Video Games Help Families Stay Together
As a child I was fortunate to have a mother who understood the positive side of gaming. The hours spent trying to get past levels together, that "one more game" of an intense Tetris series, finding out Samus from Metroid was really a woman. All those memories and conversations helped build an incredible bond that we still share today. One that was also shared with my only brother, a common ground that we enjoyed and still celebrate together today - video games.
I'm not alone in this experience, nor does it pertain to just family. I can't begin to count on either hand how many friends I've made from playing games. If nothing else having that in common as a conversation starter helped. For instance my wife (we were dating at the time) and I bonded immensely while playing sports games cooperatively, competing in golf tournaments, and taking turns playing Oblivion for hours. I can even recall being hit in my sleep for several consecutive nights. My wife would swing her arm like a sword in her sleep, yelling "I swing! I swing!" as she fought mountain lions in her dreams.
You said I need to do what Doc?
Those kinds of stories and memories are lasting and plentiful amongst the gaming community. There's even a study that helps support the idea that video games can help bring people together. Over at Queensland University of Technology they've published a study saying that games indeed do help with socialization and can help families and friends bond. The Daily Telegraph interviewed the director of QUT's games research and interaction design lab, Doctor Daniel Johnson. Dr. Johnson had this to say about the effects of gaming together:
"We are seeing clear evidence of improvements in mood, stress reduction, increased feeling of competence and autonomy and really strong feelings of being connected with the people they are playing with,"
Does this mean you should let your child play games all day? Absolutely not. In both my opinion and Dr. Johnson's, kids should only "play 5-10 hours" per week. There's a need for a well balanced media diet. TV, movies, books, and video games are all media ingrained in our culture, so why shield a child from culture? Wouldn't that make it even more difficult to have those conversations some "94% of children ages 6-15 play[ing] video games" are having? Dr. Johnson had this to add:
"But how you play is more important than how much or what you play - so if kids are playing with friends or family and playing cooperatively, then that's really going to help them build relationships."
If you have nothing nice to say...
It would seem that since video games have become such a predominant entertainment medium, it's a good thing socially to always be on the up-and-up about video games (I would've never thought that as a child). What we can take away from this research is that our video games can do more than just entertain us... they can bring us closer together and help mold real bonds. There are many more stories out there besides mine. I've even interviewed other journalists and podcasters that drove this point home. But nothing's quite like complied data to help sway the masses.
The next time you sit down to play a game, see if someone wants to take turns, or play with you; maybe just plug in your mic, you never know when you might meet another friend or just a good gaming buddy online. Having conversations is where it starts. I hope more studies like this surface to help highlight the positive side of gaming. It reinforces why I'm so passionate about video games, it's not just the software or hardware, it's the people I experience it with.