Why I Game; are there any benefits?

My gaming story (the short version)

I should have been writing this blog post…but instead I spent most of today playing Batman: Arkham Knight, which if fine, it is Sunday after all and I really want to get it finished before the NEXT update to No Man’s Sky this week (Tuesday I think).

[EDIT: so I didn’t manage to finish writing this on Sunday, so finished on Monday, instead. I did this because I wanted to change the post a lot and I needed more time to do this!]

My last blog post outlined the 4 reasons why I thought ALL games should have some sort of photo mode, link to that is here, but I wanted this blog post to shed some light about how I got into gaming in general, so I guess it will be slightly more personal and almost introductory. Then next week I wanted to write more about the gametography side.

[I want my blog posts to be a mixture of formats, so from more personal posts, to informative (I hope!), to how to-do’s, to case studies and I really want to get a few interviews in there too etc etc]

In my last ‘4 reasons’ post I mentioned that I had dipped in and out of gaming throughout my life and it has only been recently that my gaming has become a proper hobby I guess. I remember as a kid my older brother having a Sega, so of course that meant it was mine too, and playing Sonic on that, classic. Because I am old, I also remember going to Blockbuster and I am sure that we rented a Nintendo 64 with a handful of games, one of these being Goldeneye, another classic. Then there was a long gap; I played games at friends houses but not very often, and then I got my hands on an Xbox 360. Two games stand out the most with that console for me; Bioshock and Left 4 Dead.

In fact Bioshock was the first game that literally pulled me in. No spoilers for those who haven’t played it (and I would highly recommend you do) but THAT twist at the end. Oh my. Up until then I had thought of games as just something to pass a bit of time, but Bioshock showed me that games could be so much more than that; they had depth and narrative and twists and turns and cinematic atmosphere. I am an avid reader and it was the same feeling of reading a book and not wanting it to end on the one hand but also wanting to finish it to find out what happens on the other. I was exhilarated playing it, indeed I was almost in a kind of rapture; which also happens to be what the city in Bioshock is called. Like a great book, the storytelling of a game can achieve this. “Was this really a game I was playing?” I asked myself. Yes, yes it was.


Unfortunately, I did not have the Xbox 360 for very long. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that fast forward a few years and I decide to buy myself a Playstation 4 and that’s pretty much had me hooked since, and then I found Gametography… but more on that a bit later on in next weeks post.

The benefits of playing video games

In an article titled ‘The Benefits of Playing Video Games‘ (see Footnote 1 for reference) the authors argue that;

“…in order to understand the impact of video games…a more balanced perspective is needed, one that considers not only the possible negative effects but also the benefits of playing these games.” (p. 66).

The article does focus on children and adolescence studies and view point, but I think these benefits (talked about below) extend to adults too and many of these points literally are the reason that I game. I also think that this article has probably been referenced in a few other blog posts – it is an interesting read – but I wanted to talk about each benefit I guess from my point of view, and it will link to next weeks post about gametography.

Benefit #1: Cognitive

I would like to believe that perhaps the stereotypical image of a lazy gamer might actually have started to be replaced with the not so lazy image; the dedicated gamer. Esports and Twitch have given insights into this world; of gamers almost thought of as athletes (this is a blog post by itself so won’t say much more about this at the moment). I also don’t think it is that unknown that there has been a fair amount of research into cognitive skills, and how they are enhanced by gaming, particularly shooting type games (Granic et al, 2014, p. 68). So skills like spatial awareness, pattern-detection and problem solving are increased (Ibid) and all these skills can be, and are, implemented outside in real life.


What is interesting to me is that a study referenced in the article showed that “…video game playing was positively associated with creativity.” (Ibid, p. 69). The quote wasn’t written in italics originally, this is me trying to emphasise the point, (although, caveat, there needs to be more research into this), but it got me to think about my own personal creativity. In and out of games. Am I more creative now than I was when I wasn’t playing games daily? I don’t think I would be so into photography as I am now if I hadn’t started taking in-game photos (I now own my own proper camera – proper to me means a camera that you can change lenses on, and I am so excited about this!) But even at my job, working in an escape room (or at least not anymore because I moved) that involved a lot of problem solving running a room, as no game seemed to ever run the same. I had to think quickly and creatively sort out any problems that might have occurred. It is a difficult one to measure, but I like to believe yes, games offer an outlet to be creative and therefore creativity is increased in other aspects of life.

Benefit #2: Motivational

“Game designers are wizards of engagement.” (Ibid, p. 70). They sure are. And a good game will make you want to finish it, and this sometimes means that perseverance is needed, an absolute must have.

In fact, at the moment I am kinda stuck in Batman: Arkham Knight (almost ashamed to admit it, but I’ve never said that I’m actually a good gamer, just that I like gaming). Someone on Twitter warned me that the Batmobile was heavily used throughout the game, too much in their opinion (which is valid, I kinda agree with it now) and I am at one of those moments where I have to use the Batmobile to blow up a mega tank thing, the last one of about six or seven. It’s a nightmare to do though, it obviously has some kind of sonar/detection that means that whenever I get near I basically get blown up. And I died, like no lie, about seven or eight times in a row before I had to quit.

BATMAN™: ARKHAM KNIGHT_20180722160724
Here is a picture of the Batmobile.

But I haven’t quit quit. No rage quit. I just know that given a bit of time, I can come back to the game and try again. I kinda have to if I want to continue with the story and get the game finished, that’s the motivation. “We propose that being immersed in these gaming environments teaches players an essential basic lesson; Persistence in the face of failure reaps valued rewards.’ (Ibid, p. 71). I know that my reward will be being able to continue with the game and so I persevere.

And then I will most likely get stuck again and go through the process again .

Benefit #3: Emotional

“…fiero, the Italian word for intense pride after succeeding against adversity…” (Ibid, p. 71)

Who hasn’t felt ‘immense pride’ after finishing a game or just beating some kind of annoying enemy on the way, I know I will feel fiero after I manage to take down the before-mentioned tank. Or as with Bioshock, I felt totally used (again no spoilers but this has to do with the twist) but after that I was awed by the very twist itself. Of course I am not ignoring the negative emotions, I have raged quit before not going to lie, but for me the positive outweigh the negative. Granic et al‘s article goes into more detail about the emotional impacts and psychology of gaming, which I won’t do here, but if gaming can foster more positive emotions in general, that must be a plus right; or more simply, “…if playing games simply makes people happier, this seems to be a fundamental emotional benefit to consider.” (Ibid, p. 72).

Benefit #4: Social

Again with the stereotypes of the lone gamer, not talking to anyone, just playing. Not so much though anymore given the advent of web technologies. Now you can join someone or a team from all over the world and play in real time against the same enemies. This has a knock on effect, “Given these immersive social contexts, we propose that gamers are rapidly learning social skills and prosocial behaviour that might generalize to their peer and family relations outside the gaming environment.” (Ibid, 73). This may read as a bit…patronizing, but don’t forget this article is aimed at the more child and adolescence gamers. Ignoring that, I agree that anyone from any age group may benefit from the social side of gaming. Not only in terms of making friends but also in perhaps gaining confidence in talking to people, potentially complete strangers, and a lot of games reply on constant communication between team mates.

I’ve met some amazing people due to gaming and even more from the gametography community. I am always amazed at how positive and supportive people can be towards each other. And I am sure that every gamer has that one story about meeting other gamers online; like the stranger who you play with for a long time and then they disconnect. It’s not a lonely hobby, not if you don’t want it to be that is.

Last thoughts…

In their concluding remarks, Granic et al state:

“Both traditional and video games are fundamentally voluntary in nature, they can include competitive and cooperative objectives, players immerse themselves in pretend worlds that are safe contexts in which negative emotions can be worked out, and games allow a sense of control with just enough unpredictability to feel deep satisfaction and intense pride when formidable goals are finally reached. Yet video games today and those on the radar for development in the near future are also unique forms of play. Video games are socially interactive in a way never before afforded. Increasingly, players are gaming online, with friends, family, and complete strangers, crossing vast geographical distances and blurring not only cultural boundaries but also age and generation gaps, socioeconomic differences, and language barriers. The large amount of time invested in playing video games may also mean that they provide qualitatively different experiences than conventional games. Although we may remember spending whole weekends playing Monopoly with siblings and neighbors, few traditional games can boast the weeks and months of game play that many video games provide. These differences in space and time likely hold wholly new benefits and risks that have yet to be conceptualized.” (p. 76)

So, why do I game?

Put simply; I guess mainly for that fiero feeling.

[I will blow up that bloody tank. I might even save the footage to keep as a reminder.]

The benefits talked about above are just that, they are the added bonuses. I am not implying that there are NO negatives, but I wanted to focus on the positives (at least for now, the negatives are just as interesting to discuss and I’m sure I will do blog posts about them too at some point). The future of gaming is also an exciting aspect; as technology develops so too does gaming, advancements into other realms, such a VR are already shifting boundaries.

An extra added bonus is that I found gametography…

Thanks everyone for taking the time to read this, what did you think? What benefits do you personally feel gaming gives to you, anything different from the above? Like I said at the beginning, I am excited about some of my future blog post ideas, and really want to start thinking about interviewing people, asking about games and gametography, so if you are interested or just want more information let me know! Otherwise happy gaming!

NEXT WEEK: Why I Gametography; having fun creating mindful photography. The mindfulness of photography, and gametography, is the topic for next week!


#1: Granic, I., Lobel, A, Engels, R. (2014). The Benefits of Playing Video Games. American Psychologist. 69(1), p. 66-78. DOI: 10.1037/a0034857. If you want to read the article but for whatever reason cannot gain access, just send me an email and I’m sure I can send it to you.

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