When Santa kindly gave the kids a Wii for Christmas I didn’t imagine myself willingly participating in the games. For the sake of family unity, I reluctantly tried Mario Kart Wii and finally discovered the allure of video games for the first time in my life. In fact you could say I became an addict, and for a period I awaited the time when the kids were fast asleep so that I could challenge myself on the racing track. In the end I had to practice self-regulation to limit the amount of play I would engage in as I tried desperately to beat the other racers and gain the rewards of winning. It was a satisfying learning experience which provided me with a greater insight into understanding how these games offer complex challenges which are possible to achieve but require perseverance and stamina.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!
Mario Kart Wii is not a simple racing game, but just like Grand Turismo 5 it provides complex opportunities for users to develop skills in multi-tasking and reflexive thinking. Users need to develop knowledge on the best characters and vehicles for particular race tracks, and show patience and perseverance in order to gain rewards. My daughters initially selected the characters and vehicles which they considered the ‘cutest’ or ‘prettiest’, but as they soon realised that this did not always result in rewards, they instead developed problem solving skills. They carefully investigated, consulted and trialled different characters and vehicles which provided the best advantages for the particular track they were racing on. They also established the ability to consider the racing conditions and quickly respond to obstacles which are constantly presented. They showed a greater perseverance and patience than I did, by focusing on achieving goals, and dealing with challenges and failures.
Unlike Super Mario Bros Wii, Mario Kart Wii does not exhibit the same gendered stereotypes in which males actively save passive females. Both games share similar characters, yet in Mario Kart Wii they equally have advantages and disadvantages on different courses. The game is inviting to players of differing genders, interests and ages as there is a wide variety of characters to select from. As in Super Mario Bros Wii, Mario Kart Wii also contains multi-player functions which allow participants to race against each other or together in teams. This develops skills in participation and team work, and provides opportunities to share skills and knowledge. Mario Kart Wii promotes research and literacy in multiple media formats, as players can access information and insights in the game through the Nintendo website and share with friends through Facebook.
Through my experience of this game I have reconsidered my opinion on the educational value of video games. I also have a new appreciation for the benefits in interacting in activities which develop motor skills, deep levels of thinking and research, and the ability to multi-task and respond quickly to challenges. Along with this experience I have gained a better understanding too of how important it is to both teach and model self-regulation, in order to ensure that the benefits of video games aren’t outweighed by the negative effects of game playing addiction!