Gaming: Is It Good Or Bad For You?

January 20, 2014 3:52 PM

You can almost guarantee that if you search the internet on any given day about gaming either being good or bad for you or your children, there will be a fresh new article arguing one way or the other. You could probably also guarantee that for every pro gaming article, the author themselves is probably a gamer, and vice versa.

Games like Age of Empires teach us about several periods in history.

Games like Age of Empires teach us about several periods in history.

What is the truth though? Is gaming good for you and for your children? The answer, like with all things in life is that yes, it can be good for you but only in moderation. Gaming has been proven to stimulate the mind. It helps us hone our reflexes and improves hand eye coordination drastically. There are also many games out there that teach us stuff such as history. Take, for example, the popular computer game franchise “Civilisation” or “Age of Empires”. Both of these games teach us various periods of history and often in some fairly in-depth detail. As it is much more enjoyable than reading a text book, the history sticks in our minds a lot easier and we manage to learn as we play, often without even realising it.

And then there is the flip side. Gaming can also be bad for you when enjoyed too much. The problem with most games is that they are addictive and when something is addictive we tend to do it too much. This is especially dangerous for children whose bodies need regular exercise. Sitting in a chair for hours on end is incredibly unhealthy and damages us both internally and externally. The sad truth is, if we don’t burn more calories than we eat in a day, then we will become fatter and unhealthy. In order to burn calories, we don’t just need to take exercise or move around lots, we also need to create muscle because muscle is the number one burner of calories in our bodies and, therefore, invaluable to staying healthy. Needless to say, playing computer games doesn’t build muscle.

World of Warcraft can see as many as 40 people taking part in a "raid" together.

World of Warcraft can see as many as 40 people taking part in a “raid” together.

Then there is the other big problem with gaming. It is antisocial. “No!” I hear you cry, “Games these days are social!” Take MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft where the entire game is built upon doing quests, raids and pvp with other players. Unfortunately, this is what you call detrimental socialising. Yes you are technically talking and interacting with people. But you won’t go for a meal, to the pub, to a football match or on a walk with those people. In fact, the closer you get to your online friends, the more likely you are to spend further time gaming which only adds to the initial problem mentioned above. To truly gain the benefits of a social relationship, people need to interact physically as well as mentally.

So what is the answer? How long do we let our children play games for? How long do we let ourselves play games for? A good way to measure it is to play games for the same amount of time you spend exercising or that your children spend playing outside. If your child plays outside for two hours, then let them game for two hours. That way they are receiving the benefits from both worlds. Likewise, if you are prepared to exercise for an hour each day, then spending an hour gaming (providing it isn’t a replacement for something essential such as sleep) is completely fine as well. Whatever you decide, make sure you game in moderation to avoid causing yourself some fairly nasty problems in the future.