I suspect that not many BFD readers are avid gamers. After all, The BFD’s readership skews older, and video games are (seen as, anyway) a young person’s thing (though not that young, as we shall see).

Video games mostly get a pretty bad rap in the media: when they’re not supposedly triggering shooting rampages, they’re apparently training a generation of rapists. This sort of hysteria is nothing new, of course: novels debased the morals of Victorian women, radio triggered mass hysteria about Martians, comic books fuelled juvenile delusions and television turned everyone into brain-dead zombies.

But there are some things we know about video games which might surprise you.

For instance, video games are training surgeons.

A study published in the New York Times provides evidence that video games involving aiming at an object and shooting can improve an individual’s visual capabilities.

Surgeons not only need excellent or quality vision but proper hand-eye coordination. Using a gaming console can help aid in coordinating your hand movements with the game on the screen. Also, every gamer has a unique skill or personality for a quest when involved in a team. Each member complements another, and to complete a quest, teamwork is an essential part of the game. If you have more than a single task to complete when playing varying characters improves your coordination and multitasking skills. Therefore, playing video games has become an essential training tool for surgeons.

Let’s just hope they don’t play Surgeon Simulator as badly as this guy.

Video games can also be therapeutic for trauma patients.

[A] study completed in 2009 indicates that patients exposed to around 10 minutes playing Tetris before a traumatic event had fewer flashbacks. The researcher concluded that the game affects or engages the brain area responsible for memory retention. The researcher predicted that if the patients were exposed to a few more hours playing the game, they would experience fewer nightmares and have a better night’s sleep.

Another article in the New York Times showed a lady suffering from depression. For her therapeutic sessions, she would play Bejeweled, a game providing an environment where one can control his/her actions. In most instances, no consequences or problems result from the game, but the power is much more reassuring, helping relieve stress and depression. At the same time, engaging in the match pulls an individual’s mind from their current situation and pain. A study by NBC News showed that patients allowed to play video games requested fewer pain killers, reducing addiction risk.

What might really surprise you is that video games are becoming a big spectator sport.

Some of YouTube’s biggest earners are “Let’s Play” stars: that is, they stream recordings of themselves playing video games and offering witty commentary. PewdiePie has become so famous that he was satirised in – and appeared on – South Park.

But live video game spectatorship – which first became big in places like South Korea – is growing in the West. A small but growing number of professional gamers are beginning to attract major sponsors.

A new invention is the E-sports tournaments that can be played at any time of day or night. E-sports have introduced a new era, and its popularity is off the charts. CNBC reported that the League of the Legends world competition in 2019 attracted more spectators than the super bowl or the National basketball finals NBA finals.

If this all sounds weird and scary to you, well… OK, Boomer. Video games are, after all, a kid’s thing, right? Well, no: more adults are playing video games.

Pew Research survey in 2017 reports 43% of their adult participants indicated they play video games. A more recent study by the Entertainment Software Association says that the average age is 34 years. The adults are the most invested in gaming activities, with the most significant number being between the ages of 18 to 29 years.

Sausage Roll

It should also be noted that nearly half of gamers are now women.

To a large extent, this is the Xbox and Playstation generation just getting older. But then, my octogenarian mother likes to while away the hours playing Bejeweled on her iPad. I grew up playing arcade games and I’d love to keep up with the newer generation of games. But my Doom 2-level skills often seem inadequate for today’s fast-paced, immersive shooters, and I just don’t have days to while away, conquering the world like I used to in the still-ongoing Civilization franchise.

Video game music has also become recognised as an art form in itself. Australia’s Classic FM has an entire program dedicated to game music and many scores are being released in limited edition vinyl. A recent Classic FM program looked at the intriguing relationship between early videogame music and Baroque music. Composers facing a limit of four synthesised instruments studied Baroque quartets, to see how it was done.

So don’t be too quick to dismiss your grandkids toiling away at Call of Duty or Monster Hunter.

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In Praise of Video Games
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Lushington D. Brady

Punk rock philosopher. Liberalist contrarian. Grumpy old bastard. I grew up in a generational-Labor-voting family. I kept the faith long after the political left had abandoned it. In last decade or...