Trisha Miller
December 03, 2015 12:24 pm

In the midst of the video game jackpot we have hit in recent days (Fallout 4, Tomb Raider, Battlefront etc.) I feel that it is necessary to celebrate all the good that video games have done for us. Not just the fact that your level 24 warlock can beat the tar out of just about anything, but really video games have taught gamers how to win life. It’s been proven that video games are actually fantastic for enhancing cognitive pathways such as perception, attention, decision making, and overall memory retention.

These core skills taught by video games are thought by scientists to be the basic building blocks of intelligence. I am a late bloomer, so to speak, to the gaming world. I started playing games in high school and have been hooked ever since. However I’m so glad that I chose this path for myself because, through gaming, I’ve actually become a better, more compassionate, and dedicated friend/girlfriend, employee, creative individual, and student. Here’s how.

It’s a good model for a motivational system

The one and only reason that gaming is so addictive is the reward system. A very simple system that is employed by all video games is this: do a thing and you earn something in return. If games didn’t give you some kind of coinage or weapon for completing that super difficult quest, then we just wouldn’t play them anymore because there would be no point. Gain money or influence and you can pretty much rule the virtual world.

In my own life I recognize that this is an easy and extremely clever way to get me to do things that I definitely don’t want to do. If I work out and eat well this week then I can have a cheat day this weekend. If I take out the trash and do the dishes now, then I get to watch an extra episode of my favorite show. The only trick is holding yourself accountable, which video games do a much better job of than real life does. So, to help you along try checking out some game-like apps that can help you be more productive. Some smartphone apps can plan out your day and reward you for completing all that boring stuff you don’t want to do.

I can focus a little bit better

Recent studies have shown that action-packed video games improve a person’s ability to attentively focus on many tasks happening at one time. With so many distractions on the screen, current quests, level ups, and weapon enhancements, players have a lot on their plates to deal with.

So, let me just tell you, I’ve had to get up to one the highest levels in some of my favorite games just to be able to attempt to fight one very difficult enemy, like a dragon or deathclaw. In the end, these battles take a lot of time and dedication, but when you prevail there is no better feeling than reaping the rewards of the fight. What I mean to say is, if I can spend 100+ hours working up to one final battle then I know what focus and dedication means. Sure there are going to be plenty of obstacles in the way, but I know that I will eventually fight and defeat that boss.

After anyone has achieved that level of greatness, when someone hands you a deadline for an essay, some overtime hours for the holiday rush, you decide to learn a new instrument, or even teach your cat to walk on a leash, just know that you are in it for the long haul – you’ve got this. Gamers do not give up on things quickly. Sure, we take breaks when things get a little tough, but we always come back for more.

It enhances your ability to strategize

In addition to being able to focus on the task at hand, people who game truly know the meaning of strategy. Video games are supremely good teachers. If something just isn’t working out the game will let you know immediately – usually in the form of death. This means learning from your mistakes and formulating a new approach.

Games create an incredibly powerful learning environment.It is shown that people at all ages learn much more quickly when given immediate feedback. As an example, if your quest in a game is to sneak into an enemy’s home base and grab a necessary item, you’ll probably learn quickly that running in with guns blazing is just not going to cut it. This type of reinforcement forces players to learn from the gameplay and figure out a safer way to get into the base. You may have to try a few times, but after your successfully complete the mission you’ll have gained those skills for the next mission – and so on.

What this means for life in the real world is an ability to hear feedback and not take it personally. What’s more, this also means an awesome recovery rate. If you’re going about something one way and that’s just not working take a break and come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. Not too long or you’ll forget what you were doing, but planning out a new course of action is always better than just blindly invading a camp of raiders and just hoping for the best.

It’s a good way to see the big picture

Some of the most immersive games, and my favorite games, are RPGS (or role playing games). These games often include complex interactions between characters which include many options in order to complete one quest. Of course, when it comes to making choices we all understand the difference between good and bad. However, gaming has taught me how to think about the big, bigger, and biggest picture in any given scenario. Sometimes just making a decision “good” or “bad” doesn’t always distract us from making the selfish choice.

Games that include interactive influence mechanics really make you think about who you’re hurting and not just if society would disapprove of your choice. Yes, stealing this gold off of this man will put a shiny new weapon in my hand, but will my reputation lower, thus making my companions upset at me, thus leading no one to want to trade with me, thus making me an enemy of the state? It makes the player take a step back from impulsivity and think about a problem from all angles. Basically, without even knowing it I am thinking about things like “Well, if I take this “sick” day from work to watch Netflix then my co-workers and boss will have to pick up my work and I won’t get that extra money and I won’t be able to buy bae that new waffle iron that they really want for their birthday (that I secretly want too) and I won’t be able to make them happy forever (which I really want more than anything).” Or something to that effect, you get the idea. I love waffles.

It helped me open up to other people

If high school me took one look at the me from today, she wouldn’t recognize herself. I used to be such a shy and reserved person, which I definitely still am today. However, I’m no longer afraid to ask questions or throw in my suggestions on any given situation. In a co-op game you start to realize that every person’s life matters. So, for the sake of the group, sticking together and vocalizing your current status is totally essential. Not only that, but studies show that children with autism, which severely affects the ability to interact on a social level, can be improved through immersive storytelling. These types of games can help anyone understand how to create and maintain positive and meaningful relationships.

This translates into all of my relationships. I much more productively communicate with friends, family members, and boyfriends since I started gaming.  No one can read your mind. So, to paraphrase the movie Chasing Amy, you have to treat your life like the weather. Always give your partners constant updates. Getting lost on the battlefield with no support is just not going to work out. Think of it this way, “I’m lost. I don’t know where I am and I’m low on health.” translates to “I’m upset and I need a hug and probably some food.” As long as you tell everyone what’s up, someone will show up with some snacks and snuggles soon.

[image via iSTock]

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