It’s Entirely Up To You

If you’re a person who plays video games a little bit or a lot, yet regardless you truly enjoy them as a hobby, or as part of your lifestyle, then it is entirely up to you to change people’s perceptions about what video gaming is and who video gamers are.

This blog is loaded with ammo that you can use to prove the usefulness of video games, and remind people that it isn’t simply a “waste of time”, and it certainly isn’t just a phase. Video games are social, they can help the ill, they can make you smarter, faster, they promote cognitive thinking, they help you think laterally and teach you how to solve problems. Last time I checked, the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory didn’t do that, and plenty of people spend hours on end watching that show (god knows why).

If you’ve played games for a while, I can say without a doubt that you have found memories playing video games with others til the early hours of the morning, or locking yourself in a room to play Bioshock Infinite back to front because the story line is just that good.

Playing games is something that you should be proud of, as it puts you within a community of great people (contrary to would some might have you believe), and the product itself is unlike no other.

So next time someone calls you out for playing video games, tells you to get a life or snarls that it’s bad for your health, tell them otherwise.

A Balanced View of Gaming.

I wanted to level the playing field a bit, and allow my readers to understand that I do in fact realise that video gaming can pose negatives, if it is overused, just the same as anything can. I mean, if you eat too many bananas, it’s bad for you. Seriously bad.

Video games can be addictive, and many of the benefits of gaming that I’ve spoken about require that the user plays in moderation, or under the right circumstances. Playing Portal for a few hours a week will help boost your reaction time and cognitive behaviour, but constantly playing it non-stop may not have that effect – it may diminish your concentration or personal life.

Think of video games as fruit and veg in your diet. Sure, vegetables and fruit are great for you, but if you exclusively eat fruit and vegetables every single day without any proteins or iron, then your body will start to diminish and you won’t feel all that healthy. It’s about striking the right balance between playing games, getting physically fit and stimulating your mind in other ways.

There’s a great article about this that I shared on our Facebook page on this topic. The article was based around a study of children who played games from 1-3+ hours per day. The children who played around an hour per day were better adjusted, yet those who played over 3 hours a day were worse off. If you want to read more about this, you can check out the article here

The Reason We Game

With so much debate about the positive and negative effects of games, the current state of the industry and the over analysis of every aspect of a new game, from graphics to dialogue, we often forget the real reason that we play games, and why we’re so passionate about games.

It’s simply because they’re undeniably fun, and they connect people.

Video games have done this since Pong was designed for an arcade system. The explosive growth of online video games is for this exact reason. People love being social, and exploring a fictional, interactive world with a friend? You’re kidding me, how could that not be fun?

Whether it’s playing an online game with a group of friends, or all sitting in the same room with a few controllers, games seem to always have a way of bringing people together. Single player games even bring people together – people love to chat about their own experiences with a game, or even how frustrated they are when they’re stuck a difficult point stage.

If you’re a follower of the idea that video games are a bad hobby to have (which I disagree with), then there that is the one thing you cannot deny. No one has ever sat down with a group of friends and a few pizzas and play games and finished the night saying, “damn that was an extremely boring night, I really wish we hadn’t done that.”

And spending $60 on a game that a group of people can play for hours on end? That’s cheaper than seeing a movie (per person, anyway)

Hmm… I might go play some games right now.

Why Video Games Are The Interesting History Teacher You Never Had.

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One of my fondest memories of playing video games was playing the original Medal of Honor on Playstation 1 with my brother. For those of you who don’t know, Medal of Honor is a first person shooter set during the Second World War, and is largely based around true historical occurrences. While I know it’s a video game, and isn’t entirely historically accurate, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t learn a thing or two at a young age from playing it.

Today, I have a massive interest in history and war history in particular and that has a lot to do with playing these games when I was younger.

The point I’m trying to make is that a classic first person shooter can end up being more than just fun and games (ha!). Medal of Honor isn’t the only game based on true historical events. The on going Assassins Creed franchise is a crossover between true historical facts and a fictional world. As an Australian with very little knowledge about the American Revolution, Assassins Creed 3 taught me the basics and sparked my interest in reading up on it more.

While I have no issue with traditional forms of learning, I think there’s a lot to be said about gamification and game based learning in a history classroom. Allowing a student to explore a world, rather than read it on paper or hear it spoken about will undoubtedly allow a lot of people to emphathise with historical occurrences on a scale that other forms of teaching simply could not. Participating in the collapse of the Berlin Wall, witnessing JFK’s assassination and seeing it’s effect on the surrounding environment as opposed to reading a historians analysis of it will allow the foundation for learning – it will grow interest in students that are otherwise disinterested, and it will help those that struggle to grasp concepts wrap their head around them in a much more digestiable form.

Thanks for reading, let us know in the comments if you’ve had any experience with history and video games!

 

Would you think that video games could help stroke patients?

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Because they can.

I recently read an article on the Nottingham Post about a hospital that is trialing the Xbox Kinect in helping stroke patients regain muscle movement. I know I have already written an article on the health benefits of gaming, which you can read here, but I couldn’t help bringing the attention of this blog to this particular article because I think it’s so outstanding the the way it represents the endless possibility that video game technology has to help the broader society.

This particular use of technology involves a speech and language therapist on screen that helps patients through exercises and rewards them for doing well. It takes basic game mechanics that have been in use for years, and applies them to a completely new field and it’s nothing short of revolutionary. A cheap and easy to use technology that can rehabilitate in the comfort of someones own home. That same someone that is almost certainly sick of visiting hospitals every other day after a stroke changed the course of their life.

I love this story so much because it gives me hope that if this partnership between games and stroke rehabilitation becomes a mainstream treatment, then that same relationship between health (whether it be mental or physical) and interactive gaming will carry on to many different facets of the health world. Imagine using Wii U to help with muscle rehabilitation, or playing Portal 2 to help stimulate the brain. These are genuinely enjoyable activities that I believe patients would be much happier engaging with than a daunting rehabilitation program.

Why Playing Video Games can be the Pathway to a Real Career

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If you had told someone 15 years ago that playing video games constantly and getting involved with the gaming community could take them down a path to riches, they would most likely snicker at you and dismiss the idea.

With that being said, I think a lot of people today would have the exact same reaction. “By encouraging my child to play video games they could find a passion that ends up defining who they are in both their career and personal life? Goodness me, no!”

Well, doubtful parent, I’m here to tell you otherwise.

The Video Game industry is more lucrative than ever, netting over 10 billion in revenue yearly, and of course when an industry is earning this much money, there are endless employment opportunities in that sector. From designer, to video game developer, to marketer, to journalist. Video games have massive amounts of trade press and it’s probably a far more enjoyable topic to write about than what happened last night on The Bachelor.

Making serious cash from video games definitely doesn’t finish there. Thanks to the internet, social media and Twitch (which was itself sold for almost $1 billion and is a service centered around gaming) exceptionally good or hilarious video game players can literally play video games for a living. PewDiePie is the most prominent example – he’s a YouTuber who uploads ‘lets play’ style videos of him exploring gaming worlds, and he makes millions from YouTube ad revenue and he currently has over 30 million subscribers.

Then there’s e-sports. Online, competitive versions of video games that are purely skill based, now have a following, tournaments and prize money. In fact, Robert Morris University in the United States just recognised e-sports as an official part of their varsity leagues. Students can literally get academic scholarships to play League of Legends throughout University. If only my University did that…

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, ‘But these are only a few rare cases that are available to the best of the best.’ You’re right, but its exactly the same with regular sport, yet video games pose so many more opportunities for careers in the developmental and marketing side of the industry.

Video Games and Medicine

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It’s an odd combination of words, “Video Games and Medicine,” yet thanks to the Oculus Rift and games of increasing complexity, it’s becoming a more common one.

There’s been a fair bit of chatter around the medical applications of the Oculus Rift – a virtual reality headset that allows the user to be entirely immersed in whatever digital experience it’s projecting. The terminally ill or disabled can relax and live vicariously through footage of a South-East Asian holiday. The mentally handicapped can be run through simulations that are designed to stimulate brain activity and help with growth. These applications can be used on people with PTSD, young kids struggling with development and so much more.

While Virtual Reality is a new avenue where video games and medical practice can overlap, it certainly isn’t the only avenue. A study out of Florida State University by Val Shute found that the popular Valve title ‘Portal 2’ was better for training the brain and better human cognition than Lumosity, a popular online service designed to stimulate brain activity. And hey, Portal 2 has the surprising side effect of being ridiculously fun.

It doesn’t stop there – a great mini doco from National Geographic shows how researchers used the principles of video games to try and better treat stroke patients. This is definitely something you should watch, and you can check it out here