In today’s world, kids are surrounded by entertainment and many of them end up playing video games with their friends on a regular basis. This tends to worry parents, especially if they didn’t grow up in a similar way. So a question is asked: are video games good for you? And to answer this question, we need to go into what video games are and what makes them so popular.
How Are Video Games Good for You?
Asking “are video games good for you?” is like asking “are films good for you?” And the answer is: it depends on what films.
Video games are not all the same. Some of them require just mindless shooting. Arguably, these types of games are not exactly a productive way to spend your time. But others require a lot of thinking, the memorization of hundreds of notions, and fundamentally, they’re just a more entertaining form of chess.
Apart from the intellectual challenges they present, good video games also provide an aesthetic experience, wisdom, a chance to cooperate with others in order to attain a certain goal, and so on. All of these things are no less useful than reading a book.
Reasons Why Video Games Are Good for You
To better understand the reasons why video games are good for you, let’s start with life itself and ask the question: what does life involve? Fundamentally, it requires us to attain goals (which in video games are called quests or missions), develop skills, upgrade our personality with various qualities, gain experience, help and cooperate with others, solve problems, gather resources, put those resources to good use, buy and sell things, plan ahead, and so on.
If you’ve ever played an RPG, RTS, TBS, MOBA, or Survival game, you probably know that life works just like a video game. So you can learn about it from games, without even being aware of it.
Are Video Games Good for Kids?
Children do not experience most of life’s challenges until much later. But they can have those experiences in a video game. And even though they may not be able to draw the parallel themselves, you can assist them with that. Just ask them to finish a Role-Playing Game and then start a discussion about it.
Parent: “How was the game?”
Parent: “Did you have to develop excellent skills to do well?”
Parent: “How was the first boss?”
Child: “A bit difficult.”
Parent: “Do you think the boss would have been easier to deal with if you had better skills and more experience?”
The reason why certain types of games are good for kids has to do with all the problem solving, planning, strategic decision-making, and cooperation that’s involved in them. If you play a difficult game, in order to succeed you need to develop certain mental skills. And you end up using those skills later in life.
Kids probably won’t figure out the lessons of a video game on their own. Not consciously, anyway. But if you know how to talk to them, they will rapidly see that life works just like the game they played. And that in order for them to do well, they need to do what they did to win the game.
Games Simulate the Mechanisms and Problems of Real Life
Young people often need many years to learn how life works. They don’t understand the importance of becoming very good at something, of training like an athlete on a daily basis, and of cooperating with others in order to reach important goals. But by playing games, they can experience challenges that require them to do precisely those things inside the digital Universe, before life starts throwing the same types of challenges at them.
Let’s take as an extreme example a game called This War of Mine. This is a survival game that forces you to make hard decisions under life-threatening circumstances. You’re stuck in a city that’s going through a civil war. And you’ve got to survive for a few months, together with a few friends who are there with you, in a damaged house that needs repairing.
Every single day could be your last. Because you need to eat, defend yourself from robbers, stay warm when the weather gets cold, treat yourself when you get ill… You get the idea.
In real life, you may never get exposed to such harsh conditions. But the game teaches you how to make decisions under those circumstances. If you can complete it and survive, you’ve probably learned a few things that would allow you to survive a real civil war.
Games Can Enrich the Soul with Beauty
Just listen to the amazing music that exists in games like Morrowind, Arcanum, or League of Legends. Being exposed to that kind of art will make you feel a certain way. In turn, that way of feeling will enhance your creativity and might help you cultivate a more meditative way of being.
Artists pour their soul into what they do. Their creations are infused with parts of their spirit. So when you experience these creations, you absorb that essence and it transforms you.
Games Can Expose You to Great Literature
Good games don’t simply offer intellectual challenges. They also contain great dialog and characters that may inspire you in some way. For instance, take Paarthurnax, the good dragon from Skyrim. The dialog you have with him is very brief. And it’s so powerful that many people still reference it years later.
Another example here is the story of Diablo 2 or Warcraft 3. It’s enough to watch the cinematics once to understand immediately why people love these games. The voices, the music, and the ideas presented to you can truly shape your personality in powerful ways. And kids are even more susceptible to that kind of influence.
Are Video Games Bad for You?
Just like some books, films or songs can influence you in a bad way, some video games can do the same. Being exposed to awful ways of thinking, gore, nudity, and so on from a very young age could be harmful. Because without the ability to discern between right and wrong, you might develop a bad mindset.
So far, scientists have found little to no evidence that being exposed to violence in video games makes you more violent in real life. But it’s still a good idea to avoid certain types of games, especially if they only ask you to shoot people and don’t require you to think at all.
The Contrast Problem
One last thing you need to be careful about with regards to video games is this: a good game can give you easy and immediate pleasure. And after a while you become good at it, which makes it even more addictive. And the issue here is that a game you’ve mastered no longer feels like work even if it’s difficult and requires a lot of mental effort. By contrast, an activity like solving math problems will cause you some pain without providing the instant reward that’s offered to you when you complete a mission in an RPG or win MMR in a game like Dota 2.
This contrast is similar to the one you feel when trying to drink something bitter after you’ve tasted something sweet. The bitterness will be even more severe because of the sweetness you experienced right before it. So it’s a good idea to avoid exposing yourself to pleasure and entertainment before engaging in difficult activities. Because it makes them feel even harder. Instead of thinking about what you need to do, your mind is somewhere else.
Video games can also be bad if you overdo it. When you start postponing important activities in your real life just to play a video game, that’s a clear sign of addiction.
And no matter how good the game is, it should be regarded as a problem.
You may have seen Christopher Nolan’s film called Inception. In that film, there’s a beautiful scene that shows people who no longer in reality, but in the dream world. So while some people are awake in the real world, they go to sleep in order to wake up in the dream world. The dream has become their reality.
A similar idea is used in James Cameron’s Avatar. Jake, the protagonist, who is disabled in real life, gets to enjoy his avatar so much that he starts feeling like that’s his real self, experiencing emotional pain whenever he returns to reality. Games can cause a similar problem, if you’re not careful. But if you spend enough time building your real life, they will simply enhance it instead of replacing it.
So to answer the question: are video games good for you? Yes, as long as you’re selective and do it in moderation, always prioritizing your real-life responsibilities.