The Benefits of Video Games


By Flash Steinbeiser

It’s time to stop hating the player and the game. Clawing our way through the trenches of self-righteous senators and over-protective mothers, we video-gamers have finally gained status as contributing members of society. Today our cultural stock grows thanks to author and game designer Jane McGonigal and her recent campaign to educate the masses about video game benefits. Scoring a TED conference and a critically acclaimed book, both touting the benefits of video games, McGonigal’s taking gaming to, er, the next level.

But I don’t need Dr. Mario to tell me that video games, when played in healthy doses, transform people into true winners. Haters think of video games as a form of escapism, but I tend to see them more as simulations—practice for real-life social situations and how I should handle them.

Video games taught me the basics of healthy competition. As someone about to enter a brutally competitive work force, I need the balls to appropriately cope with the thrill of success and the agony of defeat. Who better to teach that lesson than my childhood friends stalling my car with a red shell in Mario Kart? It didn’t matter that I lost, but how I handled it. Sure, I wanted to shatter my N64 controller on their smug faces, but multiple losses and wins kept my ego in check.

Video games also flex our critical thinking muscles more than any lame Sudoku puzzle. Virtual realities can bring out the General Patton in anyone, forcing intuitive strategies and out-of-the-box thinking. Every time I correctly answer a logic or statistics question, I have the Water Temple in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to thank. By placing ourselves in creative environments—digital or not—we become far more inventive and freethinking.

Console critics should pay attention to McGonigal: Even the most grotesque games provide quite the imaginative workout. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for that weaponized purple dildo in Grand Theft Auto III.