I ask you to make yourself comfortable and please take a moment to recount the hours upon hours of summer sullied by your son to the slimy hands of video games. Like Salvador Dali’s “Persistence of Memory”, watch as his youth melts before your eyes and his brain cells disintegrate to dust. Your little boy has transformed into a sloth: absent of mind and thought, only giving attention to when he gets to play again and when he gets to eat. The horror, the horror! What you wouldn’t do to be a kid on an eighty-two degree day. And yet, there he is, slouching on the couch, glued to the TV, while you’re stuck at work typing up another TPS report. But before you angrily hide the Xbox, prithee consider video games not the legal opium they are often mislabelled as, but rather an enticing means in which to grow one’s ability to communicate, connect with others, problem solve, and cope with defeat.
Firstly, video games have played a huge role in the development of my social skills. Before you naggingly ask yourself, “how did wasting your day inside help you become more social?,” let me tell you. Plainly, if you don’t play video games, you are missing out. Having played video games my whole life, I can say from experience, video games have been the roots of almost all the friendships I have made to this day. Growing up, video games were “the thing” to do. Anyone who was anyone played video games. It wasn’t just a way to have fun, but since it was so commonly loved, it was an immediate topic of conversation. On the first day of school looking for friends, a friendly face, a sense of hope, video games were always a reliable starting point in making friends. You’d casually tap the kid next you and ask, “so...what games do you play?” And next thing you know, you’re going back and forth, erupting about favorite moments, cutscenes, characters, and secrets. It was infectious. Not only would you get to know Tom who sits on your diagonal-right, but Dan, Randy, Ryan from table D would chime in too. This little conversation transitions to playing at recess, calling each other’s home phones, having “play dates”, and ultimately, becoming friends. Might sound a little dramatic, but sparking up a conversation about Pokemon is exactly how I found my best friend of twelve years (and counting).
You may be thinking to yourself, “okay yeah this guy’s probably just an anomaly,” wrong. According to NPD market research, 91 percent of U.S. children ages 2-17 grow up playing video games (Camp). For those of you who care little for statistics and numbers, I’ll put it in practical terms. Only three kids in your son’s class of 30 (your son and two weirdos), will not be playing video games. This huge body of players is growing too. Just since 2009, this percentage has increased nearly 13 percent from 78 to 91 (Camp). So if your little Timmy is
already not making many friends at school, his little brother Jimmy is likely to have an even harder time. And while you may think video games are only important when you’re a kid, you’d be surprised how they still find relevance even after graduation.
In college, everybody’s pretty anxious and shy no longer feeling the comfort of their 1100 student high school. You meet some people but it’s hard to really get to know anyone when the only questions you get asked are, “what’s your major” and “where are you from.” I was walking down the hall not really making any personal connections when I heard the sonorous fist-frenzy of Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo GameCube. A smile gradually stretched across my face as I walked in the room. With an inviting controller and warm seat on the futon waiting for me, I found some friends. Rather than going our separate ways after the basic questions ran dry, we stuck together, laughed, and got to know each other. Now, I’m in their room all the time and I’m planning on living with them next year. Just by playing some nostalgic nintendo, I’ve made some real friends.
Furthermore, a guy down the hall who hasn’t said a word all month came walking down to hall. Though it seemed he was bound to nonchalantly pass by once again, he reverted his steps and walked into the room. In a bewildering British accent Benjamin asked, “is that smash?” Now ever since, he’s been playing, laughing, and hanging out with us until the wee hours of the night every night. So for you parents that still believe your kid should be playing outside with his friends, think about this. If your kid doesn’t play video games, he won’t have any friends to play with.
Contrary to popular belief, video games don’t churn our brains to mush, but actually make us smarter. In a study conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), the results suggest video games “may strengthen a range of cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception” (Nauert). The skills you learn in video games are not isolated to the realm in which you are playing by transcend to the world around you. The ability to interpret your surroundings quickly is a crucial skill in adapting to change. Constantly in video games, you are called upon to assess the situation and make important, logical decisions with the snap of a finger. Throughout life, you are given only a moment’s notice and must react on instinct with limited information about the situation at hand. Video games help train you to make rational in-the-moment decisions through repetition. In the first person shooter, Call of Duty, you have to kill the enemy and progress without getting killed yourself. Although graphic, the gameplay teaches you to make smart decision otherwise you will die and have to start over. This teaches kids at a young age that there are consequences to their actions. If they make poor decisions it makes them wait to try again dissuading them from making that same choice again. It essentially teaches the player do’s and don’t’s through repetition. The player figures out what works and what doesn’t, pushing them to change their playstyle and strategy. If you get killed three times in a row in the same spot, you start to think, “hey maybe I should try something different.” This is backed up by the APA which says that “shooter video games improved a player’s capacity to think about objects in three dimensions, just as well as academic courses to enhance these same skills” (Nauert).
Alongside social interactions and cognitive training, video games improve one’s communication skills. Okay, maybe not for the d*****bag twelve year old who just uses his mic to swear and rage, but for real people. In my own experience, I’ve argued with my dad about the merits of video games for what seems like forever. He would always rip on them and say they’re a waste of my time. That is, until he really sat down and watched me. After watching me play, what amazed my dad and ended up making him rethink his opinion was my ability to multitask as I macro-managed larger parts of the game while still being able to micro-manage smaller components at the same time. On top of this, I was also using a mic to communicate with my teammates (random strangers) to aid them and figure out strategy. Seeing all this and observing how effective I was, my dad envisioned how this could translate to the corporate world or more specifically, heading a conference call.
I will concede on one point. Video games in excess can be and often are mind-numbing. When you get your hands on your newest “fix” it can be hard to put down. There will be slaved over meals that turn cold (sorry Mom), nights of sleeping on the couch with the Xbox still on, headaches induced by glaring at the TV for nine hours straight, but although this addiction can be corrosive. It can be monitored. I would say video games were my first experience with addiction. There were times all I wanted to do, talk, and think about was video games. Having said that, dealing with addiction of a non-pernicious activity is vital to overcome at a young age. I know what it felt like to be utterly consumed by something and now I am better for it. I’ve learned to play in moderation and contain myself when I let them overcome my life. I can actually enjoy them as the break from my day they are intended to be.
So next time you’re about to yell at Jimmy for playing video games, take a step back and think for a moment. Maybe sit down and watch him play before you make ignorant conclusions. See how video games help people make connections with one another, improve communication and leadership skills, solve problems, and grow off of misfortune. Video games are not the destination, but rather a means in which to connect, grow, and prosper.
Camp, Jeffrey Van. “91 Percent of Kids Play Video Games, Says Study.” Digital Trends, 11 Oct. 2011,
Nauert, Rick. “Video Games Can Help Boost Social, Memory & Cognitive Skills.” Psych Central News, 6 Oct. 2015,