Gaming kids: Parents, be consoled

Gabriela Isaacs.

Gabriela Isaacs.

When the computer science teacher asked her class whether anyone was interested in competitive gaming, dangling the possibility of winning provincial colours as an incentive, 14-year-old Gabriela Isaacs jumped.

Last October, just six months after learning to play StarCraft II, the Saheti School student from Malvern faced off against top StarCraft II player Aphrodite in the women's invitational at the International e-Sports Federation championships in South Korea.*

When we meet she is wearing aviator sunglasses and carrying two Hello Kitty-embellished cellphones — an iPhone for family and friends and a BlackBerry for everyone else. She sparks with youthful energy and talks fast.

If one person could make you think again about everything you thought you knew about gamers, it’s “Gabybear” Isaacs. Her weekly schedule is packed with chess, choir, debating, netball, tennis, hockey, Greek, Mandarin and guitar. Where is the time for games?

“As a video gamer you find time. You find every excuse to play games,” she tells me. “As busy as I seem, I find time for everything.”

Isaacs has been playing video games since she was old enough to hold a control.

“I was probably three years old, playing Age of Empires, SimCity: Theme Park and Tekken 3,” she said.

Consider a preschooler dealing tsunami kicks to an opponent, then switching to a game focused on building a civilisation, managing supply lines, directing armies and defending it against an artificial intelligence bent on its destruction.

Could making a link between this and Isaacs’ academic excellence — for she is also at the top of her class — be far-fetched?

Perhaps not. Gamers perform better than non-gamers on certain tests of attention, speed, accuracy, vision and multitasking, and researchers have found that they think differently to non-gamers too. They’re more likely to use the area of the brain that specialises in planning, attention and multitasking to process information.

Perhaps this explains Isaacs’ ability to manage her rigorous extra-curricular schedule.

 

 

* This sentence was altered to clarify the nature of women's competition at the 2012 IeSF championship. 

 
Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker is a reporter for the Mail & Guardian. She writes on everything from pop science to public health, and believes South Africa needs carbon taxes and more raging feminists. When she isn't instagramming pictures of her toddler or obsessively checking her Twitter, she plays third-person shooters on Xbox Live. Read more from Faranaaz Parker

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