If you enjoy gaming, either as a hobby or professionally, you might've been there. You’re at a family reunion, or talking to your parents, or passing up plans to go out with friends, and they ask why you're wasting so much time gaming. I’m here to invite you to kindly put away the oh-so-tempting clap backs and instead cite some of these awesome facts about how gaming is–gasp!–actually good for you. That’s right, I said it. So the next time someone criticizes your favorite pastime, you can leave 'em flabbergasted.
For starters, gaming can help you de-stress. Games are often used as a coping tool after experiencing a stressful situation, such as a miserable day at work or having the SATs breathing down your neck. Diving into your favorite game may provide a chance to recover from stress by taking your mind off what’s stressing you out. Plus it can build problem-solving abilities to help you solve your real-life troubles. For instance, gamers who become upset during gameplay–likely because of a frustrating boss fight or an unfamiliar map in a multiplayer game–often develop helpful coping strategies to handle those negative emotions. These strategies may also include finding support from other players, which adds a much-needed social element to the overall experience. So the next time someone rags on you for playing Call of Duty all day, just tell them you're getting into your "flow state."
Second, action-based video games sharpen cognitive skills. People who gamed frequently before adolescence showed improved working memory, and older adults who game show improved cognitive health. Also, players who game regularly may experience positive results such as improved reaction time, which I can personally attest to. Teaching yourself to time dodges, hit quick time events, and aim at speedy digital targets really hones the reflexes. All this to say, it’s never too late to pick up the controller and train your brain.
Finally, gaming with friends can have a wealth of additional benefits besides finally beating that boss fight you’ve been stuck on for days. Creating a group of friends to join in-game can provide a sense of empowerment and help players build a resilience to stress. This is, in part, because of the social support from other players. Which brings me to the kill shot that most haters ignore: games build social skills. Yep, they're an excellent way to connect with others and maintain friendships even if you can’t leave your house for whatever reason. The shared cultural experience gives you something to talk about, and experiencing collaboration and competition within an activity you enjoy helps create multifaceted bonds with your online buddies. There’s nothing like knowing you’ve got a kick-ass squad with you when you’re down to the wire against the enemy team, or being the one to score the winning point.
All this to say, don’t let anyone tell you gaming is a waste of time. Obviously, too much of a good thing can be bad–no one wants to become so sucked into their computer monitor or television that they can’t connect in real life with the people they love. But when you game in healthy intervals, it can help you destress, strengthen your brain, and boost your communication skills all in one go. Sounds like the perfect pastime to me!
Do you have a favorite video game for destressing? Or a go-to game for having fun with friends?