Too often within the media, gaming (both online and in-person) is framed in a negative light. For example, we’re often warned of the dangers of spending too much time gaming when we should be outside, working, or (allegedly) doing anything else.
However, despite this conjecture, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that gaming is good for you. For example, it can help to reduce stress and anxiety while also strengthening your relationship with your peers. For this reason, it’s not only a worthwhile pastime but one that we could all get a lot of gratification from.
With that in mind, here are just four of the reasons why gaming is good for you – with scientific evidence to back up the claims!
Gaming can help to combat stress.
According to a recent study, 55% of Americans are stressed during the day. While there are many potential triggers for this, finding an effective way to cope is essential. Fortunately, many studies have found that gaming can ease stress. After all, it serves as the perfect escape from the outside world and can also be used to channel negative emotions into something more positive and manageable.
For example, one study found that among stressed individuals, playing video games can reduce negative emotions such as frustration, anxiety, and apprehension. Playing your favorite games can also increase your body’s production of serotonin, otherwise known as the happiness hormone, while lowering cortisol (which induces stress).
Gaming can also help you to decompress after a particularly stressful day. This means that by the time you get into bed in the evening, you’re no longer mulling over how awful your day is, allowing you to get the sleep and rest you need. For this reason, some people find great benefits in playing mobile games on their phones during their lunch break from work. This way, they feel refreshed when they get back behind their desk, which can improve their focus at work moving forward.
However, when it comes to reducing your stress levels, your choice of game is important. For example, a recent study split games into four categories: puzzle, fear, runner, and excitement, depending upon the game narrative and style.
They then studied how participants responded to each game, and while players were said to enjoy all four categories, “It has been found that the concentration of α-amylase and cortisol increased significantly after playing the Fear game, Runner game, and Excitement game but decreased after playing the Puzzle game.” Therefore, if you’re looking to reduce your stress levels through game play, it’s best to stick to puzzle games or those with a ‘gentler’ narrative that will not heighten your fear/anxiety.
Gaming can heighten your focus levels.
Various studies have found that gaming can also keep your brain ticking over. Not only will this improve your problem-solving skills and abilities, but it can also heighten your focus levels quite considerably, depending on the game you are playing. For example, sorting games, such as the watermelon game, improve your ability to focus as they require you to find a practical solution to the puzzle and to use pattern recognition skills to your advantage when doing so. Every move must be carefully calculated to secure the win, which means you’re unlikely to get distracted while playing.
Working on your ability to focus for set periods of time will also come in handy outside of gameplay. For example, it means you’ll be able to work on complicated projects at work without seeking out distractions, making it easier to meet your deadlines. Improving your pattern recognition skills can be similarly beneficial, as they come into play far more often than you may initially realize.
Gaming can help you socialize.
Gaming can also help you to socialize, both in person and online. This can be particularly beneficial for those looking to overcome social anxiety, who may otherwise spend a great deal of time alone.
In some cases, online gaming can help them build up the skills they need to step out of their comfort zone, as “video games can allow players to talk to others and make friends at their current ability level even when they are not emotionally or physically able to leave their homes.” Developing their confidence and communication skills at a pace they feel comfortable with empowers many individuals to begin to venture out of their homes when the time is right.
Gaming can also be a great way to strengthen pre-existing relationships with your peers, especially if you meet to play in person. For example, a typical D&D session can last around 4-5 hours, during which players will spend a lot of quality time with their friends. Other tabletop games can be similarly beneficial, especially when they help you to improve your communication style or social skills. For example, you may have to work on your negotiation skills when deciding upon your next course of action within the game, especially if your team isn’t all on the same page.
As such, now is the perfect time to reach out to friends and invite them over to play some games at your home. After all, we tend to have more free time during the holiday period, which means plenty of time for gameplay. This can also provide you with the opportunity to catch up with friends you haven’t seen in a while, such as those who may live out of state. Where meeting in person is not possible, you can always play online!
If you currently don’t have anyone you play with, try joining an online gaming group on forums such as discord. Here, you’ll be able to connect with other like-minded individuals who share your passion for and interest in gameplay. This means that you’ll be able to play consistently and start forming friendships. Alternatively, you can search online for gamers who meet in person in your local area, such as at your local gaming shop.
Gaming is good for your mental health.
Various studies have also found that gaming (both online and in-person) can be good for your mental health. Again, this can likely be associated with the sense of escapism derived through gaming, whether you’re entering a fantasy world or playing a simple game of solitaire. For the length of your game, your focus is on the gameplay rather than the world around you. As such, it can provide you with a suitable vehicle to reduce stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions.
Of course, the exact mental health benefits derived through gameplay vary depending on your choice of gameplay or whether you are playing alone or with friends. For example, playing D&D is good for your mental health because it encourages you to be both more empathetic and creative in your daily life, especially in response to hardships. Creativity is often considered one of the most effective tools through which we can begin to harness our emotions into something positive, meaning it could be the outlet we need to better handle ourselves moving forward.
Alternatively, various studies have found that playing Solitare is great for your mental health, as it puts you into a semi-meditative state and “gives the mind something to focus on, particularly in times of low action when the opportunity to fret is high.” In short, it can serve as a suitable distraction when times are tough while also providing players with a sense of peace and comfort.
Furthermore, gaming can also be a tool through which we build our confidence and self-esteem levels. After all, succeeding in a game (whether that be through completing a campaign or obtaining a high score) fills us with an innate sense of satisfaction. We’re proud of the work we’ve put in and the success we’ve achieved, and so it’s only natural that our confidence will increase slightly as a result of this.
How often should I play games to notice the benefits?
Fortunately, you do not have to spend every waking minute playing games in order to notice the benefits. After all, while that sounds fun in theory, it will likely lead to gaming fatigue or cause you to lose interest in your favorite games. Even as little as ten minutes of gameplay a day can evoke some of the benefits listed above, which means that you should always be able to make time for fun in your schedule, no matter how busy you may be.
Remember, you can always switch it up by trying out new games or returning to old favorites when boredom sets in. This is a great way to reignite your love for gaming and ensure that you reap as many benefits from playing as possible.
In short, there are far more benefits associated with gaming than you may originally believe. More than just a way to keep boredom at bay, gaming provides you with the chance to develop strong friendships with others while also building upon your self-confidence and combating anxiety and stress.