Video games continue to remain a polarizing subject in spite of their foray into mainstream media and more widespread acceptance than ever before. Although not as common as before, games are regularly criticized as a “waste of time” that are “dumbing down” our children or inciting people to violence. While we mustn’t shy away from game-related problems like cyber-bullying or addiction, it needs to be pointed out that as a whole, games enrich people’s lives and make them demonstrably better.
Stress relief and a temporary escape from reality may come to mind first, but gaming can also develop actual practical skills which players can apply to better almost every other area of their lives.
From becoming more focused and aware of what’s important, to understanding and socializing with people better, there’s little the right game can’t help you improve. Read on to discover the six most important life skills games help develop and how they do it.
Seeing the Big Picture
Today’s most elaborate games are a far cry from the platformers and beat-em’-ups that filled arcades 20-30 years ago. Complex shooters like the Rainbow Six series demand that players plan out their every move in advance and coordinate with others to succeed in their missions. In massively multiplayer games such as World of Warcraft or EVE Online accomplishing a single goal can take weeks of dedicated work and determination.
This teaches players to set aside the instant gratification games are usually associated with and work towards a greater goal. The toughest content like raids requires that one researches the mechanics, watches guides online, and puts in hours of required practice to finally come out on top. There’s no easy path to mastering something in life, and games can reinforce that from early on.
The Ability to Concentrate
It’s really hard to get someone to acknowledge you while they’re engrossed in a video game. While frustrating for the observer or disgruntled parent, the ability to shut everything else out of one’s mind and concentrate on the task at hand can be of great help in the workplace and all manner of other life situations.
Deep concentration allows players to experience multiple sources of sensory stimuli at the same time, quickly discard those which aren’t important at the moment, and make a sound judgment without being phased by pressure. When applied to real life, this lets one keep her cool in emergencies or when important decisions need to be made.
Language Skills and Knowledge Seeking
Video games are a real boon to both children who are still mastering their own language and to anyone who wants to improve their English. This is especially true for multiplayer games as players need to communicate with others either verbally or through text. By doing so they’re informally learning the language’s syntax, correct and natural-sounding pronunciation, and spelling. They may end up picking up some internet slang and expand their repertoire of curse words in the process, but the overall benefits far outweigh these drawbacks.
Many games are firmly rooted in reality, drawing their themes and inspiration from the histories and cultures all across the globe. Many strategy games for example strive for historical accuracy and provide real historical context. Other games like Kerbal Space Program introduce players to the fundamentals of physics and rocket science in a very approachable way. Playing such games can be a great motivator in gaining more knowledge about the themes they explore and even have an influence on one’s future career.
Unlike watching TV which makes one a passive observer, video games force the player to remember, think, and respond in a logical way in order to progress. There are games whose sole focus is on exercising one’s brain. These are designed from the ground up to improve one’s memory, hand-eye coordination, pattern recognition, or knowledge retention, and do so in a fun way.
A game doesn’t need to focus on mental acuity to increase it though. To play correctly, players need to understand the game’s story. They need to know which buttons to press in order to activate a certain skill, which equipment to choose for a specific scenario etc. Learning to analyze a situation on the fly and juggling a lot of pertinent information is key to being successful in any advanced field.
Sociability and the Understanding of Norms
Gaming is a global phenomenon people love to experience together. By taking part in a multiplayer game, players are connecting with like-minded individuals who have similar goals and don’t mind helping others more often than not. Becoming part of a dedicated community like a guild in an MMORPG can have numerous benefits for one’s social development. As part of one, you’re expected to function as part of a team, show accountability and the willingness to correct mistakes, and contribute to a pleasant atmosphere for everyone.
Communal fun is also a big part of gaming’s social experience. People from all over the world get together both online and in the real world to meet, mingle, and celebrate the activity they love. It’s not strange to make life-long friends online or see couples who’ve met while playing together. Augmented reality games like Pokémon Go also motivate people to go outside and explore, making new friends along the way.
Games are the perfect medium through which to tell a story. While brainless spectacles of sound and light certainly still exist, there’s an increasing trend of games that feature breathtaking narratives and fleshed-out characters we can’t help but sympathize with.
Titles like Telltale’s The Walking Dead series, The Last of Us, or Planescape: Torment accomplish something most people thought was reserved for the realm of theater and literature. They introduce players to memorable characters, their sufferings, accomplishments, and life stories. Placing the player in a complex character’s shoes lets them experience life from another’s perspective and can leave everlasting impressions. This allows one to empathize with real people more easily and become a better human being.