Running a project, managing a business or just being a family is often about finding creative ways to get things to happen. Frequently, this is finding innovative ways, like teaching your daughters to play war games, to motivate people to do or learn useful project skills.
One project of mine is to help encourage my daughters’ learning. I discovered the biggest challenge is to watch what I do and see how they mimic it. This can be good or bad, as I’ve found out.
I love to play war games. Games such as Sid Meier’s Civilization and Neverwinter Nights are some of my favorites. I play Civilization when I want to conquer the world, and Neverwinter Nights when I just need to solve problems and blow a few things up. To my wife’s chagrin, the girls wanted to play these same games. I had to turn down the blood and gore factor on Neverwinter Nights before letting them play. However, something unusual happened, contrary to my wife’s fears. The girls did not turn into warmongers. In fact, they learned a lot of things I never realized they would learn.
War Games Teach Cooperation
The first game they played together was Lego Starwars on the Xbox 360. It was a two player game and had the interesting aspect that if one player ran off in one direction, it would “drag” the other player along. This forced them to work together.
They spent a lot of time yelling at each other to do this or do that. It turned out that my older daughter wanted to solve the puzzles, while my younger daughter liked to shoot up everything and watch things explode (often uncovering hidden treasures). They quickly settled into big sister leading the charge going after puzzle solutions and little sister as her wingman, shooting up anything that threatened them. I was awestruck at this arrangement by two little kids in early elementary school. These two were learning to cooperate, required to cooperate by the game, and they figured it out.
War Games Teach Rule Understanding
I have one daughter who can be described as “efficient.” She wants to employ the minimum effort possible. If she can find a way around a rule that she does not like, she will do it. Just ask her school teachers. Yet, the computer doesn’t always allow these kinds of options. So she has learned that in some cases she just has to persevere and follow the rules. A great thing for her to learn. This same daughter, who I can’t get to break open a school book, studies the complex documentation and manuals on military units and capabilities in a war game.
I have to watch out about computer game cheat codes, however. One of the books I had for a game called Starcraft happened to have a chapter on cheat codes. They found them and used them to make the games a lot easier. I didn’t think they would ever play without them. Recently, one daughter has decided to challenge herself by using less of the cheat codes. Maybe cheat codes are OK after all.
War Games Illuminate Moral Choices
My youngest daughter will spend more time adjusting the outfit of her Neverwinter Nights character than she will fighting bad guys. Both girls will simply not attack anything that is animal-like, even if it is a bad guy. They’ll happily deep-six a troll, ogre or any slimy creature. But if it is something that looks like a real animal they will do all they can to avoid hurting it.
I’ve learned more about the choices my kids have made by watching them play these games than in any other way. I am very proud of their choices and have no idea how they came to them. I don’t recall ever explicitly teaching any of this. They’ve clearly drawn their own conclusions.
War Games Teach Real-World Problem Solving
While playing Harry Potter on the Xbox 360, my daughters discovered that when they got stuck they can Google for hints and walkthroughs that will get them unstuck. A walkthrough is a guide someone has written that shows how to find and solve the puzzles in a game. Here, I like them learning to use Google (or the search engine of your choice) to answer questions and solve problems.
War Games Teach Complex Design and Programming
Many of the games allow the individual to design new game scenarios. Both Civilization and Neverwinter Nights allow this for example. I found my kids creating complex worlds and designing plots to follow. When my one daughter started programing character interactions and asking about variable names and if-then-else conditions, I knew there truly was magic in the game (my early career was computer programming).
War Games Teach History Without Tedious Memorization
If you ask my daughters about early civilizations, such as Carthage or the Babylonians, you will find they will readily offer opinions and historical facts. The Civilization game has taught them a tremendous amount about comparative civilizations. I find shows on the History Channel, for example, are much more captivating to them as they now recognize many of the names, rulers, cities and technologies that were employed during those times.
War Games Teach Strategy As Well As Tactics
Many war games are “shoot-em-ups.” You see a monster, blow it up, then move on and do it again. Games such as Civilization and Starcraft require a bit more thought to succeed. I’ve seen my girls try out various strategies when straight forward brute force tactics failed. Watching them build up forces or resources, then waiting patiently for the right moment to make a decisive move is mind boggling. If I could only get them to attack cleaning up their room or doing homework in the same way!
Gaming Is Also Useful In The Workplace
While this discussion has been distinctly non-business, it is a good example on looking for things to motivate our teams. I know at the very beginning of office PCs, in the early 90s for me, I spent a lot of time allowing folks to play games on their PC. Solitare did more for motivating and helping people learn to use the PC then any training program I encountered at that time.
While I don’t necessarily advocate letting your team play war games on the job (though we did in the U. S. Air Force), these kind of games build skills and attention to detail that is often underestimated. Also, just because a game emphasizes martial arts does not mean that this is the only reason they will play it or that it will cause them to stray to the “dark side.”
So, go ahead, teach your daughters (or anyone who might benefit) war games! Your might be amazed by the real world skills they learn. If you have war games (or any game) to recommend that provide similar encouragement, please leave a comment.