Right, we all know that gamers and video games tend to get a pretty bad rep in the mainstream press. Sometimes this is completely unwarranted, and sometimes, frankly, a lot of us act like idiots and have it coming.
But that’s not why we’re here today. Instead, I thought it’d be much nicer to simply take a look at few reasons why playing video games can actually make you a better, kinder, and more attentive human being, because there’s nothing wrong with a few positive vibes every now and then, you dig?
Gamers Are Better At Ignoring Distractions And Are More Focused
Okay, so this isn’t always a positive given you might be lost in a particularly intense session of Apex Legends while your parent/partner is desperately calling for your help in the house with some chore or other, but various studies have found that people who spend a lot of free time with games – particularly action games – are generally more focused individuals.
Take, for example, a 2016 study published by researchers at the Universities of Rochester and Wisconsin. They found that those who media multitask (which means things like checking your phone while binge watching the latest Netflix show) are more easily distracted than those who regard themselves as gamers.
In the study, self described heavy and medium multitaskers were outperformed by the gamers in every single task, suggesting that games can actually be useful in improving one’s attention span – take that, mum and dad.
Gamers Are More Satisfied With Life – And More Sociable
While the mainstream press would have you believe that young gamers would rather head out onto the streets and start beating puppies to death with baseball bats, the truth is that there really isn’t any tangible link between gaming and violence – a subject we’ve covered many, many times here.
In fact, studies have shown that kids who play video games for up to an hour a day are more relaxed, sociable, and generally happier than those who don’t. An Oxford Study conducted with the help of around 5,000 children aged between 10 and 15 uncovered this conclusion, which will probably be surprising to everyone but gamers.
Young people who indulged in a little video game-playing were associated with being better adjusted than those who had never played or those who were on video games for three hours or more.
So there we go, a little bit of gaming never hurt anyone. The research did go on to find that kids who played for too long weren’t quite as sociable, but everything in moderation, right?
Gamers Are Quicker At Making Decisions
If you ever need to make a difficult choice in a pinch, it’s probably better to have a gamer with you. Research has previously suggested that those who identify as gamers are able to make decisions much quicker than those who identify as non gamers, and can even make those decisions with equal accuracy as the non gamers who take longer.
Daphne Bavelier, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Rochester in New York, told NBC back in 2010 that playing action games can really help sharpen the mind and improve those all important decision making skills.
Bavelier went on to praise video games for their ability to benefit so many different aspects of behavior, and the way gaming skills managed to translate into improvements in a number of areas. Basically, gamers are just great, okay?
Gaming Improves Spatial Problem Solving Abilities
I know your ma and da love to tell you that playing video games and watching TV will rot your brain. While I’m not here to speak on behalf of TV, I will say that multiple studies have concluded that playing video games can alter the brain more frequently in beneficial than in harmful ways.
A 2010 study by Ian Spence and Jing Feng of the University of Toronto found that action games – FPS games in particular – can yield improvements in sensory, perceptual, and spatial cognitive functions that actually extend beyond the abilities you picked up while playing the game.
So for example, if you’ve got mad skills at DOOM, the spatial problem solving abilities you acquired while blasting demons in the face aren’t just limited to your time in DOOM – you’ve developed actual skills that you can take out into the real world and use, probably without realising it.
Gaming Generally Makes You Smarter
Despite the stereotype of gamers as socially inept stoners with no attention span or desire to do anything beyond eat an entire tube of Pringles while watching Fortnite streams on Twitch, it turns out we’re actually pretty smart. Smarter than you’re average bear, in fact.
Research carried out by scientists from Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and Paris Descartes University found that children who played the most games had fewer relationship problems with other children, and that the most active gamers were 1.75 times as likely to show ‘high intellectual functioning’.
In addition, gamers were found to be 1.88 times as likely to demonstrate high overall school performance. I told my mum she should have let me play Halo 2 before my SATS test.
Dr Katherine Keyes, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, New York said:
Playing video games is often a collaborative leisure activity for children. These results indicate that children who frequently play video games may be socially cohesive with peers and integrated into the school community.
So there we go; if anyone wants to try and tell you video games are a waste of time, you should point to any one of these peer reviewed studies to show them how horribly misguided they really are. The truth is, games can often do far more good than harm. Just remember that everything should be enjoyed in moderation – even The Witcher 3.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.