We keep seeing so much negativity towards gaming. People think it fuels violence, bad behavior in kids, and overall health and social problems. But there can be amazing benefits from gaming in people’s lives, and I consider myself an example of the positive outcome from gaming as a hobby.
To begin with, I try to keep in very good health. While I commit about 15-20 hours a week gaming, I also commit to working out daily, going on outdoor adventures on the weekends, and creating very healthy meals for my lifestyle. This was something I struggled with for a long time, and at one point my health severely failed earlier in my twenties. This was the time for me to decide that it was a priority. It became less working all the time and staying in, and more seeking out healthier habits.
There’s this stigma that gamers ask their moms for Mountain Dew and McDonalds. While I might indulge occasionally when playing an intense game on the weekends, it is a rare occasion that I don’t make sure I am still taking care of myself. A good way to make sure you’re doing this is by doing some healthy exercises, before gaming. My average day is spent with a short yoga session before work, gym afterwards for at least an hour, then I come home and make a good dinner loaded with vegetables. Then I game. Gaming doesn’t come before those other things. I treat it as a reward for myself, and this way, it keeps me from getting distracted.
Most people at the gym are from different backgrounds and hobbies, so it is hard to just assume they don’t go home to a fire team or Spartan Squad at night. But I have personal experience with wanting to improve my health, as well as watching many of my gamer friends do the same. They may not be at the gym, but they’re filling their time with reps of basic exercises, going out to play frisbee, and working very physical jobs. You never know that much about another active person or gym goer until you talk to them.
The next stigma I want to tackle is a balance in life with other things. We’ve talked about health, but a lot of times people talk about gamers as not having jobs, depending on parents, etc. Many of my friends who are gamers are the hardest workers I have ever met. I have a best friend who runs a theatre pretty much by himself and does more hours than any office-jockey. My boyfriend works really hard to maintain his job, single handedly doing a two person job in a lab. And I clock about 50 hours a week or more helping my company grow its business, and training my teammates. Yes, we have jobs. We do have an adult life outside of the games we play, and we keep pretty good balance with that. I don’t know these people to call out of work just so they can play a game. We don’t depend on our parents, and we aren’t loners. We still go out for beers, watch the game on Sunday, spend time with family, cook and clean, etc. We maintain basic lifestyles. We just might not go shoot some hoops after work, or watch Netflix shows (though I think all of us have a Netflix account, and do watch sometimes). We like to come home from work and de-stress by playing videogames. If you have to question if you have balance, I have two things to suggest about that—there’s no such thing as perfect balance, but there’s always room for improvement. If you think you’re lacking, find where you are and do something about it. If gaming enthralls your whole life, but you’re not employed or seeing people, those would be factors to improve. And you can always work on achieving a better balance.
Alongside with that, gaming does impact our social lives—we probably socialize more than normal people after work. We join online parties to defeat the Taken King, or talk to each other about this funny glitch in Skyrim. We might all decide to stay home every once in awhile just so we can play in the same party (since split screen is days of the past). But we do go out, and have a good time too. Most of my gaming friends who I join parties with online are my friends in person too. Right now, we have 4-5 people that we play Destiny with who have significant roles outside of Xbox Live—My best friend, my significant other, and a few close friends that we hang out with. Like playing Baseball, or going to the bar, or hanging out watching the game, gaming is a social part of our lives, and can often help people with social anxiety make more friends and adjust to how their anxiety works. Gamers often hang out with their friends outside of gaming, and even if they don’t they can have close ties with people that they play with often. Headset talk can be hilarious and emotional at different times. Think about Red Vs. Blue.
I am trying to tackle these stigmas as they are mentioned to me because I take offense to them. I don’t like that very close people in my life often stigmatize my friends, and act like I don’t participate in those things—of course I do! We share many hobbies among my group of friends like Warhammer 40K, Star Wars Armada, Gaming, Hiking, etc. I have heard so much come out of people’s mouths that I sometimes wonder if they’re this ignorant about every group. It kills me to feel that close people in my life have such a problem with people just like them, but with different hobbies. We might not do the same things you do, but we do come home to unwind to something, and not all of us are the South Park picture of a gamer. You probably couldn’t tell who was a gamer and who wasn’t during a work week unless they said something. I sincerely hope that gaming can stop being the new thing to be hated on. Stay tuned for more on stigmas, and what we as the gaming community can do about it.