In my previous post I talked about why gaming can be good for you and made references to people I see on the internet reporting back, my own balanced life, and the broken gamer stereotype. Gamers can be healthy people with balanced lives and great hobbies all while engaged in a good game. While I alluded to it, I didn’t discuss exactly how gaming impacts my lifestyle. I’d also like to discuss a challenge I have for myself and all of you.
In my own life, gaming is a mental health assistant. While it can’t take care of all my issues, it did help me through a time where I had to make new friends outside of my childhood group. I was an outdoors kid growing up who played soccer, piano, and had plenty of friends. But by the time college rolled around I struggled to make friends and talk to people. I didn’t know how to be separated from my friends from home who I had for years. I got involved and talked to many people but I felt I wasn’t great at finding hobbies that I could do on my own or with friends outside of class and clubs. Probably why all of my semester homework was done in a month’s time.
When I finally bought an Xbox 360 it gave me a chance to make friends on campus, add them on Live, and play away. This being said, gaming was not all we ended up doing. Friendships formed and we were able to go on hikes, go apple picking, and hit restaurants together. Eventually I moved in with my two best friends and it created endless experiences that we always reflect on now.
For me in this situation, being a gamer got me great friends in college, which is part of what college was about. I think I would have made friends without an Xbox 360, but it would have been very hard and I may not have had the lasting friendships I have now. I am able to say that my friendships lasted well after school was over.
More recently, Xbox One has become part of my fitness journey. I use certain parts of gaming to impact my workout that day. While I hit the gym after work, do my stretches in the early hours of morning before I go to work, and run on the weekends, I like to do mini workouts at home during gaming to keep myself up to speed on those nights I rush home to play. So during loading or respawn times I am challenging myself for a certain number of push ups, sit ups, squats, arm curls, lunges, or burpees. During these simple periods, we waste time sitting there on our phones or watching the members join our teams. Why not use that time for something beneficial?
I have recently learned about the issues of sitting from an audiobook I listen to on my way home from work called Eat, Move, Sleep, by Tom Rath. He discusses that our sitting habits at both our desk jobs, during our commute, and at home are killing us more than cigarettes, obesity, and cancer. Humans weren’t designed for all the sitting we do. And our body shows that. Think about how often you get up from your desk job, or how often you move while playing a game. This chapter hit me hard. I am in my first year of a desk job and I come home with sores and aches if I did not hit the gym or do enough movement during the day. This is true for most people. I like my job a lot, but at the end of the day when I experience this and then sit stationary to play games, it is an uncomfortable experience.
I am now taking a challenge that I challenge you to do as well. If you game, read, paint, etc., take some time every time you sit with your hobby to move. For every chapter you read, do some reps. For every respawn you get, do some pushups while you’re waiting. You could get a full workout while gaming and feel great! Find a way to incorporate movement into your daily routine and your hobbies by finding gaps to fill with small movements.
Another struggle I’ve had and probably many gamers do—we come home from work knowing our friends are ready to play, so we might not make such a great dinner that night, and then feel like a slug for hours after. I was notorious for making ramen before the Destiny weekly nightfall strike. I never felt great afterwards. I come home at 6:30pm and had little time before I had to play and make it to bed on time, so this always made sense. But it wasn’t a good choice for myself and it resulted in poor performance for hours later, even into the next day. My second challenge to you is to make a healthy meal to go along with your gaming. You could prep it the night before if you’re pressed for time. If you snack during gaming, pour yourself a bowl, so you don’t lose track of how much you’ve eaten out of a bag. Try not to touch the three minute meals.
While gaming helped me in a mental state and I’ve started to incorporate it into my physical care, it is a hard hobby to defend when we don’t move during our lag periods. It is also hard to say we take care of ourselves when we don’t invest in good meals—this means our time. I love this hobby and all the friends I have in it, but my biggest issue was that at one point or another I had a physically unhealthy lifestyle. And while I don’t believe the stereotypes are true, I also hope my fellow gamers are being healthy and working on making it better. Human beings are never ending works in progress, and there’s so much time wasted in the lulls between the games. Use them to your advantage!