We are told our entire lives to spend less time in front of the screens gaming and more time in the great outdoors. In a recent article, we spoke at length about the way that taking part in sports, for example, can maintain your health, help you sleep better, and even reduce anxious feelings. However, while excessive screen time is generally frowned upon, could it be that there are some hidden benefits to gaming too?
The debate about what constitutes a healthy amount of screen time rages on. Many lobby groups, and advisors highlight the damage that can be done from a lack of social activity, too long sitting down in one place and a lack of sunlight. However, according to research from the American Psychological Association, video games hold many benefits.
Survival Games and RPG’s
One such benefit comes in the form of cognitive skills. While gaming might seem like a passive activity; it can help strengthen skills like reasoning, memory, perception and spatial navigation. These skills are especially tested in survival games, and modern RPG’s.
Games like Tomb Raider, The Last of Us II and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order all contain challenging puzzles that players must solve in order to progress with their story and move forward with the game.
But there’s more – many modern games require players to solve problems and assess complicated situations. Picking adventure games like those in the Telltale Games series, requires players to make difficult choices and to live with the consequences.
These narrative-driven games also inspire important moral teachings that players can try and apply to their own lives, addressing important topics of the day.
Online gaming has experienced a huge boom during the pandemic with titles like Minecraft, Roblox and Fortnite racing up the charts. Community games known as Massively multiplayer online games (MMO’s) like these represent an opportunity for socialization that isn’t always built into other forms of gaming.
It’s not just survival and 3D world games that are on the rise though. Online poker and casinos have also experienced record levels of participation. These types of games like poker and blackjack also provide excellent learning opportunities.
While some games like roulette are a game of chance, learning how to win at poker ultimately goes well beyond figuring out card-playing strategies – requiring players to grasp probability, psychology, and how to stay humble in the face of defeat.
Casinos, together with popular adult simulation and strategy games, encourage players to think tactically and learn how to manage their budgets. Titles like Football Manager, Civilisation and Sim City impress on players all around the world key concepts like supply and demand, long-term planning and resource management.
Gaming is an ever-evolving world and the idea of gamers bound to their bedrooms and computer chairs is not as true as it once was. Modern titles can be accessed on a variety of different platforms. This lends itself well to players who live transient lifestyles. Commuters can keep their brains active with memory games and language learning apps, or continue their platform game progress on their handheld devices.
Gaming can even be a source of income for some. Top eSport conventions and competitions attract large audiences across the world, elsewhere live streamers across platforms like YouTube, Discord and Twitch are absorbing huge followings. While this is a highly competitive arena, those that inhabit the winning formula of both charisma, and skills can earn good money.
Even players who lack the skills to compete at the top levels, but simply enjoy playing can hone their competitive side. Many games offer players the ability to connect online and communicate through headsets and microphones. They can battle it out against each other, or take part in what are essentially team-building exercises to complete difficult tasks.
There’s plenty of learning opportunities in gaming, and that may actually be the crux of the problem when it comes to its overall perception. Old attitudes dictate that learning isn’t supposed to be fun and that we get where we want to be through hard work and plenty of revision. While there is some element of truth in this, gaming is increasingly blurring the lines between the two.
While it’s important that gaming is balanced out with a healthy lifestyle, and we shouldn’t take *too* many sick days off to complete the latest Resident Evil game, the days when gaming was a hollow pursuit, it’s safe to say, are firmly behind us.