You’ve heard the conventional wisdom about playing video games. Too much screen time leads to poor health and stunted social lives. Video games even have emerged as an apparent culprit in the US epidemic of male underemployment – working-age men would rather play Call of Duty or FIFA than punch a time clock.
But there’s a contrarian view, too, one that holds that video games can be good for you, and for society at large. PositiveHealthWellness.com outlines a dozen advantages to playing video games. Among them:
Managing pain. Video games require intense focus, which can take your mind off chronic pain. What’s more, gaming can release endorphins, which ease pain.
Making decisions. Video games require snap decisions, and gaming can build the decision-making skills that are critical to professional success and a fulfilling social life.
Curbing food cravings. The stereotypical view shows a gamer surrounded by chips and soda. In reality, gaming requires focus, and it’s all but impossible to eat while you hold a controller. The more logical use of games? To manage cravings for unhealthy food. Playing will shift your focus away from eating.
Improving memory. Contrary to the image of slackjawed gamers staring vacantly at screens, video games aren’t mindless pursuits. They require cognitive skills such as memory.
Managing stress. An end-of-the-day video game can provide an ideal way to unwind from the stresses of the day. If the demands of work seem overwhelming, a video game lets you recharge.
Meanwhile, video game designer Jane McGonigal says a game saved her life – and she claims games can add a decade to your lifespan.
McGonigal suffered a severe concussion that left her unable to work or read and, ultimately, severely depressed. Feeling suicidal, McGonigal’s response was to design a game starring herself as “Jane the Concussion Slayer.” She took the ethos of secret missions and goals and applied it to her own daily steps toward recovery, such as snuggling her dog to boost her mood.
McGonigal acknowledges that video games have a bad rap.
“This idea is so pervasive – that games are a waste of time that we will come to regret – that I hear it literally everywhere I go,” McGonigal says in a TED talk.
But McGonigal argues that games can be used as a force for good. They can make you happier and help you connect with friends and family. If you use games to pursue daily wellness tasks, such as staying physically active and experiencing positive emotions, you’ll live 10 years longer than someone who ignores those basics.
“When we play a game,” she says, “we tackle tough challenges with more creativity, more determination, more optimism, and we’re more likely to reach out to others for help.”