We’ve all heard the reasons video games are bad for you. They’re full of violence and misogyny. They encourage people to sit on the couch all day eating Doritos and drinking Mt. Dew. They’re nothing but time-wasting escapist fantasies.
And sure, depending on what games you look at, you can find truth in all of those points. But the video game industry is huge. It encompasses an incredible variety of experiences. You just have to look a little closer.
For every game that offers players nothing, you can find one that provides a great deal of value. Games can educate, they can help us get in shape, and they can put us in touch with other people who share our interests. Games can do a lot of good for the world.
Below are 5 reasons video games are great for you.
1. Getting in shape
Ever since the rise of motion controls, gamers have been getting off the couch in bigger numbers than ever before. Most recently we have Nintendo’s remotes and balance board for Wii U, Sony’s Move controllers for PlayStation 4, and Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox One, all of which are designed to transmit players’ physical movements into video games.
If you want to get in shape through gaming, you have a wide array of options nowadays. Dance Central and Just Dance games offer fantastic aerobic workouts set to recent pop music. Workout games like Xbox Fitness and Wii Fit U can help you burn calories and even focus on particular muscle groups. For more games to help you get in shape, check out this list.
2. Learning something
In the old days, playing educational games was kind of like eating unseasoned vegetables. It might have been good for you, but it usually wasn’t very enjoyable. These days, game makers have found much better ways to incorporate learning into the gaming experience.
In terms of brushing up for your school classes, Dragonbox Algebra is a terrific math game. It can teach kids algebra in such a sly way that they won’t even realize they’re learning formulas until they’ve already mastered them. Other games are less academic, like Rocksmith, which teaches people how to play the guitar using popular rock songs. Even games designed primarily to entertain can be treasure troves of information. Just look at the Assassin’s Creed franchise.
Games can convey an incredible amount of information in enjoyable ways. You just have to know where to look.
3. Making friends
The Internet has made gaming more social than ever, enabling entire genres of games that rely on people working together. Massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft are full of “guilds” of players who log on regularly and band together to raid dungeons. Multiplayer online battle arena games (MOBAs) like League of Lengeds pit teams of players against each other, with each team working out strategies to emerge victorious. Even online shooters like Call of Duty are home to “clans” of players who get to know each other very well.
People have made best friends through online games, and even met their future spouses. Depending on the game, you’re more or less likely to encounter your share of trash talkers. But on the flip side, online games just might help you forge a friendship that lasts a lifetime.
For more information on the social (and other) benefits, check out this study from American Psychologist.
4. Strategic thinking and problem solving
Thanks to its emphasis on strategy, problem solving, and forward thinking, chess is one of the most respected games out there. And wouldn’t you know it, loads of video games have cropped up that work those same mental muscles. Strategy games like Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics play out very much like chess, with each character bound by a set of rules that determine their movement and combat abilities.
Even games that don’t seem to have anything particularly brainy going on can offer complex problems for players to solve. When you enter one of the massive, ornate rooms in recent Prince of Persia games, your job is to reach the exit, which is usually very high up. To do so, you have to examine the layout of the room and find the path that will let your character jump, swing, and climb from point A to point B. This is complex puzzle solving, and it gets your brain firing on all cylinders. There’s nothing stupid about solving these kinds of puzzles.
And the research backs it up. Just read this article in Psychology Today to see what other benefits video games have on your brain.
5. Career opportunities
Now more than ever, it’s possible to make a living playing video games. Whether you’re a Starcraft pro and you travel the world to participate in high-stakes tournaments, or you have a popular YouTube channel for your “Let’s Play” videos, many people are making money hand-over-fist by playing games.
It’s not easy, though. Becoming a tournament-level player takes a lot of dedication, and not everyone has the charisma or business sense to carve out a living streaming games online. But if you’re smart and talented, you certainly have a shot. Plenty of people are doing it. Check out our lists of the top streamers and pro gamers to see the possibilities.
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