healthy, so with games, if they do too much of only one activity, it probably isn’t that healthy.”
Ratan said signs of unhealthy gameplay that you can watch for include increased agitation and the inability to turn a game off. If your child is in a heightened emotional state for more than twenty minutes following gameplay then it might be a good idea to turn your child towards other games or activities. 
Ratan suggested other ways to counteract unhealthy gameplay, and promote a more positive gameplay experience, including warning your child before you turn the game off. 

“They [your child] have to anticipate when the game is going to end. Games don’t just stop after a half hour like a TV show because games have varied amounts of times that you invest,” said Ratan. “It depends on the game they’re playing. If a parent can figure out the time cycle of the game their kid is playing and can anticipate when the game is going to stop, and get their child to anticipate when it is going to stop, then they won’t feel cut off in the middle of a segment of gaming.” This is a technique that Ratan uses with his own children to help them disconnect smoothly from the exciting games he allows them to play, Fortnite included. 
Ratan will be hosting a Fortnite focused event at the Firecracker Foundation in Lansing on April 5, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The event will feature Fortnite gaming stations and a talk for parents surrounding healthy gameplay. Please go here to RSVP for the event.

By Pierce Wiselogle