I’m a child of the 80’s. For me this meant videogames. I got my first videogame console, a Nintendo, when I was 7 years old. I was among the first to smash blocks and crush Goombas and it was the most exciting thing I could have done at the time. I subscribed to the Nintendo Power Magazine and rented games from the local video store. I swapped games with friends and had sleepovers that centered around playing these games. I truly had a blessed early childhood. But as I aged, I continued to play videogames in varying forms. So my question is, is it okay for me, as a fully grown man, to still be playing these games?
Gaming as an Adult
I’ve been playing some form of videogame for almost my entire life. I took an eight year hiatus recently, as I was trying to refocus my efforts on getting my life back in order. But now that things have settled, I am remembering how much fun I had when I was raiding with my friends while playing World of Warcraft.
Also, all the card games and other types of games I played in my youth. Though, thinking about playing them now fills me with a little anxiety. When I think about playing a game, or even sitting down to watch a T.V. show, I feel a guilt come over me. As though I should be spending my time doing something productive, worth while.
For those that have been reading for a while, you’ll know that I’ve struggled with self-care in the past. Being able to listen to and understand what I need has been a huge hurdle for me. And while we’re talking about it, we can add relaxing to that course as well. Because when it comes down to it, playing videogames is a way for me to relax a little. Destress.
Guilt & Gaming
So why do I feel so guilty when it comes to enjoying the hobbies that have brought me so much satisfaction in the past? I feel a large part of the equation is that I was among the first generation to play videogames. So all of my adult role models considered gaming as a child’s endeavor.
I’m not sure that this was ever told to me, but I got the distinct impression that videogames were something I would “grow out of”. I would eventually leave them in the past with my other childhood hobbies. Hobbies such as model building, or my other childhood toys I put away so long ago.
But with the quality of games and game play becoming more and more sophisticated, beyond the abilities of where I was at when I was a child, the question stands, are videogames a child’s pastime, or have they evolved? The clear answer, to me anyway is, they have most definitely evolved. And as if to prove this, there are a whole host of beneficial traits that gaming imparts on the player. Let’s take a look at a few.
Benefits of Being a Gamer
Reducing Stress Levels
This one isn’t too surprising. After all, we wouldn’t be playing, if it wasn’t fun. But videogame’s ability to reduce stress is twofold. First, videogames have the ability to immerse the player into a world completely unto themselves. For those facing stressful situations in other areas in their lives, this could be much needed distraction from the chaos that is happening around them.
If you’re anything like I am, you put 100% of yourself into the projects you take on. Even when I’m not responsible for tasks, or I see a coworker struggling, I try to jump in and “save” the person I see in the throws of a task. This either ends up with me getting in the way of their process, or taking on more than I’m able to handle.
When we lose ourselves to a game, we are forgetting about our stress for the time being. It doesn’t solve our problems, but it does give us the distance we need from it. This way, we aren’t totally consumed by the stressful situations, or react in other ways, like becoming gossipy or mean. And the last thing we need in an already stressful situation is more stress. This article from Positive Health Wellness goes into this and a few more way that videogames are beneficial to their players.
Taking Charge & Problem Solving
Videogames, for the most part, are a series of situations that need some sort of solving. When I was playing World of Warcraft, I was in a guild that was involved with end game playing. Basically what this means is that we were at the highest level of playing at the time. We would gather at a certain time on a certain day and set out to achieve the next goal in our game play.
Once you get to the higher levels on some of these videogames, the game play gets dramatically more difficult. It also takes a great deal of coordination to achieve your goals. Between finding out how many people you need for a party, to knowing the proper ratio of damage to healing, to knowing the types of classes you’ll need, there is a lot that goes into planning a raid. These tactics are also something that can be taken from the realm of gaming and into the real world as well.
In both my jobs, as a baker and as a resources coordinator for a family shelter, these skills come in handy. In my position as a baker, I need to know what we have for product, what we need to make, the order of importance and how we are going to keep product coming out of the kitchen in order to fill the need of the customer, while coordinating with the front of the house.
The same is true of the shelter I work for. Knowing who to contact for specific information and tasks, i.e., knowing their class type and how best to utilize their skills in a timely manner, is important. Knowing who to contact for which task is essential to achieving our goals. All skills replicated in videogames.
Social Elements of the Gaming World
While I was playing World of Warcraft, I had got in touch with an old friend of mine from childhood. He was playing as well, and invited me to join his guild. In the game, a guild is your online family. They step in and help you when you need a hand. A lot of the game play is designed for more than one person, so having the help when you need it is key to moving through the game.
But I found the more I played with the people from my guild, all of whom I had never met save for the one friend who invited me, the more they felt like actual friends. Because for all intents and purposes, they were. We talked about our days, joked, helped each other out when we could. They felt like support.
And really, that’s what we’re looking for when we are filling the position of a new friend. We already shared something in common, playing the game, so it was easy to break the ice. Also, consistently being in the same place at the same time was another aspect of building a report. Kind of like the ways you run into a roommate whose company you enjoy. You sit down and talk. Maybe watch a show or a game. Drink a beer together. It feels natural. Comfortable.
Videogames Lead to Faster Reaction Times for Decision Making
During the problem solving aspects of videogames, the game challenges you to switch between tasks fairly rapidly. This means that you are making split second decisions in rapid succession. These lead to the success or failure of the objective you are working on. And while you’re executing these tasks, you are also experiencing all the emotions that go along with them.
The high stakes pressure. The intensity and time crunch that comes with being under the gun. Not to mention the fear and anxiety, albeit at lower levels, that comes with the pressure. You’re learning to master these emotions in a controlled setting. These have benefits in the real world as well.
In the kitchen, this is a no brainer. You are constantly adjusting to fluxes of new information that stream in under intense heat and pressure. During a rush, you could be working on anything from 6-16 dishes at any given time. And if you are the head chef, you are directing others to execute in sync with the order of the meals delivery from the waitstaff.
The same tenants can be applied to office work as well. If you get a last minute project with a large list of tasks, you need to organize the information, delegate the tasks and bring it all together. The pressure is much the same as in videogames and you’re making these decisions in real time. Not an easy task.
And, let’s not forget that they are also fun to play! We could all use a little more fun in our lives. The release and enjoyment that comes with a good session of gaming is difficult to reproduce elsewhere. There’s not a lot of effort exerted for the rewards you receive as well as the sense of accomplishment for solving problems.
This can feel especially rewarding if you find that you are up against unreasonable standards or tasks. I know this first hand from working in the food industry. The prep-list that never seems to end. Feeling as though if you just get that one last item done, you’ll get ahead. There is definitely a lack of feeling like you’re accomplishing something.
With videogames, or even something like a sudoku or crossword puzzle, there is a sense of a small achievement that comes with finishing the task at hand. However small. It may not solve the long term problem of not finding job satisfaction, but it helps to feel a little more at ease.
Videogames are Fun but Don’t Over Do It
And like anything else, videogames are best enjoyed in moderation. The stress release they bring can be a much needed relief from the day to day. But taken to the extreme, they can be used to avoid life and the responsibilities we have to deal with.
When I was playing Warcraft, I wasn’t quite at the level of completely neglecting my life. But I was surely avoiding some of the most important relationships in my life. Namely, the one with my now, ex-wife. There were other elements that were contributing to me neglecting my relationship, but videogames were a big piece of that puzzle.
Instead of taking the time and putting forth the effort to build intimacy in my relationship, I spent it on pleasure seeking routines. And incase you are wondering, my relationship was what should have taken president. Knowing what I know now, I truly regret not being the husband I know I could have been. Instead, a lot of people were hurt. It wasn’t all my fault, but I’ll take my half.
It’s Okay to Play
And finally, incase you need any more incentive, it’s okay to enjoy the games of your youth. I have fond memories of playing in my digital world. The action from the game play, the story line and the dramatic artwork that went into the making the games. All have a special place in my heart.
So let your inner child out to play. If you’re looking for a way to get involved, Steam is a virtual platform that puts out consistently good games. A friend of mine just recommended Strange Horticulture and it looks interesting. Or maybe you have an old favorite that you put down. Let this be your permission to pick it back up. And get your family involved too. Games are more fun when you play together. Here is where I leave you reader, have fun exploring! Peace & thanks for reading : )