Do electronic games help us, or hurt us?
Electronic games seem to put us in a trance:
What is it about electronic games, no matter what the genre, that has the world so excited?
No matter what game genre comes out, it is popular, at least for a time. And how we play is just as varied as what we play. People play on their phone, iPod, iPad, PC, portable gaming systems, hand-held gaming systems, and social networks. And the types of games: there are maze games, puzzle games, adventure games, car games, math games, social network building games, war games, multiplayer games, gaming sites, name brands like Princess or Disney games, network gaming like Nickelodeon (for kids) and World of War Craft (for adults), and even the old style games of paddles and bingo are out there in full vigor. With that in mind, I ask again: What is it about electronic games that has the world so excited; and do electronic games help us or hurt us?
I'm sure there are many studies that have been conducted:
To find the underlying physiological cause as to why we play games and what the effects gaming has on our psyche and our confidence, etc.; however, I was thinking more along the lines of why we like to play them. Are they a way to bring out the best and the worst in us? Are they a way for us to ‘get physical’ without hurting anyone? Are they a way for us to compete with people without them knowing who we are? Or are they ways we can be social? I play games and I thought perhaps if I looked at why I play, I might find the answers to why others play.
I play to relax, forget the trials of the day, take my mind off of daily worries, and to clear my mind when I have run into a block and can’t seem to work things out. I play for the sheer joy of winning, and I play against others to test my skills. I play to increase my brain work, and to preserve my memory. I play because I can lose myself for awhile. I play because games can allow me to get physical and rude and rotten without suffering the consequences of real life issues. I’m sure that many, if not most, of you play for one of the same reasons listed above, so let’s see if we can figure out how playing games works to help with these things.
When we play games, especially competition games, you would think we would get ‘all worked up’ rather than relaxed. And, to a certain extent we do get ‘worked up’. But the excitement is not the excitement of stress and hopeless choices; it is the excitement of challenge, renewal, joy, and just plain fun. We play the games we enjoy, we get better, and we forget all of the worries and woes that life has piled on top of us, at least for a little while. Once we have played a few games, we can return to reality and take up where we left off; the only difference is, we have worked out the frustration and anger so now we can deal with the situation in a calm, constructive way.
Forget the trials of the day & take my mind off of daily worries:
These two seem to go hand in hand. When we play to forget we also play to get our minds off of why we resorted to playing (ie-the daily worries); and, like Relaxing, we can forget for awhile that the kids destroyed the living room and the car broke down again, or the boss keeps telling us our work is second-rate. We forget for just a little while, then we relax, then we can face whatever life throws at us (well, in theory, anyway).
To clear my mind when I have run into a block and can't seem to work things out:
This seems to pertain to writers, which I am; however, if you look real deep, we all have things we need to work out and yet, we all seem to get blocks. We struggle with decisions, we struggle with directions, and we struggle with how others might see what we do. We struggle, that is the key phrase. So, we take a deep breath, breathe slowly outward, and blow up everything on the screen as fast as we can! We can’t do it in real life, but we can in the game. Once we have blown everything up for a bit, we can breathe a little easier and the answer to our dilemma seems to just settle right in. And if it doesn’t, well, you have cleared your mind of all the little nagging things that were preventing you from choosing.
The sheer joy of wnning:
How many of you out there start a game for the fun of it and then get into it and before you know what is happening you are up and jumping and calling names and destroying everything in sight! That “YOU WON” phrase never looked so good. You did it! You won! Yeah, I hear ya; I’ve been there; and sometimes you just need that little bit of encouragement to get back to reality once more.
Play against others to test my skills:
Let’s face it, we all want to be ‘the best’ at what we do. Unfortunately, there is always someone who is better. It never fails, does it? You have played this game for months. You can finally get to the final level in just 2 hours. You are so proud of yourself. You go on-line and challenge someone, and they seem to be moving kinda slow and you are racing along, smiling, and certain of a win, when they suddenly move up and then blow you away! Yeah, they are looking for that win, too. But, just think, you now have another goal; to beat the pants off that guy.
Increase my brain work, and preserve my memory:
Believe it or not, studies have shown that if you use your brain cells for more than just 2+2=4 and who discovered America, you stand a better chance of retaining your memories well into your retirement years. Brains, like the rest of our body, need exercise to stay fit. When we don’t exercise it, our brains get fat and loose. It doesn’t process things like it used to. It gets tired easily. So those games where you have to remember what monster is on this level and what weapon works best to take down that wall, are actually exercising your brain. Now, does that mean that it is okay to sit our entire lives and play video games? Not on your life (so to speak), you see, your body needs exercise too. So, unless you are one of those players who gets up and duplicates the actions your avatar is doing to win the battle, you need to balance gaming and physical activity equally.
I can lose myself for awhile:
Ever been in a ‘tight’ spot and think, boy I wish I was on a beach somewhere sipping a martini? We all have, it’s natural. Well, with games, we can lose ourselves just like that. I mean we might not be on a beach sipping a martini, but we are winning and competing and losing ourselves just the same. And blowing things up now and then for the excitement of the explosions....
I play because games can allow me to get physical and rude and rotten without suffering the consequences of real life issues. I can jump on someone, punch them out, blow them up, or just plain leave them in the dust and no one will condemn me for it (or try to sue me for assault and medical costs).
Well, there they are:
There are the reasons I play games. On-line, off-line, with cards, gaming systems or with my little granddaughter, it doesn’t matter. For a little while, I can forget about all those things that were dragging me down and enjoy a little fun and excitement along the way. I don’t know about you, but I have found a great way to easy the burdens life tosses at me and I intend to use it to the best of my abilities. Oh, and by the way, if you are on-line, playing a game with someone, you might want to let them win once in awhile; that way, they will want to continue playing (and your skills might just get better in the long run as you play ‘catch up’.
© 2012 Cheryl Simonds
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