In this article, writer Lily Francis expounds on the benefits reaped from playing games and not just educational games.
Almost all gamers can share a variation on the same story: someone - often
a parent or a teacher when they were younger, but sometimes a colleague or
a partner - has told them that they’re dulling their mind by playing so
many games. Game designers in particular often get it in spades; if the
person they’re talking to isn’t a gamer themselves, they often have to
steel themselves for “harmless” asides. Games are fun, after all, but
aren’t they a little - you know - silly? Aren’t games just a brain-draining
time-waster? Luckily, exciting research suggests that the answer to that
question is a resounding no. Playing video games appears to sharpen
critical thinking, teach skills like collaboration, and otherwise prep
gamers to succeed in life. It’s not just educational games
confer these benefits either; no matter your chosen genre,
your favorite games are likely to give you a boost in life.
Problem-Solving & Critical Thinking
One of the reasons children play make-believe is to learn about their
world. By imagining themselves in different situations, they learn how to
react to situations they probably haven’t encountered in their real lives.
Consider it a test drive for their brains, emotions, and problem-solving
skills. We never lose the capacity to learn from these kind of games, and
this is exactly the well that video games draw from when they increase our
critical thinking. For all that the mind is a complex instrument, it also
has the ability to process immersive media, such as video games, as lived
experiences. New experiences promote new perspectives, which in turn
encourage creative solutions in everyday life.
Games also help to fine-tune your ability to think quickly under stressful
circumstances: even if you logically know that you’re safe in the middle of
a particularly tense mission, your pounding heart and adrenaline rush
probably have your body fooled. Next time you have a stressful, fast-paced
day at work, think about how you’d react to it if you were playing - it’s a
surprising hack might help you regain control of the situation by looking
at it from a new angle.
Community & Teamwork
Whether sharing real space with your friends or family, or collaborating
with someone you’ll never meet in a city you’ll never visit, gaming can be
a team sport. Just like any other team sport, these games can foster social
skills which are applicable to every other part of your life. Even businesses have realized the potential games have to spur social development, with Forbes running a story which highlighted the ways in which
collaborative gaming trains players in alliance-building, resource
allocation, and teamwork. Even after players leave the game itself, the
benefits continue. Stories on healthygame-playing often
note that “[online] gaming tends to spawn lively and active Internet
communities, with gamers frequenting fan sites, forums, and shared
databases to discuss developments, tactics and gameplay”. Although social
media has made this sort of interaction commonplace, these communities can
be highly close-knit, encouraging social skills in a way Facebook can’t
Relaxation & Creativity
Given the pace society runs at, many people feel like relaxation is a
slightly taboo act, something they have to find legitimate excuses for.
Forget all of that; anything which relaxes you is beneficial by its very
nature, since it’s those moments of happiness which allow for greater
productivity, a healthier body, and a less manic mind. Like other hobbies,
gaming has the potential to be a relaxing break from “real life”, but it’s
also a way to recharge while staying engaged. The stress of work might fade
away, but your mind is still active and focused, the hallmark of a healthy
hobby. Games - particularly immersive ones - also promote creativity and
increased imagination. In this, they come full circle back to the
make-believe games of children, with the power to ignite an interest in
storytelling and the world around us.
Once upon a time, gamers were seen as unsuccessful weirdos with poor
people skills. Games have changed, and people have changed, but more than
anything it’s this perception which has changed - or is, at least, in the
process of changing. With research to back up these shifts in
understanding, it’s possible to be proud of what gaming offers both players
and society in general.
Lily Francis writes for a number of ethical healthcare providers.
She's always been a keen gamer since she fell in love with Civ in her
school days and loved taking the opportunity to prove that all that time
plotting world domination had some mental health benefits (as well as
being great fun).