Gaming has been a steadily growing part of modern-day society; and has actually becoming so popular that the gaming industry has become larger than both the music industry and the film industry combined. Yet there is still a somewhat persistent idea that gaming is a childish or antisocial hobby that negatively affects people, particularly young people. For several decades now, the media has repeatedly blamed the influence of video games on various instances of violence and crime. However, the positive and societal benefits of gaming continue to be explored and discovered.
What is more, many legitimate organizations are embracing gaming. For example, one company we spoke to, a London-based IT support and managed service provider, discussed their employee’s own gaming habits. TechQuarters, who provide business IT support London based companies have relied on for decades, has a dedicated gaming community within their ranks, and even found that encouraging company gaming sessions helped with team-building.
Benefits of Gaming
Before discussing the wider social impact of gaming, it must first be acknowledged that there a range of benefits to gaming. Despite the frequent vilification of gaming within the media, many studies point to a range of positive impacts on users.
Increase gray matter – there are some studies that have actually shown that playing games regularly could increase gray matter in your brain, and even boost brain connectivity. Gray matter makes up the majority of your brain’s mass, and it is closely associated with muscle control, memory, perception, and spatial navigation – so increasing gray matter is a very good idea!
Problem solving – whether you play open-world games, mission-based games, or multi-level games, all video games involve a degree of problem solving. What is more, most games require a unique strategy to complete them, and have a number of different ways in which to achieve a goal, therefore it encourages creative problem solving and lateral thinking.
Relieves stress – one of the most commonly cited reasons for playing games is for relieving stress. A lot of people like to sit down and unwind with a gaming session. What is more, there have been studies that indicate certain games can boost your mood, and even improve heart rhythms. Additionally, video games have actually been used in theory for well over a decade.
Social Skills – most people think that video games cause people to become more shy and socially withdrawn, but this is generally not the case, especially with the social and collaborative qualities of many modern games. These days, the most popular games are multi-players, and ones that require at least some level of collaboration. What is more, research has found that children who played video games were more likely to have good social skills and build better relationships with peers.
Gaming & COVID-19
The idea of socializing through video games is by no means a new concept. In fact, many people often cite their longest friendships as being those they have made through gaming. There has, however, been a significant boom in gaming during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is surely a big indication to the social potential for games. There have been a lot of accounts of gaming being used to bridge the gaps created by social restrictions during the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, multiple people decided to host socially distanced birthday parties using the fantasy social simulation game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons – the same game has been used by some to go on dates whilst in social isolation, and one couple even held a virtual wedding ceremony during the pandemic.
In a time when people were forced to stay indoors for extended periods of time, many began to realize that, for decades, we have had the perfect medium for remote social interaction that is fun, engaging, and highly sociable. In fact, one study found that participants between the ages of 45 and 54 increased their time spent gaming by more than 50 per cent; and participants over the age of 65 even increased their time spend gaming – some by up to 45 per cent.
In the last few years, social interaction has been one of the biggest issues for the average person in society, but with the embrace of digital and virtual technologies, it seems as though gaming is beginning to get its recognition as a force for social benefit.