The Benefits of Gaming

Professional esports team celebrating

Gaming is a pastime enjoyed by many around the world. Players young and old enjoy spending time in virtual experiences that test their skill, enhance their knowledge, and encourage progression. Gaming has existed since as far back as the 1950’s. Games were much simpler as the technology limited what could be achieved, but in the 70 years since, the quality of games has improved exponentially and the ecosystem that surrounds it has turned into a multi-billion pound industry that has a presence in almost every household in the world. 

In the past, gaming was seen as unhealthy, isolating, and a waste of time and to some extent, this was true. Early consoles had no internet connectivity, which meant players had to play alone in the location they played from, with no interactivity (other than giving someone another controller!) Many games also had no save progress function, which meant players had to spend hours at a time continually playing, in the hope of finishing the game without needing to turn the console off in the process! 

The advancement of the internet and developments in gaming hardware have had positive effects on the gaming experience and also has a number of benefits associated with it. 

  • Enhanced Social Behaviours 

The majority of games have the ability to interact with other real players, either via text chat or voice chat. These settings can be turned on and off but are on by default. Using voice chat enables better teamwork in games that require coordination and action with other players and also builds on communication skills that can be utilised outside of the game. Social behaviours can be developed via gaming communities and enhanced further with in person gaming events (LANS) 

  • Improved cognitive abilities (Problem solving/logic) 

Many gamers play games that require planning, strategic thinking and logic to achieve goals within the game. A recent study showed that gaming improves problem-solving skills and logic. The brain is indeed like a muscle – The more it is “exercised” and worked, the more responsive and developed it becomes. Regular participation in games that require lateral thinking and problem solving can undoubtedly only help brain development in players. 

  • Better multi-tasking skills 

Researchers have also found that games may help players make decisions under pressure and multi task better. Action games require the player to handle multiple sources of information, whilst also manoeuvring in game obstacles and issues via a joypad or keyboard and mouse. Gamers tend to become more effective with this practice over time which again, can be used in real life situations. 

  • Improved hand to eye coordination 

As mentioned previously, the brain is a giant muscle and needs to be exercised in order to improve. The ability to react quickly and focus on visual cues can have a significant positive impact on hand-eye coordination. Repeated training of this coordination via gaming can only improve over time. Researchers have in fact suggested that teenagers and students can outperform medical professionals in virtual surgery environments, purely because they’re used to gaming with a controller! 

  • Additional physical activity 

Gaming is now not restricted to sedentary activity. With the progression and development of Virtual Reality, gamers can be far more mobile when they game than ever before. Ranging from dance movement games like Beat Saber, to boxing and martial arts in BOXVR, there are many opportunities for players to move around but still be able to enjoy their favourite games.  

  • Parental controls 

Previously, parents were limited to having to decide whether a child should play a game via the PEGI rating (located on the front of the box or in advertisements for said game.) This could sometimes be circumvented by someone else buying the game for the child or loaning it from a friend. 

Parents can now set up Parental Controls on every console that allows them a degree of control on what their child is allowed to play. The controls can completely prevent the playing of games that are above a certain age range, or be more granular and prevent text/voice chat functions to be enabled.  

Controls can also be adjusted remotely, depending on the type of console or device that is being used.  

To summarise, gaming offers a wide range of benefits, from enhanced cognitive abilities to improved social connections. While excessive gaming can have detrimental effects, moderate and mindful engagement with gaming can enrich life in various ways. As gaming technology continues to evolve, so too will its potential to positively impact individuals and society.

The insights in this article have come from Kylie Kendrick, Technical Specialist (Esports) at Durham University.

For further reading we recommend visiting these websites:  

https://news.microsoft.com/source/features/work-life/mind-games-how-gaming-can-play-a-positive-role-in-mental-health/ 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/53740172 

https://www.parents.com/kids/development/benefits-of-video-games/