Benefits of Video Games

Common wisdom says that playing video games rots your brain, kills your social skills, and repels all girls within a 700 mile radius. Common wisdom also says that masturbation is good for you and that you’re a freak if you’ve never had a girlfriend by 21, so who gives a shit about common wisdom?


Here’s some of the (surprisingly strong) benefits of video games.


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Common wisdom says that playing video games is bad for you. They take time away from socializing and making friends, they kill your attention span, they hurt your eyes, and they make you to gain weight.


Believe it or not, READING was the equivalent of video games decades ago. Common wisdom used to say that reading fiction books for enjoyment was bad for you. They didn’t teach you anything useful or train your mind, they put elaborate stories and fantasies in your head that could detract from your ability to perceive and live in reality, and they distracted you from doing work. Now, reading fiction books is considered a great mental habit for the sustained attention it requires. Teachers and school administrations actively encourage kids to read books.


It looks like playing video games is following a similar pattern. People demonize the hell out of them, blaming them for all the issues and woes of kids and young people. But now, there’s scientific evidence that shows the benefits of video games, and they’re being considered for various training and rehabilitation purposes.


Just like reading, video games could be a way of training your mind productively.


Benefits of Video Games: Faster Reaction Speed

This one is pretty obvious. Imagine a Deathmatch in Call of Duty. You and a bunch of other players are running wild and trying to shoot, stab and otherwise kill each other. To a large extent, the guy with the faster reaction speed will outshoot the guys with slower reaction speeds and have greater success.


Shooting games, fighting games, real-time strategy games like StarCraft, they require fast reaction speed. Regularly playing these kinds of games with intense effort will increase your reaction speed just like a regularly lifting weights with intensity will increase your physical strength.


You’re probably thinking: how’s this going to benefit me at all? Having fast reaction speed sounds cool, but only athletes stand to benefit from it.


Do you drive? A fast reaction speed can be the difference between a narrowly avoided collision and a front-line story on the evening news. Have you ever almost dropped something, but managed to catch it in time? Imagine being able to do that all the time. Do you want to be productive? Faster reaction speed is the mark of an overall faster thinking process. You’re training your mind to work faster and more efficiently. Which transitions into…


Benefits of Video Games: Greater Focus

Greater focus?! I must be full of shit, right?


There no definitive proof that video games destroy your concentration ability. And, it could be that video games simply have more appeal for kids with ADHD; correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation. A study by the University of Toronto reveals that playing first-person shooter video games creates a noticeable increase in visual attention span and decrease in distraction.


FPS players also have a much easier time switching between different tasks and show a greater level of skill at multitasking.


It makes sense, too. Being good at a first-person shooter video game requires, among other things, an ability to focus. It’s just that most FPS players don’t focus well enough to have much success at the game. You’re also constantly bombarded with chaotic, rapidly changing circumstances that requires you to be able to abruptly switch to different tasks.


Benefits of Video Games: Improved Vision

At first, you wouldn’t think one of the benefits of video games would be improved vision. After all, common wisdom says that watching TV or sitting in front of a computer screen for too long will ruin your eyes. But recent studies show that playing first and third-person shooters a lot will IMPROVE your vision.


And this makes sense once you think about it. A first-person shooter like Call of Duty requires you to be able to spot enemy players, essentially moving shapes on a screen, very quickly and shoot them before they shoot you. Thanks to the grayish background of the levels and multiplayer maps, and the usually dull colors of the player characters’ appearances, this is easier said than done.


The benefits to vision are so potent, that shooter games are being considered for rehabilitation for the visually impaired and to train soldiers for combat


Mental Discipline?

First-person shooters are essentially simulated life-or-death gun battles. Yes, it’s just a game. But subconsciously, your mind can’t always tell the difference. The sheer volcanic rage commonly associated with getting pwn’d repeatedly in COD is, other than ego, natural fight-or-flight instincts.


The biggest benefit of video games is that they allow you to be immersed in these tense, stressful situations safely, so you can train your mind without any risk of death or injury.


It takes a master martial artist-level of discipline to remain calm, clear-headed, and focused in these situations when everyone else is frothing at the mouth and reciting every curse word in the English language. You can develop a much greater level of self-control and stress management. And, this will carry over to every other aspect of your life.


So then, why aren’t gamers good athletes and good fighters?


I think it’s because they don’t train their bodies enough. All they do is press buttons and move some joysticks on a controller. It’s not enough to simply train your mind. Gaming combined with physical conditioning and skills training can be a very powerful combination.


Stress is going to happen. You have 3 major exams one week in school. You have a stressful week at work (not day, WEEK). Someone cuts you off while driving. These things will happen, and you can’t necessarily control that. But, you can control how you react in these situations. And that, possibly more than anything else, will bring you success.


How to Maximize The Benefits of Video Games

Focus on first person shooters, the Call of Duty series in particular. They offer the biggest bang for your buck. And while the benefits of video games are great, you still can’t devote too much time to playing them. Otherwise, you’ll be neglecting other vital areas of your life, like your job/school, relationships, etc. So, we need to be as efficient as possible by focusing on FPS’s.


Here are the major commandments of maximizing the benefits of video games:


Commandment #1: Don’t play video games for enjoyment or ego stroking

Your goal is to train your mind. Enjoyment is an unintended consequence. If you go into this with enjoyment as your main goal, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot. All the stereotypical downsides, like being a lazy couch potato with no life living in his parents’ basement, will start becoming true. At the very least, you’ll be neglecting other vital aspects of your life and producing a net loss for yourself.


Ego stroking is another reason for the intense rage you experience when you’re getting pwn’d and teabagged all night. When I was a high school kid, my temper when playing video games could become absolutely volcanic because of the ego I had going into it. It’s absolutely true that no one except me gives a shit about how bad or good I am, but it still didn’t matter to me at the time.


Whenever your ego rage is getting the better of you, stop playing for an hour and take a walk outside to clear your head.


Commandment #2: Only play multiplayer

The AI enemies you face in single player can never match up to the adaptability and unpredictability of other players. After replaying a level a few times, you’ll know when and where the enemies will spawn in. Beating COD on Veteran requires figuring out where the enemies will spawn. And there are countless COD Veteran walk-throughs on YouTube, making this an exercise in persistence and memorization more than anything else. Every player, from the first-time noob to the seasoned pro, offers different challenges to help you strengthen your mind.


Instead of mindlessly drooling in front of the screen, aim to win every multiplayer match with the highest Kill/Death ratio in Free-For-Alls like Deathmatch. In team-based matches like Team Deathmatch or Capture The Flag, don’t overly concern yourself with winning. Winning these matches hinges in part with the rest of your team, and you’ll often be paired up with low-skilled players if you’re playing random matches by yourself. In team-based matches, aim to do your best to win while maintaining the highest Kill/Death ratio on your team.


And, you don’t have the time to spend on single player.


Commandment #3: Use the sniper and shotgun more

For the average to below average player, sniping reliably is difficult. Sniper rifles in general have very low aim assist to compensate for their 1-2 shot kill power, making them difficult weapons to use reliably.


In Call of Duty for instance, the easy-to-aim, powerful assault rifles with plentiful ammo are some of the most common weapons used by players. Very few players consistently rely on sniper rifles because of the difficulty. It’s difficult to fire single precise shots instead of spraying bullets in the general direction of your enemy. Most players aren’t calm, controlled, and skilled enough to quick-scope assault rifle-wielding enemies consistently with the sniper.


Using the sniper more will develop these skills.


Assault rifle-wielding players run around the map recklessly like Mountain Dew-addled 12 year olds. To be fair, many COD players ARE Mountain Dew-addled 12 year olds. But, you are the calm, methodical sniper. You are smarter, moving tactically from one sniper spot to another, quick-scoping/no-scoping enemy players with controlled precision.


If you don’t like COD, you can play Halo. Halo: Reach and onward have Sniper-dedicated game modes that are perfect.


As for third-person shooters, the Gears of War series comes to mind. Gears of War 1 holds a very special place in my heart, and I consider it one of my favorite games of all time.


The Gears of War sniper is only single shot, and requires you to get a headshot with limited aim assist for a one-hit kill. A body shot does very little damage. It’s a difficult sniper rifle, and thus, it offers the greatest benefits.


In contrast to the sniper, the shotgun is only useful when the enemy is close enough to melee you.


Close range has its own challenges. It’s dangerous to enter close range because you can get shot down trying. Melee attacks in shooters are usually 1-2 hit kills. And with a shotgun, it can actually be pretty easy to miss. One slight twitch of the joystick can completely take the reticle off your opponent. This brief inaccuracy will certainly get you killed at close range.


The shotgun is similar to the sniper in the supreme calm and control needed to use it effectively.


Commandment #4: Play in shorter, more frequent sessions and one long session per week

I think this is the best frequency to get the most benefit. Play in 2-3 sessions a week of only 30-60 minutes, followed by 1 long session of several hours. During the long session, take a 10 minute break every hour to let your eyes and hands rest. This way, you’ll avoid carpal tunnel syndrome and any possible vision deterioration.


Any kind of exercise, whether for the body or mind, needs to be done with intensity and consistency, but it also can’t take away too much time from other vital areas of your life. Your mind is generally able to handle more than your body, so you stand to benefit more from a marathon gaming session as opposed to an actual marathon.


Final Words

All right, that’s the end.


Just like reading, video games, particularly first-person shooters, seem to have tremendous benefits that are masked by societal biases and misconceptions. And, it may see a massive usage increase for many different applications and industries, from athletics, rehabilitation, and mental training. Let’s get a head-start!


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