Benefits of Video Games

Ever hear people say games are a complete waste of time? Today I heard two folks at a store talking about how better time could be spent doing better things. Yeah, like what? If people find it fun, why not let them? The quality of time spent is judged by the person. Some people enjoy reading a book, or seeing a play, or hanging out with friends at a bar – some people would prefer spending time playing World of Warcraft or a game of Half-Life 2. As long as you’re not addicted, it’s perfectly fine. You hanging out at a bar, reading a book, or seeing a play does nothing for society anyways – it only benefits you – so it doesn’t matter, now does it?

Having said that, are there benefits to just playing games? Of course! The more repetition you go through at something, the more fluent you become at it, and the more ways you think of doing it efficiently. That’s natural in video games. Let’s look at FPS (First Person Shooter) games for example. In these games, you must navigate through a 3D realm that’s usually fast paced while you have a million things shooting at you. You must solve puzzles and have a quick reaction time when someone attacks you and be able to predict enemy movement. Thus this increases visual reaction time and makes you predict movement just a little better. There has been several articles written about this. Here are some:

Study: Action-based video games improve a person’s visual perception

Video Games Improve Vision

Video-Game Killing Builds Visual Skills, Researchers Report

Video Games – Medical article from 7 News Online

Improved visual perception has been the most discussed topic regarding video games. Video games do help though. As a programmer, I think it’s been able to help my eyes trace error in code faster and easier. I feel like I can parse characters and strings easily in my head by looking at text quickly. This comes, I think, from playing and beating pretty much every NES and SNES game out there. Also, with many of these games, you must use hotkeys very well. Thus, this has made me use hotkeys in Windows/Linux and has made me work faster with the keyboard – significantly that I often don’t use the mouse as others do – unless of course I have to use a graphics program like Photoshop. A combination of quick typing and quick movement of the eyes does wonders when working at the computer.

On the other side of the spectrum, besides FPS games like Counterstrike and Half-Life, come RPG games like World of Warcraft or Everquest. While not as fast paced as FPS, these games require a different form of mental ability. You need insight, logic, and strategy when going into battle. Unlike a game like Half-Life, where you must constantly be paranoid about getting a rocket up the ass out of nowhere – with an RPG game you must do quests that require you to fight with strategy. You must have the right weapons and armor. However, to get the weapon you want, you might have to budget your economy in the game in order to buy the item. You might even have to trade with another player, thus use clever communication to haggle with another player to get what you want. For armor, you might have to build your own. You might have to know some game alchemy to ultimately produce what you want. Also, to fight high level monsters, you might need the help of others, so you learn how to work in teams. All these principles (teamwork, managing your economy, logic and strategy) are actual principles that you can apply in your life – of course, in the game it’s all fantasy, but the reasoning, and the level of brain stimulation that goes on when you think about all this, is the same as in real life.

I know that because of RPG games, I got into classical music. RPG games have some great classical songs and have encouraged me to write some pieces myself. Also, not to mention complicated storylines in games- which I think make players think more creatively.

Of course, not everything is beneficial in gaming. The number one drawback is addiction. You’re addicted to anything when it starts impacting your life. If you, someone or something, is being affected in a negative way because of your gameplay, that is addiction. If you start arriving late at work. If you feel tired at work. If your brain is constantly thinking about the game when you’re not playing and that is affecting your current task – you’re addicted. The issue of addiction can be debated endlessly, but for the most part, if whatever you do (whether is playing a game, smoking, drinking, playing the slot machine) is affecting your health, or someone or something else in a negative way – that’s an addiction.

It’s all about priorities really. If you think having more fun in a day (regardless of what you consider to be fun) is more important than being productive, then mind you, go right at it. However, I think before having fun, it’s always more important to take care of your necessities first, like your family, friends, career and your health. Also, trying to do something good for society once in a while, doesn’t hurt. Those should be top priorities before having fun by playing a video game.

Here’s some other interesting articles:

Get Out! Popular Dance Video Game Helps Kids with ADHD

Games that make leaders: top researchers on the rise of play in business and education

Does Gaming Reduce Productivity?

Video Games Improve Visual Attention

Will New Video Games Improve Productivity or Increase Risks?

Portable Consoles I’ve Bought This Year

I’ve bought three portable consoles this year: The GP2X, the PSP, and the NDS Lite. A while back I made an entry about the PSP vs the GP2x. Well, since then, I’ve purchased a Nintendo DS as well.

Here’s my impression of the three:

GP2X

I bought this from Lik-sang, which recently went out of business because of Sony. Pretty much, right out of the box, this was a piece of garbage. The manual was something that seemed printed from a cheap laserjet. It was stapled together. It didn’t have the gloss of the PSP and looked dull. When turned on, it took like 15+ seconds to boot. There’s no sleep mode like the PSP/NDS. There’s no commercial games, just cheap open source which are always buggy and crash the GP2X often. No wireless technology like the PSP/NDS. Directional pad very uncomfortable. Interface laggy. Out of the box, it was practically non-functional because it was so buggy that you have to upgrade the firmware immediately. Now mind you, that this was a few months ago, so I’m sure there’s been more development from the makers and the community. However, the PSP beats it hands down as far as homebrew, which is suppose to be its strength. There’s more momentum in the PSP homebrew community, because more people own it. What’s good, and probably the only good thing (the reason why I bought it), is that the makers encourage homebrew/custom apps, aside from the piece of shit that is Sony, who block it on every firmware.

Here’s a pic:

16dw3

PSP

Better graphics than the GP2X and NDS, but the games suck. I don’t understand why Sony/Game makers don’t make better games. Like 90% of the games stink. No innovation like the NDS. True that you can play MP3s and Videos on it, but I have my iPod for that. And I don’t want to carry this clunky thing as a portable media device. It’s sleek and sexy, sure, but its power and functionality isn’t being used. The UMD discs are worthless. Sony won’t let you play the movies in UMD format on anything else but the PSP. As far as homebrew, Sony restricts it. THAT would be the only good selling point as the PSP shines for homebrews. However, to run it, you need old versions of the firmware. However, if you run older versions of the firmware, you won’t be able to play recent PSP games. At least it’s got wireless, like the NDS.

Here’s a pic:



Nintendo DS Lite

- I just got this and I love it. The games are awesome. Sure, it’s not a swiss army knife of multimedia like the PSP, but the games are outstanding - and at the end, isn’t that what it’s all about? About having fun? It also contains a stylus for touching the screen. It’s got wireless like the PSP. There’s a homebrew community, but I’m not familiar with it yet. The graphics aren’t as great as the PSP, but there’s better innovation as far as add-ons. Out of the box, it doesn’t play MP3s, or watch videos, or view pictures like the PSP or GP2X, but again, I have my iPod or Morotola Q for that.

Here’s a pic:

nintendo_ds_lite

Street Fighter Alpha III Max

Here’s one of the reasons why I bought the PSP. I’m such a big fan of this game that I gave up homebrews for the PSP just for this. It required you to upgrade to 2.5 firmware, but oh well, I’ll get a GP2X for homebrews.

It’s everything that I expected plus more! Tons of game modes and great network play. The only thing that stinks is the control. It takes a while to get used to, like jumping backwards, blocking downward, and forget about doing a dragon punch. Luckily you can set special moves to buttons, so I set the dragon punch to the left side button. You can also get a special dpad from Capcom. Here’s some screenshots: