As parents know only too well, children of the 21st century interact with everything and everyone through their digital devices.

Unsurprisingly, they prefer their entertainment to be interactive too. Whilst linear entertainment is a passive experience, video games are an interactive experience in which the players control the actions of the characters. It is that agency which is so exciting and rewarding.

Once the misunderstood hobby of teenage boys locked away in their bedrooms, video games are now played by everybody, young and old, online and offline, on multiple devices and platforms. Video games are a mass market, cultural phenomenon played by more than three billion people worldwide. Global revenues exceed $150 billion annually and are rising. The pandemic has seen video games surge in popularity, with games like Animal Crossing, Fall Guys and Among Us bringing people together to have fun in online digital communities. Games undoubtedly alleviate anxiety and depression. The World Health Organisation now acknowledges the positive effects of people playing and being together in online games.

Are games about to become socially acceptable? If so, it has taken a long time. In 1859, Scientific American commented, “Chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements.” In the 1980s, there was criticism and even a warning guide published about The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the first interactive gamebook in the Fighting Fantasy series I wrote with Steve Jackson. They were not considered “proper” books because of their branching narratives and game system. But children loved them for that very reason. Fighting Fantasy got a whole generation of children reading in the 1980s and were proved to be great for reluctant readers. They improved literacy, problem solving, critical thinking and creativity.

As for video games, well, where do we start? I can’t understand why certain sections of the media criticise video games so much, describing them as trivial at best or even blaming society’s problems on them. Good news about games is seldom reported and so the perception of the games industry remains poor. The consequence of negative reporting is that parents and teachers are neither aware of the positive attributes of playing games, nor of the career opportunities the industry offers. And the investment community has historically overlooked the investment opportunities. Did nobody notice that the Roblox Corporation, publishers of the Roblox online game platform, made an initial public offering on the New York Stock exchange earlier this month for $40 billion?

Of course, an economic argument does not make games a good thing. But there is strong evidence to suggest that games skills enhance life skills, and that playing games is actually good for you.

Human beings are playful by nature. We enter the world as babies, interacting with everything around us. We learn intuitively through play and trial and error, which is at the heart of the video game experience. Games require problem-solving in order to succeed. Building is a creative process and Minecraft can be described as digital LEGO. Rollercoaster Tycoon is effectively a management simulation. Players understand the physics of building the rides and the business decisions of staffing their theme park and pricing the rides. Do it right and the virtual customers will make it a profitable business. Do it wrong and a player can tweak the parameters until they succeed. Unlike an exam where the answers are either a binary pass or fail, everybody can be a winner over time.

Think about the cognitive process of what is happening when people play games. Playing a game is fun and entertaining, but the gameplay experience also combines a broad mix of problem-solving, decision-making, intuitive learning, trial and error, logic, analysis, communication, risk-taking, planning, resource management and computational thinking. Games encourage creativity and curiosity. Games give continuous assessment and do not punish players for making mistakes. Simulation games are used as a training tool for pilots, surgeons, the armed forces and other professionals. Games should be seen as a contextual hub for learning.

There are some very successful people who cite games as making a positive contribution to their learning. British technology entrepreneur Demis Hassabis said after selling his artificial intelligence company Deep Mind to Google for some $400 million, “I’ve always viewed my obsession with playing games as training the mind in multiple facets.” Mark Zuckerberg’s interest in playing games led him to learn to code which in turn resulted in the creation of Facebook. There are many more examples.

Yes, some games do contain violent content. But that is no reason to set public opinion against the entire games industry. Many films contain violent content, yet the film industry is not criticised in the same way. And like film, games have age ratings. Some games are 18-rated. Films and games have ratings for a reason and should not be ignored. Children should not be allowed to play games that they are not meant play. But to put things into perspective, over 90 per cent of games are family friendly.

Some parents are concerned about the amount of time their children spend on their digital devices, whether it’s games, the web, social networks, music, messaging or watching YouTube videos. But we are living in a digital age and no doubt parents are probably also spending an increasing amount of time online. You could argue that this has been essential during the pandemic. Nevertheless, wherever possible, parents should monitor the amount of time their children spend consuming all media, including games, to ensure they have a balanced life indoors and outdoors.

If we can think positively about games-playing we should also think more positively about the industry itself. The UK video games industry is one of few success stories during the pandemic. Revenues are up and it’s business as usual for developers working remotely from home using cloud-based development platforms. Digital consumption and digital creativity make the industry future-proof and it ticks all the right boxes for the post-Covid digital economy – creative, knowledge-based, high tech, high skills, high salaries, digital, export-focussed, IP-creating and regional. What’s not to like?

Ian Livingstone CBE is chairman of Sumo Group, and partner in HIRO Capital. He is co-founder of Games Workshop. Follow him on Twitter: @ian_livingstone