Since I was banned from playing video games while I was growing up, I often feel like I have to defend my interest in them. I know not everyone has negative ideas about gaming like my parents do, but my reflex is still to try and find reasons for my interest. With help from fellow FemHype writer Ashe, I looked into some of the research that supports why gaming is good for you. I no longer feel like I need to defend or validate my interest in games, but I thought it would be interesting to investigate and see if my positive gaming experiences are more universal.
First off, I would like to start with the claim that playing video games makes people violent. This belief is the primary reason why my parents did not want me gaming. I have found this to be untrue; although playing may have had a slight effect on my behavior, it did not make me violent or aggressive. I would describe my behavior now as being more assertive, which is a good thing. I was far too much of a timid doormat before. Research on the topic has not found much of a link between violent behavior and gaming, and even if it had, we have to remember that correlation does not equal causation.
In addition, circumstantial evidence shows that gaming may result in less violence; the number of violent crimes are decreasing even as the number of people gaming increases. Clearly, if playing games makes people violent, wouldn’t we be seeing an increase in the amount of violence? This also ignores the point that not every video game is violent.
My parents also didn’t want me to play games because they thought it would make me unintelligent. This belief is trickier to discuss. What, exactly, is meant by “unintelligent?” While I can definitely understand the concern that if someone is gaming all the time and not studying, their schoolwork may suffer. But the same is true for any activity that someone might do all the time—not a feature specific to gaming. Grades do not indicate someone’s intelligence, anyway.
In addition, there is evidence that gaming can increase certain kinds of intelligence. Gamers exhibit improved spatial, logical, interpersonal, and kinesthetic intelligence. Of course, just like I mentioned above, this correlation does not equal causation, but there is no evidence that gaming makes one less intelligent. Perhaps people who already have those skills are more drawn to gaming in the first place.
I have found that after I began gaming, my interpersonal skills have improved and I am less afraid of talking to people. My ability to read people and figure out my own emotions seems to have grown and helped me to function better in social situations.
“People who play video games, even if they are violent, that encourage cooperation are more likely to be helpful to others while gaming than those who play the same games competitively.”
Playing cooperatively with friends has helped me learn to communicate better while also reading and anticipating what my partner will do, which has helped me in everyday situations to communicate better in general. With my mild social anxiety, I would have loved to develop these skills earlier in my life because they have since lessened my anxiety.
I have more generalized, but still mild anxiety issues as well, and they also seem to have lessened. This, too, is supported by research into the benefits of gaming.
“Recovery is a necessary factor in avoiding work-related strain and in feeling prepared for the next day of work. In order for recovery to be successful, an individual must experience psychological detachment from work, relaxation, mastery experiences and a sense of control, all of which have been argued to be assisted by digital game use.”
Even though this research focuses on how gaming can help reduce work-related stress, for me, it was carried over into just about every kind of stress I face. Whether it’s blowing off steam by shooting enemies in Mass Effect 2 or relaxing by customizing my home in Animal Crossing, I’m taken away from the stresses of everyday life for a bit. When I come back to the real world, I feel calmer and more ready to face real life. Just like reading a book or watching TV, an occasional escape from the real world can recharge someone by letting them take a break. This has been a very helpful function for me, and I know I’ve been happier and more relaxed since I took up gaming.
While I don’t need any justification for being interested in gaming besides the fact that I enjoy doing it, it is interesting and validating to see that all the improvements in my life that have come from gaming are backed up by research. I wish I had been able to enjoy the benefits earlier, but it is never too late to start. For anyone like me who has not been gaming for years but who has always had an interest, don’t be afraid to jump right in! There are so many great games out there to enjoy, and anyone who wants to should be free to benefit from them. For this reason, I will always fight for more inclusivity and accessibility in games.