Gaming can certainly be more than just a fun hobby. Apart from improving our problem solving abilities and general mental responsiveness, it has even been shown to improve the error rate and speed of surgeons. Perhaps most telling of the value of playing video games comes from the creation of a Games For Health journal dedicated to examining the positive effects of playing video games. However, there are valid concerns that accompany gaming, and it’s important to consider these issues and make sure to be as healthy of a gamer as possible.
The most commonly mentioned affliction with regard to video games is the tendency for certain games to increase aggression, something which has recently been confirmed with research. However, this only applies to specific games that were tested in said research, and there remains yet to be seen any direct connection to criminal behavior. As such, this article will focus on more general ways to increase gamer well-being. Consider the following bullets as suggestions on how to mediate potential pitfalls in gaming to ensure that you’re playing games for many years to come.
- Exercise moderation. While some of the research mentioned in the first paragraph does show that there are positive effects of playing games, those effects were not shown in gamers who play for 10 hours/day. Make sure you take out time to engage in other activities. Check out my article on gaming fatigue to learn more tips on staying a happy dedicated gamer.
- Add variety to the games you play. Don’t just stare at the screen playing military shooters for 100% of your playtime. Exercise your brain muscles by experimenting with new genres; who knows, you might find something you like even more! This happened to me when I discovered Persona 4 as a way to step outside my comfort zone, as now that’s one of my favorite 25 games of all time.
- Take a break between finishing a gaming session and engaging in the real world equivalent. I don’t need an RCT study to tell me that I drive more aggressively if I jump in my car right after driving around in GTA 5. Take a break, take a breath, and then move forward.
- Feed your body real food, not energy drinks, chicken nuggets, and cheesy poofs. Lifehacker posted an article that is a good starting point for this, but don’t stop there. Realize that we really are what we eat, and eat fresh fruits and veggies instead of processed garbage whose nutrients your body can’t even absorb. It might sound impossible, but taste buds do change, and you’ll sincerely grow to like healthy foods. Trust me: I used to be all about fast food and ate processed food on a regular basis; now that I’ve switched to a veg diet, I’ve found that I actually like all kinds of veggies I had avoided for a long time. In fact, when I occasionally slip up and eat some fast food, my body feels like toxic waste. I literally feel like I’ve been poisoned. Take home message: Eat whole foods as much as possible.
- Go outside. I cover this in my gaming fatigue article but it bears repeating. I’ve seen many gamers who look like they’ve been imprisoned in a dark cell for a decade; sunlight causes them to cover their eyes and retreat inside. Obviously that’s an overstatement for most of us, but it’s important to stimulate your mind and body in ways other than just those that you get through playing a video game. Plus, sunlight in moderation is good for you, as it actually provides you with essential vitamins and helps your mental health!
Those are a few quick tips to keep you being a happy and healthy gamer for years to come. Have some tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!