The year 2022 will mark the 50th anniversary of Pong, widely considered to be the first commercially successful video game. We associate gaming with the young, so it might be hard to believe that the video game industry is nearing the half-century mark.
But the earliest games weren’t widely played. Platforms were limited in terms of availability. Can you remember the days when kids had to go to the arcade to play? Gaming has evolved rapidly in the intervening decades. CD distribution, compatibility with PCs and Macs (which were also becoming household staples), and portable consoles have all helped to transform the gaming world. Now, most games are distributed over the Internet and played on handheld devices, including the ubiquitous smartphone.
ESA reports that as of 2019, about three-quarters of U.S. households are home to at least one gamer. These aren’t necessarily kids; 65% of American adults play video games. Gaming has become a mainstream activity. Yet many people still feel a stigma attached to it. We’re often told that it’s a waste of time and kills our social interactions. Is there any truth to that assertion, or is it time to finally kick the shame and be proud of your gaming habit?
Video games have perks
As gaming moved inside the home, the opportunity for kids to play kept increasing. Adults worried, as they often do, about the influence of this new technology on their children. Now, those children from the ‘80s and ‘90s have grown up as the millennial generation. And in spite of all the doomsayers, research indicates that millennials have turned out all right.
All that time in front of their screens didn’t make the first generation to grow up as true digital natives. But studies also show that playing video games can be beneficial. Kids who play video games demonstrate more creativity. They improve at pattern detection, problem-solving, and collaboration.
Gamers of all ages enjoy the experience of ‘eustress,’ a positive form of stress that improves motivation and optimism. This makes gaming a great antidote to harmful stress and feelings of depression or anxiety.
Consider opportunity costs
Science might have taken a while to formalize its findings on the benefits of video games, but gamers have long known on some level that playing is good for their well-being. When you play a game, you intuitively know that there’s a learning curve–and you embrace it.
A good game doesn’t make progress easy for you. But you’ll persist anyway. If it were too easy, it wouldn’t be fun. And once you achieve the goal (no matter how different that might be across genres and individual games), the sense of accomplishment is exhilarating. It’s even more fun if you go through the experience with friends. You might also end up engaging strangers in conversation over the Internet.
Gamers don’t need any research to enjoy all these benefits: resilience, determination, learning, social interaction, and more. But they don’t often weigh their gaming activity against its opportunity costs. When you play games for at least an hour or two each day, it adds up to a significant amount of time. Could that time have been even better spent on doing something else?
How do you prove something is worth your while? Many people will answer this question in terms of money. And there’s no doubt that you can make money from gaming. People buy and sell in-game virtual commodities. Some players level up by hand in games such as League of Legends, then put up those League Challenger accounts for sale. Professional eSports players make money from competitions. These options allow you to convert hours of play into actual cash.
Worth doesn’t have to be measured by money, though. If you can transfer some of those skills you through playing into your real life, you can say that you’ve managed to improve through gaming. Apply your problem-solving skills and persistent attitude at work. Develop an appetite to learn life skills. Work up the nerve to interact with people in face-to-face conversations. Perhaps most importantly, live like the heroic, can-do protagonists of video games and strive to make a positive impact in the world around you.
Ultimately, the reason why people continue to question the value of gaming is rooted in the separation between the virtual world and reality. Find a way to extend the positive influence from the former to the latter, and you’ll prove the worth of gaming in your life.