I have been told, from a very young age, how bad video games can be for you. My mom consistently would remind me of how bad they were for my eyes, or bemoan my lack of physical activity. And on those grounds, she is certainly correct. However, despite these drawbacks, there are plenty of positives towards playing video games. After years of playing them, perhaps it is worthwhile to understand what they have done for me as a burgeoning adult.
Firstly, it is important to understand that video games drastically improved my hand-eye coordination and my reaction speed. As much as the stereotypical image of a gamer as a sleep deprived, zombie-like creature seems accurate, in reality, it is far from the truth. Today, video games are a near fully immersing experience.
A gamer has to be incredibly aware of everything on the screen, and the controller. Take a look at the first person shooter genre, which includes game series such as Call of Duty, Halo, and Borderlands. There are so many controls to learn and buttons to push; learning how to walk and aim at the same time is a hard skill to pick up. Each game requires the player to be fully aware of their character’s surroundings -- all 360 degrees of them. It is not easy to jump into a game like that right away. But once a gamer does, their hand-eye coordination will be much improved, even within a simulated reality.
For me, the best example of this has to be with Mario Kart 64. As a child, I played a lot of this game, always having fun with the various maps and characters in the game and playing against my two younger brothers. Fast forwarding a bit, upon starting my in-car sessions to get my driver's license, my instructor remarked that for a beginning driver I had an incredible feel for the road. It has taken me some time to realize it, but it was because of years of simulated driving on Mario Kart that my feel was as good as it was. The only major difference was switching an actual wheel and pedal for a joystick. Moreover, from years of switching up various buttons and controls, making this real life transition was quite easy, anyway.
Secondly, and probably the most well-known argument, is that video games can be educational -- to an extent. For this argument, it is best to utilize examples. The Assassin's Creed series has had installments in various different historical periods, such as the Renaissance, the Golden Age of Piracy and the American Revolution. While the game takes place in an alternate history, many bits of information in the games are true, especially when it comes to architecture, clothing, and culture. Through the game, a player can roam the streets of 16th century Venice or explore the Caribbean. Games such as Call of Duty and Medal of Honor teach similarly, as well.
Even some sports games can have an element to this as well. In certain editions, a player can take control of a franchise and run the organization, both on the field, court, etc., and off. This includes managing a budget, keeping fans happy, and running a team in the league. Is it a perfectly accurate representation of business? Maybe not for an adult, but for a child, it is one that they can understand and learn from. Moreover, a player can learn sports history, as well as some popular culture. There are many other educational uses for video games, on top of these two examples.
Thirdly, video games can prove to be an inspiration or a pathway into something in the real world. Many years back, my mom decided to give my dad the game, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004, for his birthday. Despite never playing a game of golf in my life, nor having any idea how the sport worked, I of course joined my dad in playing it. Before too long, predictably, I started to play more than my dad, likely because of all the free time I had as a kid. In any case, upon growing attached to the game, I asked my dad to teach me how to play in real life. Although it was not easy, at first, my love for the game, perpetuated by my experiences playing the video game, kept me going. As is the case with most sports games, I may not be anywhere near as good as I am when I play the video game, but I became good enough to join my high school’s golf team.
Furthermore, video games have played a large role in inspiring the musician in me. It was only through the desire to listen to songs from Guitar Hero 3 that pushed me to get an iPod. Moreover, it was not long before I added the soundtracks to many of my favorite games onto my iPod. My Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, and Legend of Zelda playlists are some of my most listened to sets of music in my library. It always provides an emotional boost when I need it. In short, my love for video games not only helped establish my love of music, but fused with it as the years passed.
But there is a final lesson that video games taught me, and it is one of the most important of all -- humility. The online video game experience is a vast array of networks and connections, bridging a single console to a gigantic web. While subtle at first, slowly, the online gaming experience grew in importance and relevance. First-person shooters and sports games generally helped create this wave.
Now, it is one thing to beat my brothers consistently at a game of Madden NFL Football; however, while playing online, there would always be somebody better than you. They may be miles and miles away, but they exist. Nobody is perfect at playing online, and that is the beauty of it. Better yet, online gaming has enabled individuals of similar interests to build off each other and create a massive community in a way that was not possible, beforehand.
Now, after a decade and a half of playing video games, my brain has not turned to mush, as my mom would put it. It could not be further from the truth. Video games have helped me become the man that I am today, and I could not be prouder for it. As video games continue to evolve, I hope they can continue the trend that worked for me. As the commercial below succinctly puts, “Long Live Play.”