A game is an activity with a defined set of rules and an aim. Playing games is fun and can improve your mental health. It also helps you learn and develop new skills. But it’s important to balance gaming with other activities such as sports, reading and socialising.
Video games are no longer the sub-cultural, adolescent activity at the fringe of popular culture and have become a huge business. Today, there are millions of different computer games available to play across a range of digital platforms.
Games are used for entertainment, education and even in some workplaces to enhance productivity. In the workplace, games can help with problem solving, planning and team building. They can help with numeracy, spatial thinking and even navigation skills. Research is ongoing to examine the positive effects of games on well-being and learning.
Unlike toys, which can be played with without an aim or goal, a game has a clear set of rules that must be followed to be considered a game. In order to meet the aims of a game, it must involve competition or conflict and require either skill, strategy or luck. Crawford also notes that a game must be able to be modified by its environment, for example hiding and tag differ from auto racing, and the gameplay of a game can change if its rules are altered.
While video games are often portrayed as addictive and harmful, they are increasingly being recognised for the cognitive growth that they can promote in players. Studies have shown that gamers perform better at tasks requiring short-term memory recall and that they are better able to form mental maps of 3D spaces. They also have better cognitive processing speed and can solve puzzles at a faster rate than non-gamers.
Aside from enhancing cognitive skills, playing games can also be beneficial for physical and emotional well-being. When playing with friends and family, gaming can encourage social interaction, and it’s a great way to bond with loved ones. Research has also shown that gamers have fewer problems with depression and are more likely to engage in physical activities.
Despite calls for more direct measures of video game behaviour, most research on the impact of gaming on well-being relies on self-reported engagement. This approach has been criticised as being biased and unreliable, particularly given the history of hesitance by video game companies to work with independent scientists. Greater transparency around the collection and analysis of video game data will be vital to ensuring that the benefits of gaming are fully understood. A recent report from a UK parliamentary select committee has called for games companies to make anonymised high-level player data available for research. This will enable more robust and independent scientific studies of the impact of video gaming on our digital lives.