November 18th, 2013 by Novotny
Are video games good for you? Well, studies over the years have suggested that they can improve reactions and visual acuity in regular players. Some surgeons have been known to game for ten to twenty minutes prior to operating, in order to ‘warm-up’, and even those who believe video games will hasten the fall of civilisation admit that players tend to have better hand-eye coordination than most.
But how else do this hobby further our lives?
Pamela Rutledge, Ph.D., M.B.A., thinks gaming encourages self-actualisation and agency, increasing our desire to engage with others and work toward individual or group goals. But I’m going to go one further and suggest that it could make you a better, more rounded person. Bear with me while I explain my theory.
Your parents probably encouraged you to play sports. If we go back to the Greeks, those early meisters of all things intellectual and physical, we see that they ascribed great importance to games. However we can go even further back, to the Irish, who were at this sort of thing in 1600 BC. It’s interesting to read about the cultural significance which the Irish assigned to them; according to this wikipedia article, the Tailteann Games were seen as an important element in ensuring a meritocratic society. Of further note is that these games encompassed both physical and mental activities – to the ancients, sport was not considered a purely physical activity. It provided a method for individuals to find their place in their social groups so to learn how best to utilise their strengths and limit their weaknesses. The games were seen as important to the very fabric of early society.
Nowadays, sport is big business. Whilst many adults engage in some form of physical activity, such as visiting the gymn or ‘fitness centre’, few actually take part in any sport beyond their school years. What we’re losing here, I believe, is the sense of inter-dependency which is fostered by team-based games. The community aspect. It seems that we’re losing an important arena within which to engage in competitiveness; somewhere that we can express our animalistic desire to find our place in the structure of society.
Is this important? I think so. Competitiveness to my mind helps defines the human condition. Humans naturally wish to compete with one another. Perhaps this became hard-wired many years ago, when populations surged and suddenly, upon the serangeti, it wasn’t just lions or enraged antelopes you had to worry about. Somebody might just awp you when you least expected it, and then nick your dinner to boot. It was no longer just about getting your grub and eating it. Other gits had decided it was easier just to let you hunt, then bonk you over the head and take your lunch money.
Back to today. In my opinion, a lot of people now exercise their innate desire to compete in the workplace. Instead of venting these emotions on the playing field or track, the release now occurs in a place where, if asked, the employees would say they’re part of a team. In practise, the workplace is one of the few arenas left in which your average bloke finds himself being measured against others (apart from, of course, the nightclub). In a place where we should be trying to reach the same goal, we instead find themselves trying to ruin or usurp the guys playing on the same team. You don’t win a game of water-polo by constantly trying to drown your team-mates. But increasingly, that seems to be the norm in the office. Seems counter-productive to me.
However in recent times – thanks to technology – new arenas are being built within which we can flex our muscles, so to speak.
It’s a fact of life that people are playing video games everywhere today. This has been the case since the 1970s, when arcades quickly became common and terms such as ‘high-scores’ and ‘pinball wizards’ entered the lexicon.
But it was mostly solo stuff. Some 2 player co-operative games existed, but they were very much in the minority. It wasn’t really until the late 90s, with advancements in internet protocols, that it became possible to play games with 10, 12, 20+ players in them. On-line gaming arrived.
Initially, it was all free-for-all, every man for himself: deathmatch. As incredibly exciting as this was, things were moving quickly. It wasn’t long before team games began to displace the simpler experience of trying to fend for yourself. Immediately, teamplay was massively popular, fulfilling both the wish to compete but importantly, also the desire to be a part of something, to contribute as well as conquer.
One thing that characterises the sort of games played here at Battle-fields is teamplay. Be it Il-2, CS:GO, World of Tanks or BF4, the over-rising concern is playing as part of a team: contributing to the overall goal.
And what do we gain from this hobby?
Well, we’ve had to learn how to communicate quickly and efficently. We don’t speak over others, nor do we put anyone down for making an inept move, knowing only too well that it could be us making a similar mistake in the next round. We know how to congratulate a team member – how to be appreciative of others – and, if we’re more than 12 years old, we’ll have learnt how to lose graciously (possibly). We learn when to bite our lip, and when it’s important to raise another’s spirits. We learn how to be glad, or even delighted, when another compliments us. How to help. How to be a good team-player.
This bestows upon your average BFs member a distinct advantage within modern society. We can compete, we can contribute, and we can share. Online gaming gives us, within the fractured society we inhabit, an opportunity to share humanity. To be together again. To feel like our contribution means something beyond our own gain. To feel community.
The guys who never learn to play in teams never last within their groups, be they social or working enviroments. They’re always looking for a new bunch to play with, and maybe cannot understand why they’re disliked. Perhaps they’re very good at their work, and they ask themselves why they can never stay in a job. They’ve just not had enough practise being in a team.
And so online gaming – especially within BFs – makes you a better person.