Video games: Exercising body, mind and social skills

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Video games can be an excellent pastime during winter.

Kelly Coons ’22 | Assistant Opinions Editor

When the weather outside is frightful, staying inside can be delightful. It’s February, but as all New England winter veterans know, that does not mean that spring has arrived. Thus, whether we are being treated to buffeting winds, torrential rains or snow showers, we are still in the season for indoor activities. There is a myriad of things to do indoors, ranging from social events in your house to quietly working on your own, but I would like to recommend something that combines the worlds of extraversion and introversion: video games.

Video games have long had a reputation for being a solo activity, but the truth is that many of the most popular video games today are meant to be played together. As reported by USA Today, only six of the 25 best-selling video games this year did not have a multiplayer component; most — like the “Call of Duty” series, sports titles like “FIFA” and “Madden” as well as “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” — were primarily multiplayer experiences. Playing video games is a social event. A study by North Carolina State University, York University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, published in The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, researched over 20 Canadian and British gaming events and found that gaming supplemented social interaction, often being used as a launching point for conversation because it was a shared interest. This is not surprising, as shared interests are the building blocks for all bonds.

Since we’re students, it’s also important to note that video games can sharpen our minds. In his study about video games and decision-making, Shawn Green of the University of Rochester declared: “Action video games are fast-paced, and there are peripheral images and events popping up and disappearing. These video games are teaching people to become better at taking sensory data in and translating it into correct decisions.” University College London and Queen Mary University found that strategy games improve cognitive flexibility. Furthermore, the University of Texas Medical Branch discovered that high schoolers who played video games for two hours daily outperformed medical residents who did not play video games in virtual surgeries, showing better hand-eye coordination.

There are some types of video games that also help with general fitness. Titles like “Wii Fit” and “Wii Sports,” which use motion controls instead of traditional button controls, can be found in hospitals, retirement homes and other rehabilitative settings. They played a huge part in introducing video games to so-called “non-gamers.” A research team from University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center uncovered that 10- to 13-year-olds who played such motion control games burned as many calories as their peers who walked on a treadmill going 3.5 miles per hour for the same amount of time… and aren’t people far more willing to play a video game than walk on a treadmill?

If you are a so-called “non-gamer” looking to get into video games, don’t fret! There are many video games available on devices you likely already own, like a phone, tablet or computer. A visit to the app store will yield many games that are free. (Just be aware of micro-transactions, which are purchases you can make in-game in order to progress faster and/or more easily.) If you do not want to have video games on your devices, however, there are plenty of places on campus to play video games, too. If you have a friend who has video games, you can ask to play with them. There is also a Gaming Lab in Hillyer, which is hosted by the Smith Gaming Club.

OpinionsSophian Smith