We love video games for their fun and entertaining nature, but even when we put the controllers down, thinking like a gamer can positively influence the rest of our lives. Here are ten ways video games do us good.
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10. Learn Personal Accountability
The best video games are challenging. Pushing through those challenges can teach us perseverance as well as personal accountability -- learning how to focus on our own actions and what we can control to improve the situations around us.
9. Learn How To Deal With People In Real Life
Online games offer plenty of opportunities to interact with other players. Each of those experiences can teach us about how to deal with others in real life -- how you can work well with just about anyone if you have the same goal (whether finishing a dungeon or working on a presentation), and how clear upfront communication is essential because others can't read our minds.
8. Exercise Your Brain And Improve Problem-Solving Skills
The jury's still out on whether playing video games can make us smarter, but researchers have found that parts of the brain (related to memory, muscle control, strategic planning, and spatial navigation) can get bigger as a result of playing. Again, this doesn't necessarily mean we get smarter as a result, but the findings suggest video gaming can be used to treat some brain disorders. Even if video games don't improve our IQ or cognitive ability, they can teach us new skills and help us practise them. Some games are designed with problem solving, critical thinking, and reading comprehension challenges. And, of course, there are educational apps and games for kids of all ages.
7. Relax And Relieve Anxiety And Stress
For many people, playing video games is much-needed downtime. The psychological benefits of playing video games can carry over into real life when they relieve stress and anxiety. Some studies have shown immersive games can even treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Of course, this depends on us not playing rage-inducing games.
6. Meet New People
Some games take the social aspect of gaming to a new level. Ingress, for example, is a real-world game that helped our own Alan Henry explore new places and get out in the real world to meet new people. Even if you don't play one of those augmented reality games, you can make friends in real life through this common interest, whether you go to a gaming convention or just join an online community of players. (Seriously, making friends is hard work, but video games can make it more fun.)
5. Get Better At Multi-Tasking
Multi-tasking isn't great for our productivity in general, but it might be possible to get better at it, even if you're not a natural "supertasker". Cognitive researcher Daphne Bavalier found that adults who played video games like Call of Duty were better able to deal with visual and auditory distractions simultaneously.
4. Learn How To Start Over And Let Go
One thing all video gamers learn is the sadness of finishing a game you enjoy or calling it quits on one that is no longer giving you that joy. Whether it's World of Warcraft or Flappy Bird, games force us to face frustrations about starting over or walking away. These are the same emotions we have to face sometimes in real life -- and video games could be good practice for knowing when to quit in general.
3. Get Into A Good Workflow
You can also use the principles of video gaming to tweak your workflow: set time limits to create a sense of urgency, break up work into different "levels" or stages, and reward yourself for each milestone of progress. Video game music might be the best music to listen to while you work or study and get you in that immersive state of flow.
2. Rewire Your Brain For Happiness And Positivity
You know how after playing Tetris for a while all you see are shapes in the real world that could fit together? The "Tetris Effect" teaches us that when we do things over and over, they take less brain power to do over time and our brains try to continue to make these connections. We can teach ourselves to overcome our negativity bias with the Positive Tetris Effect: practising looking for positive patterns in our lives. Playing Tetris might even help wipe out bad memories and stop food cravings!
1. Level Up Your Entire Life
Whether or not you're a hardcore gamer, if you think of life like a video game, it might be easier to improve your fitness and reach your other goals. Think of yourself as a character starting at level 1, work on your abilities (yes, sometimes it will be a grind), and keep tracking your progress. You can gamify just about every aspect of your life and learn to use a better strategy to "win" the game.