Elizabeth Bingler explains why gaming is here to stay and how it can get along with athletics.
"You can't make living playing games." "Games make you lazy and aren't good for you." "You are too old to play games."
These sayings are all too familiar to those who grew up in the 90s' and early 00s'. These were times when video gaming was going through a boom but had not yet reached an "occupation" status.
Of course, the times have changed, and now gaming is finding its place under the professional sun, disrupting traditional ideas, just like freelancing crushed the conventional corporate model. Nevertheless, some gaming concerns are still valid enough to call for an objective view of the gaming world and how it fits within today's global push for making healthier and sustainable life choices.
The benefits of Gaming
It is only natural that previous generations saw video games as a threat to the success and wellbeing of the next cohort. After all, when games became widely available, coupled with powerful PCs and gaming consoles, it seemed like the younger generations were glued to the screens the same way that people today rarely lift their eyes off their smartphones.
But the scare that gaming will turn the youth into a lazy and ignorant bunch with no life or professional skills couldn't just be taken at face value. Thus, psychologists, sociologists, and other life scientists turned their attention to studying how gaming, computers, and multimedia affects people's mental fitness.
It turned out that gaming is not all bad and can bring benefits to people from all walks of life. Of course, like many things in life, this is true provided that it's done in moderation. A series of articles published in Psychology Today discusses the research that's been done on the effects of gaming on cognition; among them are improved spatial attention, improved multitasking abilities, and even helping in the management of age-related cognitive decline.
The Dangers of Gaming
By all means, all of the above doesn't mean that gaming is a panacea or that it can't be harmful.
Just like some studies have shown potential positives of gaming, others do confirm some of the long-held worries.
For example, cyberbullying is a severe problem in the online gaming world, and it is exacerbated by the fact that players rarely know or meet each other personally. This makes it easier to engage in hostile communication.
The security aspect of gaming, like phishing, malware, and other scams, is yet another major concern, especially for parents.
Of course, there are also health-related concerns of playing video games, like the danger of triggering epilepsy seizures, eye troubles due to poor sight-care habits, and hearing impairments as a result of prolonged listening to loud music.
The Healthy Game
Playing games is not the villain that it was portrayed to be, but this doesn't mean that all games are equal or that playing them is the way to become a genius or combat ageing.
What's more, despite the benefits mentioned above, gaming still comes with one massive drawback - a sedentary lifestyle.
Scientists might still debate on many important aspects of achieving a healthy lifestyle, but one thing they agree on is that living a sedentary life is terrible for us. There's a host of issues that stem from inactivity that go beyond the scope of this article. What we can focus on is how to help people move more, eat better, and, most importantly, turn it into a habit that sticks.
The answer lies, ironically, in gaming; more specifically in self-care. Gamification is already present everywhere in the online world, and it seems to be bringing measurable results.
A health app giving you a virtual medal for achieving your daily calorie goal is a form of gamification. An application that puts your fitness level in competition against other users is also gamification. The list goes on, but what's important is that game wellness achieves results because it taps into a robust system in our brains - the reward system.
Gaming and Athleticism
So, we see that gaming has a place in living a healthy life but does it have any benefits beyond that? Can semi-pro and pro athletes make use of video games like FIFA or F1?
Virtual sports are making a name for themselves with a host of competitions already awarding big prize pools and attracting sizeable spectators both online and in gaming arenas. Another proof of the growth of eSports is that betting sites like Betway accept wagering on them just like they accept sports betting on physical athletic competitions. Furthermore, educational institutions all over the world are now awarding eSports scholarships, thereby recognizing that the mental skills needed to be successful in such competitions transcend beyond gaming.
Therefore, it is only logical that virtual and physical sports can complement each other. For example, chess and poker players are already spending much of their training, playing against computers. Several have also pointed to playing video games as their first touch with the sport, and the team of Red Bull employs a high-tech simulator as part of its drivers' preparation. A Surrey football tutor even uses computer games as an educational tool for students.
Video gamers are increasingly turning to healthier lifestyle choices as a way to offset the negatives of prolonged sitting but also to boost their performance. Given the massive fanbase of eSport and gaming pros, this is yet another win in the fight against the sedentary lifestyle and its perils.
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About the Author
Elizabeth Bingler graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with degrees in English Literature and Fiction Writing. She works as a freelance content writer and editor and has written articles on a wide variety of topics such as technology, sports, business, lifestyle, culture, and travel.