Games are one of the world’s most popular and pleasurable pastimes, and barely a month goes by without the Internet going into a meltdown over the next future of gaming. Sadly, however, video games have also got an unfairly negative reputation in recent years, having been tenuously linked to acts of violence, and an ever-more-visible collection of violent video games.
Despite this, there are plenty of reasons the gamers’ pastime is full of positives, and there are plenty of gaming benefits. In an effort to turn the tide a little bit and help keep you informed on the benefits available to you with a games console, here are 12 positives that gamers will truly understand:
1. They relax you and keep you happy.
This first one’s a bit of a doozy, really, but it turns out that video games can be one hell of a relaxant. Playing video games have been shown to release endorphins into the bloodstream, helping you feel happy and relaxed, particularly if you’re playing something nice and not too scary. So, next time you’re caught playing Monument Valley on your phone, or Little Big Planet on your console, just remember that these games are giving you a little boost and are psychologically aiding you.
2. They help you channel aggression safely.
Video games might be getting more and more ‘violent’ these days, but it turns out that beating a virtual character to a bloody pulp can actually have a beneficial effect. Studies have shown that aggression levels were actually lowered following a session playing games, as long as the gaming session was not particularly long. So, if you’re feeling the need to blow off an angry day at work, consider turning to your games console. After all, taking it out on waves of monsters is much more sensible than taking it out on your co-workers.
3. They help improve your eyesight.
The jokes about looking too long at a screen turning your eyes square might not be 100% true, but one of the most unusual and yet infinitely more useful gaming benefits is the fact that playing games can help improve your eyesight. Research has found that certain video games, particularly ones that have rich, shadow-heavy environments such as action shooters and survival horror games, can help improve ‘contrast sensitivity’ in the eyes, which helps you see better in the dark. There you have it — video games are more scientifically proven to help your eyesight than carrots!
4. They build online friendships and communities.
One of the best gaming benefits out there is that with games such as MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games), the players are interacting with other like-minded gamers across the world, forcing them to foster and build friendships and positive relationships. This can in turn help boost self-esteem, lower feelings of isolation and loneliness, and help them cultivate a truly global set of friends, the likes of which our ancestors couldn’t have dreamed of. Not bad, eh?
5. They enhance your teamwork skills.
Teamwork is a shaky term at best when it comes to down the modern world of playing massive online tournaments and battles with people all across the globe. But it turns out that the games that work on the premise of teamwork can help foster real-world abilities and relationships. Working with people towards a common goal, particularly in the realm of battle or combat games, helps create strong bonds with people, and can make you more likely to build strong bonds with people outside of the world of video games. And they said they had no applications!
6. They help improve your problem-solving skills.
Anyone who’s played a complex puzzle-solving game can attest to the level of frustration that a particularly vexing problem can bring, but it turns out these moments help us deal with real-world problems by engaging the logic centers of the brain. Research has found that those who played more problem-solving games were quicker and more able to deal with finding a solution when presented with a real-life problem. Are video games an acceptable substitution for high school maths? No, but it was worth a shot anyway …
7. They can help keep you fit and healthy.
This almost goes without saying, but the physical activity-based games, such as those offered by the Wii, can help increase physical fitness and fight obesity and illness. Studies have shown that children who regularly played on consoles such as the Wii were less likely to be classed as overweight or obese, and had a generally higher level of physical fitness. However, you can be healthy at any size, and if a quick game of tennis or baseball on your games console helps you be healthy, there’s really no downside.
8. They give you better hand-eye coordination.
This is one of the best gaming benefits out there with a real-world use; games help develop your hand-eye coordination and your spatial awareness. It seems simple when it comes to consoles such as the Wii (although learning by accidentally smashing your TV isn’t really the way to go about it!), but even games in which you’re using a handheld controller can be beneficial and help you increase your ability to judge speed and location. This is usually when someone in a game throws a Molotov cocktail at you, but it works either way.
9. They help you make quicker decisions.
Studies have found that playing fast-paced video games can actually give you some great real-world applications and gaming benefits, such as being quicker at making decisions. Gamers have been shown to improve their decision-making skills and speed by 25%, on average, when compared to their non-gamer equivalents. This is likely down to the immersive nature of games, which regularly force players into immediate action, honing their ability to quickly recognize a situation and react accordingly.
10. They make you better at multitasking.
Multitasking is one of those terms that gets bandied out too much and too often as something we should all aspire to be doing. However, while you’re probably worrying about balancing three tasks at once, research has shown that playing video games can help you in multitasking. This is thanks to games that force you to deal with situations all at once, making your mind grapple with multiple problems and tackle them in sequential order. In other words, dealing with a wave of enemies, a failing power situation, and the health of your team mates can actually make you better at switching tasks quickly and effectively in the real world. How’s that for applicable gaming benefits?
11. They can help unleash your creativity.
Creativity is a rarely controllable trait and state of mind to be in, so anything that naturally enhances your sense of creativity has to be applauded. Turns out that video games help enhance creativity in a multitude of ways; everything from the controls to the color palette and the story can help awaken dormant ideas and thoughts and help spark new life into them. You can suddenly work out the fight sequence for your screenplay while kicking online ass, find that color you’ve been looking for in a game’s lush background, or even work out a melody for a new song thanks to the instrumentals playing. In other words, you’re welcome.
12. They can help relieve physical pain.
Last, but most certainly not least, video games have the amazing ability to help players alleviate physical pain. Several studies have found that patients in hospital wards with chronic illnesses, or undergoing therapy or treatment, found their symptoms allayed somewhat by playing on a video games console, which are commonplace in certain wards. This seems to be due to the deeply engrossing nature of the games, which helps take patients’ minds off their pain, as well as the endorphin rush from playing and succeeding at the games. This is one of the best gaming benefits we can imagine and, frankly, if anyone deserves to play games to their hearts’ content, it’s people stuck in hospitals.