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You could make a really compelling argument that video games are one of the most dynamic artforms to come about over the entire course of human history.
Seriously, think about it. From ancient fireside tales which relied entirely on the imagination of the listeners, to the more in-depth world of novels, and finally TV and film, no other method of storytelling has managed to be truly interactive in the way that gaming is.
In that sense, it’s more like stepping into a world of adventure, rather than glancing into it.
The weird and wonderful status of gaming isn’t just limited to story-driven RPGs, either. Even if you’re playing action-driven competitive madness-inducers like CS:GO or LoL, you’re recreating an experience which is pretty much the same as sport, with more high-end graphics, less physical stress, and no need to leave your home. Perhaps it’s no wonder that the kind of innovators who work out bitcoin technical analysis trends, or pioneer new mediums of communication, have often spent time as gamers.
Now, all that being said, gaming still gets a bit of a bad rap from time to time. It’s not really too surprising that people get nervous when they hear about competitive gamers pulling multiple all-nighters in a row without water and keeling over dead, or notice their friends staying in more and more nights in a row to work on beating the next Dark Souls.
If you can keep your gaming balanced with the other element of your life, however, there are actually some real benefits to being a gamer.
Here are a few of those.
Gaming opens up emotional and psychological channels within you that are tied to glory and happiness, rather than fear and misery
In life, you are bound to come up against disappointment and fear from time to time. That’s because the world can be a pretty grim place now and then.
The thing is, if you’ve fallen into a bad rut in your personal life, things can very easily seem to go from one tragedy to the next, with no break in-between. As your mood and energy levels drop, your productivity at work fails, you snap at your family or partner more, and then you get more depressed and less energetic.
One thing that gaming has the ability to do, is to lift you above the stress and failures of everyday life, and give you a bit of a psychological break. Our minds respond very powerfully to imagery and imagination — often almost as powerfully as they respond to real events. So when you log into a game that makes you feel strong and victorious, you are opening up and reinforcing psychological and emotional pathways within yourself that make you feel better and more capable, rather than worse.
This can go one of two ways: either you could completely check out of your real life altogether and let everything burn while you spend the maximum possible amount of your time gaming, or else you could fit in some time for gaming each day, and use the boost you get from the gaming to get out and conquer the obstacles you’re faced with in everyday life.
(The second option’s a lot better than the first option.)
Gaming allows you to de-stress, quickly and effectively
People play games, mostly, because they’re fun — and fun is often another way of saying they allow us to de-stress.
Now, sure, if you’re a competitive online gamer prone to losing your mind in a big way and smashing keyboard against the wall when things really go wrong, this point might not apply so much. If you find that you spend most of your gaming time enjoying yourself rather than being filled with extreme hatred and rage, however, read on.
Chronic stress is often considered to be one of the most dramatic causes of modern health conditions. When stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are kept high due to a combination of hardcore caffeine dependence, work troubles, lack of sleep, and a poor approach to fitness, your body and mood will naturally fall apart in a huge way.
Anything that restores a sense of happiness, calm, and enjoyment to your life, has the potential to combat this negative cascade of stress hormones, and allow your body a chance to heal and rediscover homoeostasis.
Gaming may improve mental function
Games, in general, require a degree of focus, concentration and problem solving by their very nature. This is true of essentially every kind of game. Action driver shooters require quick reflexes, while traditional puzzle games require more abstract reasoning, and role-playing games need a good degree of overview and decision making.
It’s been suggested at various times that gaming can give the mind a good workout, and there seems to be a lot of reason to believe this is true. Being involved in mentally engaging tasks has long been thought to be one of the ways of preventing cognitive decline associated with ageing, for example, and gaming sure requires a lot more mental engagement than sitting back and watching TV, or most other leisure pursuits, for that matter.
Gaming can serve as a great reward to keep you on track with your habits
One of the keys to maintaining good habits, is to hack the “habit loop” — or at least, that’s what Charles Duhigg, the author of “The Power of Habit” thinks.
The habit loop includes the trigger that prompts you to perform the habit, the habit itself, and the “reward” for performing the habit — usually a sense of momentary happiness.
Using gaming as a form of positive reinforcement, to get your good habits to stick, could be a very powerful weapon in the fight against procrastination, psychological resistance to change, and the natural inclination that most of us have to stick with what we know and follow the path of least resistance.