The Social Benefits of Gaming

Video games have been a source of endless entertainment, from puzzlers like Tetris to the more recent and more immersive role-playing titles. Many have become critically acclaimed for their level of inclusivity and accessibility, impactful storytelling and innovative game design. They’re even used to teach children a wide range of subjects, from geography and history to foreign languages and math skills.

But some people still harbor preconceived notions about gamers — the image of the lonely, anti-social, toxic young man wasting his life in someone’s basement. And, in fact, the gaming industry has had to contend with its fair share of controversy over the years, from whether or not males dominate the gaming world to how video games portray women and minorities to how violent games encourage aggressive behavior.

Despite these controversial issues, one thing is clear: Gaming is here to stay. The gaming industry has continued to grow exponentially, and its players are a diverse group of people who enjoy a variety of games for different reasons. While it’s true that men are more likely to play video games than women, the data shows that women and men alike enjoy playing games. And while some may believe that gaming is a waste of time, the evidence points to the opposite: gamers have an extraordinary ability to improve their concentration, creativity, memory and language skills.

In addition to the obvious cognitive benefits, it’s also been shown that video games help teach important real-world skills that are necessary in the workplace and in everyday life, such as pattern recognition, inductive reasoning and hypothesis testing. And, as we’ll discuss below, the social benefits of gaming are just as great as the cognitive ones.

While it’s common for those who play high-intensity games to refer to themselves as gamers, many gamers are less likely to do so when they play more casual games. In fact, it’s a bit surprising that some gamers would call themselves “gamers” at all, given the common view that casual games require less dedication and skill than their more intense counterparts.

It turns out that there are actually four personae within the gaming population. Achievers, who make up 9% of gamers, have high impulsivity and low self-esteem and use gaming to feel in control of their lives. They’re more interested in competing with other players than they are in role-playing or escaping from real-life problems.

Enthusiasts, which make up 6% of gamers, are similar to the Ultimate Gamer persona in that they play a variety of systems and genres. However, they have a lower commitment to the hobby and don’t spend as much time on hardware or online community as the first two personae do. In their place, they prioritize exploring detailed virtual worlds and placing a higher importance on tactics/strategies than on story or score chasing.

And finally, Recreational Gamers make up 29% of the population. These people have low impulsivity and high self-esteem and use gaming as a way to relax. They also use it to build connections with others, but are not looking to replace their real-world identities with their gaming ones.