It’s Thursday night and you just dragged yourself through a killer of a midterm for PHYS 141— General Physics. You’re feeling stressed, you’re unsure about the result and you just need to take a load off. This begs the question, what do you do? Take a hike? No, it’s much too late. Binge eat? No, too unhealthy. Watch a movie? No, too uninvolved. Hmm, what about playing a game? Maybe, just maybe. You could take out your stress by playing League of Legends, testing your mettle on the Fields of Justice. You could play CS:GO and show the terrorists who’s the boss. You could play some Call Of Duty (COD) with the other guys, releasing some stress in a fun, yet perfectly harmless way. Through gaming, the possibilities are truly endless. Then mid-stride your conscience cuts in, questioning your decisions, asking you, if you really can afford to ‘waste’ time gaming.
I’m here to calm your conscience, and alleviate your fears because gaming might not be the waste of the time that you think it is. Spending some time playing games might do you more good than you might think.
Not too long ago, January 2014 to be specific, a study entitled ‘The Benefits of Playing Video Games’ was published by the APA (American Psychological Association). They were able to identify at least four types of positive impact that video games have on those who play them. Namely, cognitive, motivational, emotional and social.
Firstly, let’s look at the cognitive benefits. Games have been proven to improve attention, focus, and reaction time. This is particularly true for the shooter/action genre of video games. A 2013 meta-analysis actually concluded that the spatial skills improvements obtained from playing commercially available video games are comparable to the effects of formal (high school and university-level) courses aimed at enhancing these same skills. These skills are also transferable outside of a gaming context.
Secondly, games have a motivational benefit because they cultivate a persistent, optimistic motivational style. Which in turn may generalize into both school and work contexts. Additionally, games encourage an incremental rather than an entity theory of intelligence. Meaning that knowledge and skill is cultivated through
effort over time as you grind through the levels in whatever game of your choosing.
Next, we have the emotional benefits. Games have an emotional benefit because they induce positive mood states; in addition, there is speculative evidence that games may help develop adaptive emotion regulation. Thus, game playing may promote the ability to flexibly and efficiently handle emotional experiences, teaching players the benefits of dealing with frustration and anxiety in adaptive ways.
Finally, games have a social benefit because gamers are able to translate the social skills that they learned from co-op games or multiplayer gameplay to peer and family relations outside of the gaming realm. No longer does the stereotype ring true of the lonely gamer locked in a basement.
So have no fear, go enjoy your Thursday night. Happy Gaming!