As a featured guest at the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Pre-G-20 Forum this past fall, Google Inc. CEO Eric Schmidt was asked what type of training young people should pursue to gain the skills necessary to work in the tech sector of the future. Not surprisingly, he wants kids and teens to learn programming. But the idea that surprised many in the room? He thought playing video games had value too.
“The game world is good training for a career in tech,” said Schmidt. “It teaches players to build a network, to use interactive skills and thinking.”
Schmidt’s words may come as a shock to those of us who weren’t born with a laptop or a smart phone in our hands. His comments directly contradict what popular culture has been telling us for years; that video game playing is only for entertainment value and doesn’t lead to any long term benefits. We think of gamers as chip-eating, soda-drinking couch potatoes destined to work minimum wage temp jobs for the rest of their lives. We haven’t connected the dots…that gaming can actually be a valuable stepping stone leading to better results for surgeons, athletes, computer scientists and engineers. An AP Article covered a study from Beth Israel Medical Center with the title “Surgeons may err less by playing video games: Three hours a week decreased mistakes by 37 percent, study finds.”
“It’s refreshing to hear somebody like Eric Schmidt address the topic,” said Pete Ingram-Cauchi, President and CEO of iD Tech Camps and iD Gaming Academy, the nation’s largest youth summer technology programs. “We’ve been preaching that same sentiment for years and have actually seen the positive effects that programming and video game design can have on students.”
The summer programs use gaming as a vehicle to build critical thinking skills. Students work with gaming titles like Unreal Tournament® 3 and Half-Life® 2, along with the 3D modeling package Maya®, and game development software from Multimedia Fusion 2 Developer ®.
“Our students want to learn how to create video games—to learn game development skills. But that’s the head fake. Along the way, they gain problem-solving skills and teambuilding skills which are absolutely vital in the tech field.” said Ingram-Cauchi.