Almost as soon as computers were born, people started using them to play games. From early games like Pong, to today’s multimillion-dollar epics, computers and games have been inexorably linked. For many people, computer games are nothing more than a silly diversion teenage boys waste their whole day playing.
The reality is far different, though. The median age for a PC Gamer is the early 30s. And while the male demographic is larger, many women enjoy PC games, as well. There seems to be something ingrained deep inside us that compel us to play games. Some have theorized that games replace the hunting and survival activities that primitive man evolved to perform. Whatever the reason, gaming is a mentally active form of entertainment that stimulates, rather than placates.
PC games come in a wide variety of types and styles. They can range from simple puzzle games, to immersive Role-Playing games (RPG). The Sims is a ‘sandbox’ style game that allows you to create little computer versions of yourself and others and live out alternate life. Sound silly or dull? Not for millions, it’s the world best selling game! Flying games, like Microsoft’s ‘Flight Simulator’ series, have physics that are so accurate; they are actually used partly to train both the military and commercial pilots. Racing simulators are also popular for their lifelike physics and realism. Strategy games, like the Command and Conquer series, are a lot like the Risk board game, and involve commanding many different units around a map to beat the enemy. These games also require their players to build bases, collect resources, and keep tabs on several events happening simultaneously. The latest version, Command and Conquer 3, has gorgeous graphics, and high-definition movie sequences shot for the game, featuring well-known names such as Michael Ironside and Billy Dee Williams. These games have come a very long way since Pong.
Scientifically speaking, games have been proven to benefit the brain, and its ability to process different types of data. Obviously, the content of the game also determines the benefit, as ultra-violent games in the hands of young kids are considered by some to be harmful. But many all around the world often use age-appropriate games to help children with developmental difficulties improve their abilities.
The brain is like a muscle: it can be trained, strengthened, and improved. ‘Edutainment’ titles can teach math or spelling in a fun manner. Strategy games improve the ability to multitask and organize. First Person Shooters (FPS), while usually violent in nature, improve situational awareness, hand-eye coordination, and reaction times.
Today, we even see ads for Brain Age, a ‘game’ for Nintendo’s DS that uses these concepts on a gaming platform. Obviously, getting outside and being physically active benefits the body, as well. But for a truly holistic approach to total well-being, gaming has a place in a healthy lifestyle.