Holidays provide an opportunity for students who enjoy electronic gaming to indulge their passion for these activities without the constraints that are usually in place during term time. Students who experience extended periods of play during the holidays can find it difficult to resume routines associated with academic activities and homework commitments during term time.

Electronic games are enticing because they are structured to provide novelty, escalating challenges and opportunities to master new skills.  Gaming creates a climate of competition, heightened risk and excitement. Gifted students use games to provide personal challenges, relaxation and to develop friendships.  The optimum match between the level of task difficulty and skill development in games facilitates the positive psychological “flow” experience described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Games provide opportunities for constant challenge, independent control and self-paced learning. They adapt to the level of each learner and the level of difficulty escalates to locate a match with personal skill development.  Computer games provide a seductive experience for students who search for a high level of intellectual challenge and ongoing skill development.

Chess peopleThere are indicators that computer game usage can enhance cognitive function.  Improved perceptual reasoning, systematic and evaluative processes, problem solving capacities, scientific thinking and metacognitive skills have all been associated with playing computer games.  Players gain mastery and self-efficacy from playing computer games. A variety of skills such as the development of technological and programming skills, quick decision making, fast reflexes, eye-hand co-ordination, visual discrimination, goal setting strategies, striving for goals and increased persistence have also been developed through the use of computer games. Students may also use electronic games to facilitate social relationships. Expertise in gaming becomes an important currency in developing social relationships.

Despite these benefits, there is another side to gaming. Gaming patterns that show a need for immediate gratification; short-term rewards in conjunction with long-term impacts and significant costs associated with extended periods of play suggest the emergence of addictive gaming behaviour.  Mark Griffiths outlines elements of technological addiction, such as when the activity becomes the most important activity and dominates an individual’s thinking, feelings and behaviour. Changes in mood associated with gaming; increasing tolerance for the activity; withdrawal symptoms; conflict arising about the amount of play and/or in relation to other commitments (e.g. academic work) are other aspects of addictive patterns of play. At the end of holidays, it is important to step back from extended periods of gaming; to re-establish disciplined and focused routines that are necessary during term time if students are to achieve academically.

© Michele Juratowitch