Benefits of gaming
There are clear external benefits to gaming, such as helping those in need. But there is also a very internal and intrinsic benefit to gaming. As a gamer myself, and as someone who has been a gamer for many years, across many countries, and who has at points suffered from isolation and loneliness, gaming has been an unparalleled lifeline.
Isolation and loneliness is a very real problem for many of us, especially now. Not all of us are lucky enough to be with someone important while we’re in lockdown. The main issue with isolation is that in the long run it is damaging towards our mental health. As humans, we’re social creatures, we need to interact with others to remain healthy. So in a time where we are keeping our distance, we need to have an outlet, like online gaming, that helps us to keep in touch and get together with family, friends, and so on.
Online gaming is excellent at combatting isolation, you’re actively interacting with others, you can speak with them, laugh, cry, make new memories and create lasting social bonds. I can certainly attest to this being true and that it very much works.
Interacting socially online is only one side of the coin. The other side is the ability to escape from the world. Though escapism isn’t always the right answer, in a world where the media has become predominantly negative in its tone, rather than promoting positivism, escapism might be the medicine we need. Being able to escape from such a dour world to something fun, engaging and challenging can help your mind cope with that reality. It allows you to discuss more mentally favourable topics, such as how you beat that puzzle or boss, rather than being reminded of a death toll. (sorry)
There a few examples of times in history when we as a species utilized story, games, play and escapism to deal with such adverse situations. This article discusses how individuals in the 14th Century indulged in a bit of narrative escapism to better deal with the plague that was ravaging Europe at the time.
Jane McGonigal in her book Reality is Broken (2012) even discusses how the Lydian civilization survived drought and famine by collectively playing games: “Games made life bearable. Games gave a starving population a feeling of power in a powerless situation, a sense of structure in a chaotic environment.”
Though these examples don’t contain the aspect of social distancing that we now need to enforce, they do prove the effect that games can have as a social tool. And thanks to the existence of the internet we can benefit from this social tool and keep our distance to stay safe.
I personally have been able to maintain friendships across several years using games and online gaming as a social interaction tool. All it requires to be effective is a change of mindset from going outside to the idea that you can still ‘go-out’ for a drink in an online world. It is as simple as each of you having a drink, wherever you are, and then going on an adventure together in a virtual space. And trust me, the experience is as rewarding as if it were in the real world.
I find it surprising that it takes such effort and a monumental event for us as a species and civilization to change our outlook on certain aspects of our world and culture. Rather than accepting expert knowledge, we need a disruption in our lives to finally see the benefits of a healthy engagement with gaming. Not to forget the benefits our environment is experiencing during this period.