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In defence of gaming

Posted By Dan108 565 days ago on Personal - As the child I am at heart, with an expansive imagination and a keen desire to escape into the fantasy world in which I can free my soul, feed my love for all things fantastical and challenge my brain with puzzles and conundrums, I love playing video games. The Legend of Zelda, Metal Gear Solid, Splinter Cell, Far Cry, Dead Space, BioShock, Uncharted, The Last of Us, God of War, Infamous, Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto series’ of games are in my opinion some of the very best pieces of creative mastery ever made for the gaming industry. So with National Video Game Day just around the corner (8th July) – not to be confused with National Video Games Day (12thSeptember), because that would just be wierd! – I feel plugged in, fully loaded and ready to defend what it so rightly annually celebrates.The UK is the fifth largest video games market in the world, with Britain’s billion pound gaming industry being worth more money than the video and music industries combined. 29% of all Brits aged between 6-64 play games on consoles, making consoles the most popular type of electronic device for gaming. The average age of the UK gamer is 28, 54% of gamers in the UK are male with 46% being female, and 51% of adults aged between 36 and 50 in the UK play digital games of some kind.Due to lockdown many people have been playing more video games, keeping themselves entertained whilst being stuck indoors. Some of us have been playing them for the first time, others just a bit more often than they used to. But are all us gamers just wasting our time? It tends to be an activity often associated – and primarily so – with laziness, obesity, unhealthy addictive behaviours and generally being anti-social, regularly acknowledged as a mere distraction from more important, healthier and productive tasks. But I believe these views stem from a position of ignorance.There is much talk these days too about how violent games, like shooters, are helping to encourage real-life violence. But are video games really the problem or are they merely holding up a mirror to our so-called civilisation? This tends to be Quentin Tarantino’s argument in rebuttal of his critics accusing him of being responsible for so much violence in our society today. He argues that his films, violent though they typically are, are nothing more than fantasy and that violence is simply fun and entertaining to watch on the big screen. I happen to agree. That certain individuals (such as the two perpetrators from the Columbine High School shootings, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, for example, who happened to have been fans of Tarantino’s films) lose touch with their reality and are no longer able to distinguish it from the fantasy world, is determined by a host of pre-existing social and psychological factors, and not necessarily by the media alone. Most people can play violent games and enjoy violent films without growing into killers. Those who do subsequently undertake killing sprees, allegedly inspired by the consumed media content in question, obviously have to have been unstable beforehand to have been triggered so easily. Had not these killers-in-the-making interacted with violent films and games, might they have been a violent threat to society anyway? I say, probably. Films and games are not where the problem starts. Back in 2015, the scientific journal PLOS ONE published findings of human remains discovered in a cave in northern Spain. The bones belong to the earliest known murder victim in human history, said to date back 430,000 years, presenting evidence of a lethal attack to the skull showing that violence has been an intrinsic part of even the earliest of human culture. There has been documented violence in films and games for many decades, for it is art forms such as these which represent life, in all its forms, even sometimes the more grisly ones.Playing video games: the idea tends to immediately project stereotypical images of someone staring at a TV or computer screen inactively, thus being unhealthy. But this is far from fair. All kinds of games offer cognitive, motivational, emotional and indeed social benefits, and not just for adolescents but for adults too, as is eloquently explained by Isabela Granic, Adam Lobel, and Rutger C. M. E. Engels of the American Psychological Association in their essay, ‘The Benefits of Playing Video Games’. In it they conclude that video games share many qualities and benefits with more traditional games, like board games, and even argue that video games can and should be developed with the sole aim of preventing and treating mental illness in youths. Indeed many medical conditions are already known to have been successfully treated by playing video games, including amblyopia, dyslexia and even depression.Benjamin Franklin in his essay, ‘Morals on Chess’, outlined some prime developmental benefits to be gleaned from a game dating back as far as the sixth century. Franklin states, "The game of chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it, so as to become habits, ready on all occasions. We learn by chess the habit of not being discouraged by present bad appearances in the state of our affairs, the habit of hoping for a favourable change, and that of persevering in the search of resources." There is no doubt that most games, including modern ones, can boast the same principles to which they fundamentally adhere. Just as physical exercise helps in improving and strengthening your muscles, games help to indulge one’s brain in constant stimulation, thus improving the brain's speed and performance in everyday life.Hand-eye coordination is one of the more obvious skills that’s greatly improved through playing video games, as the gamer is required to efficiently coordinate their visual, audial and physical movements successfully.Problem solving, particularly in puzzle games, is another significantly improved ability via video gaming. Within the game’s set of rules, the gamer must think carefully before making split-second decisions, ones which will mean failure or success.Attention, concentration and memory are all improved through video gaming. Fast-paced games like action games and first-person shooters particularly tend to require the gamer’s constant attention throughout the entire duration of the experience, through which you’ll be moving rapidly, keeping track of many items all at once, retain vast amounts of information to mind, and all the while making quick and important decisions.Multitasking, and the improvement of it, is a related benefit to the above. Again with action games in particular, you are required to be very observant, moving your joystick or keys whilst looking at the various features on the screen such as energy levels, oncoming adversaries, remaining ammunitions, available time, and other factors, all of which are vital considerations for the success-hungry gamer.A great source of learning is often rightly attributed to video games, since so many games today are at least steeped with real-life history, if not outright educational. Characters and places in the game, derivative of real-life historical events, can spark the gamer’s interest in discovering more about that subject. Parents who have obtained books, maps and other resources connected to games have reported their children having become more engaged with learning.Social benefits are in abundance with modern games, with online gaming affording gamers constant communication between one another, which in turn can result in the development of meaningful relationships. Furthermore, certain genres of games reward and encourage leadership traits, and researchers have noted that these developed attributes have translated over to real-world career goals.The power of play is a notion greatly underappreciated. Too much of anything is bad for you, though. So everything in moderation, of course.

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