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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 21, 2014

Are Video Games Good or Bad for Us?

By Mark Sisson
116 Comments

The gamerNon-gamers tend to take a dim view of video games and their fans, assuming they’re all a bunch of sweaty man-children clutching liter bottles of Mountain Dew between Cheeto-dusted fingers and screaming racist obscenities that diffuse, muffled, through thick neckbeard thatches into their headsets at online opponents. And a few weeks ago, even I referenced the stereotypical World of Warcraft addict’s set-up of pee bottles and poop buckets. But the latest statistics indicate that the popular stereotype isn’t very representative of most gamers. In fact, if you’re an American, you’re more likely to be a gamer than not:

  • In the Unites States, the average gamer is 30 (PDF); in the UK, it’s 35. As the kids who grew up playing Nintendo and Sega Genesis get all growns-up and continue playing, the average age will only grow. 62% of gamers are adults. 29% of gamers are over the age of 55.
  • 45% of US gamers are female.
  • 58% of Americans play games.

Surely, though, video gaming is unhealthy. I mean, you’re sitting there on a couch, or in a computer chair, or hunched over a smartphone for hours at a time. If watching TV for hours is bad for us, why wouldn’t video games be bad for us?

There are differences between the two. TV is wholly consumptive. You’re sitting there, passive and placid, while the TV does the work. You just consume it. Yeah, yeah, I’m sure a Ken Burns documentary is qualitatively different than binge watching reality TV, but my point stands.

Meanwhile, gaming requires mental and physical engagement. You’re problem solving. You’re reacting to stimuli. You’re planning and strategizing and, in the case of online gaming, competing and communicating with other people. Rather than watch beautiful people do interesting things on a TV, a gamer participates in the story and drives the narrative. On the face of it, video gaming is a different beast than TV and deserves a closer, more comprehensive look before dismissal.

There’s a huge body of research examining the potentially negative effects of video games. There’s also a huge body of research examining the potentially positive cognitive effects of video games. I’ll examine the former, followed by the latter. Then I’ll give my take on everything.

Video games and violence.

This is a popular notion that arises whenever a school shooter’s personal history reveals a fondness for playing violent video games, but the actual evidence is murky. Some researchers are adamant that video games increase aggression and violence, while others take the opposing view.

In a number of studies, playing violent video games has been linked to increased aggression. Most of this aggression occurs immediately after the gaming session and lasts just a few minutes. Researchers test increased aggression by having subjects play games and then giving them the opportunity to dose an unseen study participant with something unpleasant – loud noises, hot sauce, cold water. Subjects can make the dose as strong (loud/spicy/cold) as they desire. The louder/spicier/colder the delivery, the greater the aggression.

Other researchers aren’t very convinced by the inconsistent results, either (PDF). Like Christopher Ferguson, a psychology professor from Texas A&M, who frequently points out limitations and errors in studies that find links between gaming and violence, publishes papers that find no relationship between the two, and discusses the futility of even studying “violent video games” as a monolithic entity when they’re all so different from each other.

The causality may be reversed as well. An earlier study of adolescent boys in the Netherlands and Belgium found that aggressive teens are more attracted to violent video games in the first place. The authors suggest a “cycle of desensitization,” whereby aggressive teens play violent video games which make them even more tolerant of real violence, but I don’t think we have sufficient evidence to show that.

A 2014 paper even suggests that it’s not the violence in a video game causing the short term aggression, but the frustration from losing or failing to master the controls. That means that losing a match in Call of Duty, a round in Tetris, a game of Ultimate, or even a prized property in Monopoly could all temporarily increase your aggression. Now, I’m no video gamer. I do enjoy a board game or two when I get the time, and I can get pretty competitive and aggressive, especially when I lose. Same goes for Ultimate Frisbee. It’s fun, but it’s competitive fun; anyone who’s played a game with me at PrimalCon has probably noticed the subtle shift in tone when the game’s on the line. I don’t like to lose. Is that unhealthy or dangerous?

We just don’t see the evidence that video game-induced aggression is causing a wave of violence. Gaming is more popular than ever in this country and violent crime rates continue to drop. If anything, increased sales of violent video games are associated with a decreased incidence of violent crime. I’m not convinced this temporarily increased aggression in a contrived clinical setting is all that bad, let alone leads to long-term aggressive behavior.

Video games and stress.

A considerable body of evidence shows that playing video games can trigger the stress response and engage the sympathetic nervous system. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Video games catapult you into stressful and increasingly realistic situations – gunfights, car chases, zombie apocalypses – where people are trying to kill and/or eat you. When you’re playing online and your opponent is another human, the stakes get even higher.

Remember, though: lots of things that are good for us, like exercise, engage the stress response. The key is balance between stress and recovery. Exercise is self-limiting, if you do it right. You can’t deadlift for four hours straight because your body will simply quit before you do too much damage. And when you override your body and do something like Chronic Cardio, you risk injuries and long term negative health effects. Gaming doesn’t have the off switch. You can easily play for hours and hours, just running with a chronic flight or fight response.

Stress isn’t bad. Too much stress is bad. Too little is also bad.

Video games and obesity.

Compared to sitting around doing nothing for an hour, playing games for an hour increases short term energy intake.Violent games may have more of an effect, causing an increase in blood pressure and calorie intake and a preference for sweets. My take is that gaming can be stressful – as we’ve already shown – and stress tends to increase food intake. But so does reading an essay and writing a short response to it. It doesn’t help, of course, that it’s logistically tough to eat healthy food while gaming. You’re not going to pause your game to tuck into a braised lamb shank with whipped butternut squash, but you will cram a fistful of Doritos into your mouth without skipping a beat.

Okay, what about the beneficial effects to cognition that don’t get nearly as much press as the bad effects? Let’s take a look.

A recent review of the evidence published in the American Psychologist found that playing commercial video games (especially the “violent” ones that involve shooting and quick decision-making) has a number of cognitive benefits (PDF):

  • Improved spatial skills that carry over into non-video game environments.
  • Increased neural efficiency.
  • Improved problem solving.
  • Enhanced creativity.

Just recently, a study comparing Portal 2 (a first-person puzzle game) and Luminosity (the most popular and widely used brain game) found that Portal 2 improved cognitive skills in the short term more than the game designed to do it. Speaking of brain games, they might not even really work.

And after two months of playing Super Mario, a side scrolling platformer designed purely for fun, gray matter in certain regions of the brain increased, indicating structural neuroplasticity. The researchers think similar video games could be used as therapeutic tools for mental disorders that cause these brain areas to shrink.

Furthermore, another study found that lifetime video gaming history (called “joystick years”) was associated with increased brain volume in areas linked to navigation and visual attention; logic/puzzle games and platformers (like Super Mario) had the strongest effects.

In women who never or rarely gamed, playing the real time strategy game Starcraft for 40 hours over six weeks increased cognitive flexibility, or the ability to quickly switch from one task to another.

It also has great therapeutic potential that’s already being realized. Video gaming has been used to help the blind learn to navigate through unfamiliar environments (in the real world), dyslexic students learn to read, and stroke patients regain lost motor skills, for example.

I have a few reservations, though.

One genre of video game I’m fairly suspicious of are the social media games. They’re time suckers, wallet drainers, and according to a leading game developer, are designed to be “negative” and “draining” experiences that invade your thoughts, disrupt your waking and sleeping life, and keep you in a heightened state of stress and unease. Many of these games penalize you for taking breaks; your crops will wither and your livestock will die if you fail to log in and water and feed them. And most contain sticking points that require real-world cash in order to progress and keep playing. I’ve heard about marriages dissolving because of a partner’s addiction. They’re whipping them out at dinner, in the middle of conversations, checking in during sex. They’re draining their bank accounts.

Massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, like World of Warcraft, may also be problematic for many of the same reasons. Although the majority of players aren’t letting their kids starve or locking them in trash-filled RVs for years, the incidence of marital, financial, social, employment, sleep, health, and family problems among heavy MMO players is high.

Gaming is only going to get more realistic as time goes on. The uncanny valley is already flattening thanks to video game developers taking advantage of the increasing processing power available, and pretty soon the opponents you gun down in Call of Duty will be indistinguishable from the real thing, at least visually.

And with the coming wave of virtual reality headsets like Oculus Rift and Sony Morpheus that promise to immerse gamers in three-dimensional virtual game spaces, gaming will move from the living room/office to the inner space. Gamers should eventually be able to live out full-blown Star Trek holodeck-style simulated realities with total sensorial immersion. If that’s the case, and a video game warzone feels almost exactly like a real-life warzone (except for actual injuries), and your nervous system assumes that yes, a velociraptor really is coming for your throat, it’ll be tough to remain in rational, normal headspace. That could be problematic. We’ll just have to wait and see.

For now? I see nothing wrong and a whole lot right with gaming, if that’s what you’re into.

Gaming can be social, whether you’re playing with friends online or on the couch next to you.

Gaming can be competitive. It’s good to feel the pulse of adrenaline as you go toe to toe with someone else, even if that someone else is a non-player character generated by the game.

Gaming can be creative. Perhaps the most popular game right now, Minecraft, allows players to construct complicated structures and build entire worlds out of the game’s raw materials.

Gaming can be relaxing. It’s not all guns and dwarves and aliens.

Bottom line: gaming is play. And play is a good thing. As long as you don’t let gaming take over your life and crowd out or disturb your physical activity, your relationships, your eating habits, your sleep, your sunlight, your nature exposure, your green space time, your exciting and fun and meaningful pursuits out there in the real world – why not play a little?

Seeing as how I’m not a gamer myself, and this is mostly just an academic interest, I’d love to hear from all you gamers out there. Does today’s post jibe with your experiences? Did I miss anything? Got any recommendations for Primal people who might be interested in gaming? Let’s try to avoid any console wars, though, okay?

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116 Comments on "Are Video Games Good or Bad for Us?"

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Angel
Angel
2 years 7 months ago

I play video games all the time but I eat healthy and I do HIIT and strength training three times a week. I love my life and feel great

Brandon
Brandon
2 years 7 months ago

Ditto!

Laura Brice
Laura Brice
2 years 7 months ago

An interesting read related to this subject is the book A Deadly Wandering about the effects of technology on humans. After reading it, I believe it is a must read for everybody.

A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention

victor
victor
2 years 7 months ago

That sounds like something a retired person would say reflecting on a life done right or perhaps some content gamer.

kolby
kolby
2 years 6 months ago

video games are really good for you because of the wii games and kinect you actully get up and move

Steph.A
Steph.A
2 years 7 months ago

I played video games since I was 4 and still do today, Granted most games I played were either educational or puzzle games, but now I prefer the JRPG or action/adventure type games like Legend of Zelda.

I think for games its all about moderation. I feel its best if I only play for a couple of hours at a time, before my head starts to hurt and I get tired.

Paul
Paul
2 years 7 months ago
Finally!! I always read things here and feel like a padawan learning from the Jedi and today Mark stepped into my Dojo!!!! hahaha Again we find all in moderation! I am a gamer from age 4 and am now 36! Games can get stressful and frustrating at times, and in my case it allowed ample times to work through the frustration to solve problems in real life. While I may not have 3 lives left, I understand if a problem isn’t being solved, I need to back up and give it another go and change my tactics. I wholeheartedly agree… Read more »
Obed
Obed
2 years 7 months ago

This article has no scientific evidence. In fact it goes against most studies that have been conducted. Like many other commenters, I’ve been gaming from a young age, I helps me relieve stress and trust me, as a dad to be, I have plenty.

Kevin
Kevin
2 years 7 months ago

Great Article Mark!

I’ve been into games my whole life, and remember my favorite ones as fondly as I do my favorite books, movies, and stories. I’ve also been employed in the games industry since the mid 2000’s.

I often feel like gaming still has negative stigma’s but it is getting better. Its refreshing to know, even non-gamers can take an objective look at it, and quickly realize theirs lots of merits to it as a hobby.

Sandy
2 years 7 months ago

Sure there are a lot of positives, but my concern with all the new technologies, gaming included, is the decrease in the attention span it induces. Unless it’s flashy, fast and dramatic it’s pretty hard to concentrate for longer period of time.

M
M
2 years 7 months ago
I’m not convinced that it does decrease attention span! Many of the kids I know split their free time between games and reading, and most of the young engineers I know were into video games as children. Personally, I feel the causality is reversed. When I was a kid, everything was extremely overwhelming to me because of America’s constantly-on-the-go culture and my parent’s high-stress nature. Video games were a focusing point for me to detox from this constant overstimulation by having a simplified world to interact with, where action and consequence were predictable and events had meaning. At the very… Read more »
Sandy
2 years 7 months ago
I was talking out of personal experience, but you’re completely right, I could be making a logical fallacy. Also, there is a spectrum of video games types and not all of them have the same cognitive effects. I briefly browsed PubMed on this and found that shortened attention span may be due to lack of quality sleep as a result of excess use of technologies, especially with bedroom access. So the relation is not direct and is unspecific to just videogaming, but surely the time spent is the key.  I’ll definitely read into it more extensively and will shout out… Read more »
Dr. Anthony Gustin
2 years 7 months ago

I think it was summarized very well – gaming is play. I don’t think people who aren’t playing games should start just for this reason, but I don’t think people who are currently “gamers” should quit either. As with any action, an appraisal of “is this benefiting me in some way?” should be applied. Whether that be increased reaction time or decreased stress, so be it!

Bryan Larsen
Bryan Larsen
2 years 7 months ago

The biggest problem about video games, IMO, is that most people play them before bed.

As you noted, video games ramp up your stress response, and the screen you play on puts out lots of blue light. Both of things make it a lot harder to fall asleep. And without a good sleep, life just sucks.

Groktimus Primal
2 years 7 months ago

Ever since the demise of Space Invaders, Asteroids and Donkey Kong I could never get into it.

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 7 months ago

Let me add Missile Command.

Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
2 years 7 months ago

Hubby is still sitting shiva for the manual version of Dungeons & Dragons. He still has all his old manuals, saved character sheets, plenty of dungeon drawings in graph paper, hand-drawn maps of worlds, and cases of painted miniatures.

The game has moved on now to either decks of cards, or online, but he hasn’t moved with it. He still can’t believe the game has been reduced to a mere deck of cards.

Ingvildr
Ingvildr
2 years 7 months ago
We play D&D online, but my college aged kids, my husband and I play tabletop D&D(3.0) as well, just because it is fun. It is usually friday or saturday evening with the obligatory Mt. Dew and Cheetos (bleh!) after our youngest is in bed. My older kids go to their friends house to play D&D as well. Honestly, I like the creative storytelling of the tabletop version. The majority of video games we have are puzzle games like Tetris or quest style games like Oblivion and such. We actually have gaming store in town where they host tabletop games of… Read more »
Florence
Florence
2 years 6 months ago
My husband play tabletop D&D every Friday night with his friends on Roll20 and teamspeak online. Moving interstate, people scattered around mean that it’s hard for his friends to meet up in person, so it works for them. We also play League of Legends with other friends on a semi-regular basis but mainly for the laughs we get out of it rather than competitively. Other games I’ve played online over the years (RTS and MMO types) have allowed me to strike up great conversations with people all over the world, so there are aspects to gaming other than just play… Read more »
Martha
Martha
2 years 7 months ago

Hey, enjoy yourself. I like to play Sudoku and solitaire after work to sort of shut myself down and disconnect from all that. The only thing I know of “gaming” is what a couple of relatives showed me that seemed to be all about stabbing sexy female cartoon characters. Not my thing, but you guys have fun.

Shary
Shary
2 years 7 months ago

Right. Everybody is interested in something, whether it’s video games, TV programs, reading (my own thing), or whatever. Before the electronic age people played bridge and board games. Like anything else, if you don’t indulge to excess there’s nothing wrong with most video games. I say “most” because some are overly violent, and there are people who can’t handle that aspect without becoming violent themselves.

Kathy S.
2 years 7 months ago
I’m a 48 year old female gamer. Yep. I mainly play World of Warcraft, though I do play other games as well. Not the super violent ones — the most violent I get is something like Fallout: New Vegas. And I play on a PC (at a standup workstation, natch), not a console. I limit my game time (I would say I play maybe 3 hours a week on average) and use it as rewards/stress-relief throughout my week. I think there are a lot of positives to be had, especially in World of Warcraft. Goal setting, working within groups/cooperating, breaking… Read more »
Laura
Laura
2 years 7 months ago

That’s awesome that your son has seen so many benefits from playing 🙂 I often feel like some gaming communities are like a different type of tribe. You really broke down all of the good things about WoW in particular.

Angel
Angel
2 years 7 months ago

I hope to be an 80 year old woman with a huge headset over my little head and playing. I love all my games from pokemon and Mario classics to Halo, call of duty, skyrim. They all hold a special place in me. I’ve met great people over the Internet and enjoy playing with them

Laura
Laura
2 years 7 months ago

Me too 😀 The average age in my guild is mid-30’s, but one of our best and kindest players is a seventy-something Canadian gentleman who cuts down trees for his retirement job. I think most people would be amazed at the diversity of types that are drawn to gaming!

His Dudeness
His Dudeness
2 years 7 months ago

I played Skyrim a lot until I took an arrow to the knee.

Actually, It was children to look after that cut short my gaming time. Now, I’m happy to take them to the park instead.

Tinytexn
Tinytexn
2 years 7 months ago

Hahaha, “Took and arrow to the knee.” I’ve heard that so many times…

Laura
Laura
2 years 7 months ago
I play games a lot – specifically MMO’s – which unfortunately do not have a pause button for tucking into that delicious primal dinner. The solution for me is to have play time after all of my health and fitness needs have been taken care of. There are a lot of other things I do as well to keep in line with primal tenets as best as possible: I use f.lux on my computer to help combat blue light in the evenings (and sometimes wear blue light blocking glasses.) I take breaks often to get water and stretch my legs.… Read more »
Angel
Angel
2 years 7 months ago

I’m 18 and so far, I have not been a social person. Most my friends, all of which are amazing and nice, are Internet buddies on my play station. Most people are way older. 30 or so. But I connect with these people and talk to them better than anyone else. I have a few carefully chosen friends in real life that I can rely on. I also enjoy hearing about another fellow gamers life in other locations in the country.

sharon thumann
sharon thumann
2 years 7 months ago

Yes! We moved to an area with no family or friends and we play World Of Warcraft together on Saturdays nights to “hang out” and have some fun. We use Skype as well which enhances the hanging out experience. 🙂

I’ve been an avid gamer for many years and so has my husband, it’s how we met. Heck if it wasn’t for gaming I would not have known about Whole30 or Marks Daily Apple as I found them on a gaming site in their fitness forum. 😀

Jillian
Jillian
2 years 7 months ago

The latest Tomb Raider game inspired me to take up parkour. I think having Lara Croft as my childhood hero was a lot healthier than Barbie.

Arnold Grey
Arnold Grey
2 years 7 months ago

Yeah, those pixelated boobs really inspired me to pursue real boobs.

Mark S
Mark S
2 years 7 months ago

Child.

Chelsea F
2 years 7 months ago

I loved reading this! When I adopted a healthy lifestyle a couple years ago, I thought I had to give up video games. And I did, for a while. But my boyfriend is a pretty avid gamer, and naturally I started playing again as a way for us to spend some quality time together. Like many things, it’s a hobby that is best in moderation.

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 7 months ago

My two neighbor boys are gamers and I only see them out of the house about twice a year. They are huge. Great that they may have more spatial skills, but what good is that going to do for them?

Laura
Laura
2 years 7 months ago
Honestly I think kids need a lot more policing when it comes to game time. It’s all fine and good for adults who have developed the skills to balance work + play, but some of the mechanisms in games can be dangerous to developing brains in my opinion – by training them to expect quick rewards in the form of dopamine hits which leave them dissatisfied with regular playing that doesn’t involve screens and instant feedback. I’m an avid gamer, but if I ever have kids they are going to be screen free until their brains develop enough to handle… Read more »
Elizabeth
Elizabeth
2 years 7 months ago

Couldn’t agree more re brain development in children

Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
2 years 7 months ago

My neighbor’s grandson (who lives with her) just graduated from high school last year, and he WRITES video games for some company–talk about working from home! The only time I see him out is when Grandma makes him mow the lawn.

Lysander
Lysander
2 years 7 months ago
“Bottom line: gaming is play. And play is a good thing. As long as you don’t let gaming take over your life and crowd out or disturb your physical activity, your relationships, your eating habits, your sleep, your sunlight, your nature exposure, your green space time, your exciting and fun and meaningful pursuits out there in the real world – why not play a little?” Mark points out that gaming can be good for you as long as it is relegated to a play activity. People that point out that there are benefits to drinking red wine or eating chocolate… Read more »
Jaber
Jaber
2 years 7 months ago

Gaming + Health
1: Slow Cooker
2: Realization that life is a quest log of your own devising. (In-Game skill-ups, exploration, morals -> real-world versions.)
3: Experiment with walking desks (PC gaming) or treadmills (controller/handheld), or “unlock” x_time of gaming by moving y_minutes and/or doing z_physical-tasks.
4: Go deeper into the game by narrating your actions and reading quests aloud. This helps those who have difficulty remembering spaces/maps/directions (like me!), and translates very well as practice for real-world navigation (forest trails with many branches; seeing a new task through the context of a similar one by association through description).

Mark
2 years 7 months ago
My whole childhood up until the age of about 17 was basically a video game, and I love them insanely – so I’ve got a few thoughts on the subject. Despite my love, I’ve often wondered if I’d bring my child up in the same way – would I allow them to spend so much time gaming as I have? Or any time? I’ve had a tonne of great experiences and memories, but at the same time, I wonder if real-life memories would be a preferable replacement to these – i.e. victories in sport, skills developed in the real world…… Read more »
Nocona
Nocona
2 years 7 months ago

Also, if you read the book on Steve Jobs, he had very strict rules for his kids playing around with electronics. If anyone knew about this kind of stuff…he did!

Susan
Susan
2 years 7 months ago

I would trust Steve Jobs to tell me about computers, but have seen no evidence anywhere that he was any kind of child-development expert.

Harry Mossman
2 years 7 months ago
I only do Secondlife, and we who go there insist that it is not a “game” although some areas of it are similar to games like WOW. For the first few years, I did lots of medieval fantasy combat, which felt like good exercise. But I drifted away from that world for various reasons. Now, I go to Secondlife mostly for friendship and role-playing. I like the fact that I can role-play anyone or anything of either gender I want. Playing characters very different from my “real life” self is very broadening. And communicating with people there has definitely improved… Read more »
Taylor
Taylor
2 years 7 months ago
I like to think gaming kept me learning and thinking while I was missing a social life and constructive real world tasks. The fantasy of it kept me inspired and creative. I even met some people whose words have been very important to me! If there was nothing else good about it, that would still be worthwhile in place of real life socialization. Also, there’s this thing called “work ethic” which I had never been familiar with. A while back I started developing it in video games, and it’s grown over into real life too. Can you imagine that? Video… Read more »
M
M
2 years 7 months ago
This is a subject that’s very near and dear to my heart. I’ve been playing video games since about age 4, and I’ve been hooked since. For me, video games fulfilled two functions. As a child in a constantly on-the-go family with a father who was a traveling salesman and who wholly bought into the consumerist gambit, video games were my coping mechanism. First, they brought a world to me that was simple, was easy to understand. I needed that mental wind-down from the hectic real world, where I was constantly being stimulated in multiple ways at once, by people… Read more »
Jason
Jason
2 years 7 months ago
I’ve been playing games for nearly all my life. I clearly remember when my parents bought my sister and I a NES, because (from my view point) we had been really good. My parents enjoyed games also, mostly mom, but dad also to a lesser degree. Prior to the NES their experiences were limited to games like Frogger or PacMan played at dinners or bars. A very social play. I remember strongly wanting to play our new NES with them, but generally they were too tired or busy. So just my sister and I would play most of the time.… Read more »
Josh
Josh
2 years 7 months ago

I think that’s the most important aspect of parenting in any situation, is to just be there for your child; to play with them, to answer questions, to guide them and to a certain extent, censor things until you deem necessary. Too many parents plonk their kids down in front of an Xbox or computer and then, thinking the machine will do all the parenting, will head up to the bedroom to watch the latest episode of the soap opera du jour. Or Dr. OZ… Or whatever.

saned
saned
2 years 7 months ago

Talking about games… just bought a bundle of indie games yesterday and I’m trying them out. Lots of fun for $name-your-price. Can’t beat that offer. I’m not related to them, just enjoying the bundles they put out once or twice a year.
http://humblebundle.com
Ironically, while I like gaming once in a while, it does get me stressed out, especially FPS’s. Some games though are particularly challenging and educational for little ones, puzzles like Where’s my Water or Cut the Rope for instance my kids love to play.

Austin
2 years 7 months ago
Greatly appreciated this post. I’ve largely adopted Primal eating habits–zero wheat or wheat products; very limited exposure to corn; few workouts per week but largely strength / bodyweight-based. I’ve tried to adopt Primal living habits–better sleep; sunlight when I can afford it and Vitamin D when I can’t; leaving my office chair for a leisurely walk around the building every now and again. But the one thing I felt I was stubborn in refusing to give up was my screen time with videogames. It’s the 20 to my 80, I admitted to myself, after trying to justify that these did… Read more »
Liam
Liam
2 years 7 months ago
Lifelong gamer and father of two under-5s here. I recently had a go on Oculus Rift, which I believe is the future of gaming – for better or worse. – I had very visceral reactions. I was sitting with my legs at an angle. I looked down at my in-game legs which were straight ahead. My brain thought they were both the same and there was a huge jolt in my brain as it tried to match what it saw and what it felt. Happened several times. Similarly, vertigo and a sense of height or claustrophobia are easy to feel.… Read more »
Liam
Liam
2 years 7 months ago

And it’ll be fascinating to see, when the brain is tricked somewhat into thinking it is there, just how much virtual sunlight/nature substitutes for real thing. Some really interesting studies to be done.

George Mounce
2 years 7 months ago
I play games a healthy amount, and have done so for over 20 years. The games themselves are not the problem. Over-exertion in training is just as bad as overplaying video games. With everything, moderation is the key. You aren’t going to get fat chomping celery and playing an hour of Mario Kart a day. You are going to get fat and have health problems playing 10 hours a day (sitting the entire time) and eating ding-dongs and sucking down soda. The latter is the gamer that has the health problems. Me? A hour or two a day, or even… Read more »
SumoFit
2 years 7 months ago
My husband occasionally gets together with his brothers and nephews and friends overseas to play battlefield-type games, and I think it’s a great way for them to spend time “together”, as they do manage to get in some snippets of conversation between virtual explosions. I once made a gallant, 1-hour effort to play Age of Empires, until I realised that the predominant thoughts in my head were: Am I having fun yet? If I am, how will I know? I can see how some games might have value as rehabilitation tools, but I think I would rather watch paint dry… Read more »
Susie
Susie
2 years 7 months ago
Im sure that gaming is good clean fun for many and has the capacity to benefit our brains in some way. However I would just like to point out, as the aunt of an autistic child, that we have to work very hard to keep on ensuring that his mental and emotional well-being are not adversely affected by his love of gaming. It becomes all too easy for him to become fixated and unsure of the lines between fantasy and reality. When reading reports of tragedies involving high-schools and teens, pre-existing mental health issues appear to be compounded by these… Read more »
Brandon
Brandon
2 years 7 months ago

I unfortunately tend to binge a bit on a new game when i get my hands on it. i do attempt to fit it into my walks, my guitar, and my drums but its a work in progress. ah well. back to my Devil May Cry and Blade Symphony!

Rob
Rob
2 years 7 months ago
I do not play any online games, for whatever reasons, one certainly being I do other stuff. We have a 17 year old boy who spends an absolutely enormous amount of time “playing” online games as far as I’m concerned and I hope those reading this would agree. Typically 3,4,5 even 6 hours at a time pretty much daily. Oh yes the consumption of soda or any other colored sugary beverageand chips and garbage is all part of this “behaviour”. It’s fine and dandy that studies suggest there is some benefit to those that play online. What the “optimal” amount… Read more »
Nocona
Nocona
2 years 7 months ago

And so the problem goes on. I’ll bet 83% of people gaming can’t control themselves in some manner. It’s like another added addiction. If you play 3-6 hours a day I’ll say it’s surely an addiction.

Humans now have an attention span less than a goldfish (see last Link Love video).

Austin
Austin
2 years 7 months ago
I don’t think that’s entirely fair. We shouldn’t levy a time-spent metric to determine whether or not someone is addictive. Would you make the same criticism of reading? “If you read 3-6 hours a day I’ll say it’s surely an addiction.” That doesn’t sound right, does it? And let me preempt the blanket-statement notion that gaming is a “worse thing” than reading by saying that, as one who consumes all types of media and has for my entire life, there are stories to be told; messages to be conveyed; and critical thinking to be had in all of those media… Read more »
cfb
cfb
2 years 7 months ago
While there are some studies that show an increase in aggression, watching the evening news or a sporting event like hockey or football also raises aggression levels. And there is no study that connects that aggression increase to violence. The ‘school shooters’ all had serious underlying psychoses that were unfortunately known and not properly responded to. The video games were just a way to act some of those psychotic thoughts out. In worldwide studies, video games have actually been linked to lower youth violence with a direct correlation between hours played and lower violence levels. Whether they’re acting out their… Read more »
Ben
Ben
2 years 7 months ago
I think there is one issue with gaming not discussed above, namely the illusion of accomplishment and its potential effects. I speak from personal experience, but I think this is also a major theme over at Nerd Fitness (which is generally very pro-MDA!), which I will discuss below. So, me. I’m 28, still game some. However, I was a much more hardcore gamer before, particularly in college (CPL ftw!). And, personally, I know that reaching for goals in-game and “experiencing” game content has displaced some of my motivation in the real-world. For example, it’s a lot easier to level-up in… Read more »
Mitch
Mitch
2 years 7 months ago
This post sums up the arrogance surrounding modern society, like there is some mystical wrong way to live life. Accomplishment as defined is “something that has been a achieved successfully” You cannot have an “illusion of accomplishment”, what you are really saying is that “the accomplishments of a video game are not as important as other accomplishments”. Which is completely based on individual opinion. You then go on to talk about how theres help out there for this “problem” and that people have “fixed” this problem in remarkable ways. Well i’m glad these people feel happier about their lives, but… Read more »
SumoFit
2 years 7 months ago

“…in-game achievements and experiences can displace the drive for real-world equivalents and lead to a life less full and fulfilling than the one we could have lived.”

Very well stated! “Life by proxy.”

Algebra Grok
Algebra Grok
2 years 7 months ago

My video game consumption has decreased quite a bit since I became Primal.

On the other hand, playing my 3DS really helps pass the time during a 4 minute plank.

Pierre
Pierre
2 years 7 months ago
Have been playing since 1995. Started with air combat simulations like Falcon, Fleetdefender then progressed to shooters like Quake. So many hours playing that I became a beta tester for a Russian firm that produced Flanker. Anyways the point is I believe that my reflexes at 58 are uncanny. Probably has a lot to do with my online games though I have raced motorcycles and done Judo for most of my life. Gaming is a lot of fun. I am a General Manager of a club and father of 3, who works out 3 to 4 times a week and… Read more »
Pierre
Pierre
2 years 7 months ago

Oh my son is teaching himself how to code playing Roblox…gaming is fun and challenging. I have him doing push-ups and squats every day just to get him in shape for when we go off-road motorcycling. Going hunting deer with him for the first time this November…

Granny Gibson
Granny Gibson
2 years 7 months ago

When the kid moved into his own place and took his X-box with him, I lost my Minecraft access. 🙁 I have to admit to a feeling of loss there. I haven’t taken the steps to put it on my laptop yet, though.

mimi
mimi
2 years 7 months ago

There was also a study that showed that aggressive games actually lowered the aggressive behaviour in RL because kids could let it all out so-to-say in the game. Can’t find it anymore though 🙁

SumoFit
2 years 7 months ago

Isn’t that what dodge ball is for? 🙂

Vince G
Vince G
2 years 7 months ago
Paleo Bon Rurgundy
2 years 7 months ago

If it wasn’t for video games on a Texas Instruments home computer that connected to a television (circa 1985), I would have never learned how to code.

Dogue
Dogue
2 years 7 months ago

Having played games for over 30 years and working as a games developer for the last 16. Your findings are pretty much spot on. The oft brought out argument that games induce violent behaviour is a disproven idea. It’s usually rolled out by politicians and alarmists looking for a scapegoat. I also agree that there are cognitive benefits from playing games, in fact fome are designed to do exactly that like Brain Training.

John Caton
2 years 7 months ago

Two huge negatives in my mind would be 1) excessive blue light exposure blocks melatonin release after sunset and 2) extended exposure to non-native EMF’s steals mental energy. Wearing blue blocker glasses helps with the blue light exposure but nothing protects against the EMF exposure.

Dan
2 years 7 months ago
Talk about a love/hate relationship. i absolutely love video games especially MMO’s. I love dissapearing into a new world and exploring it and becoming enveloped in the beautiful scenery and colours etc. I freaking LOVE video games. But, it is a good and bad thing. Stress levels definitely increase when playing if things aren’t going right, but when they are right – what a rush of feel good and beautiful neurochemicals. But when they arn’t I havn’t gotten so uncontrollably angry than when playing video games (yes I have broken the occasional keyboard). Thing for me though is that video… Read more »
Sean
Sean
2 years 7 months ago
Games can be a very positive influence in a healthy life. Aside from the clinical benefits Mark has gathered here, there is also the personal impact (evinced in the comments [and including my own]) that is has made on many lives. They’ve served as social hubs and wonderful experiences, and provide fond memories looking back. They’re also integral to the lives and livelihoods of a great many people (a population that’s growing every day). Not only do they put food on the table and give professional satisfaction to those that produce and distribute them, but they also provide meaningful industry… Read more »
SumoFit
2 years 7 months ago

“They’re also integral to the lives and livelihoods of a great many people (a population that’s growing every day). Not only do they put food on the table and give professional satisfaction to those that produce and distribute them, but they also provide meaningful industry for those who play, write about and think about games.”

Wow, this could apply to pretty much anyone in any industry: Bioengineering, pesticide/herbicide manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, fast food, drug cartels, human trafficking…..!

Paleo-curious
2 years 7 months ago
I’ve never really enjoyed games of any kind. I find them either tedious or stressful, & never truly fun. None of them are as entertaining & pleasurable to me as making something in real life, whether it’s a sketch or painting, a new recipe, a craft, or the garden… But I certainly don’t judge gamers, because I firmly believe that different minds work differently & the world is a better place for that diversity! And I’ve certainly been as addicted to my various creative endeavors as any hard-core gamer. Losing track of time, forgetting to eat or sleep… I call… Read more »
Morghan
Morghan
2 years 7 months ago

Primal, minimalist, gamer.

It does work.

It also works much better after switching to a standing workstation. Now even the sitting issue is removed. Add f.lux to that, remove the gaming mode option so full screen applications aren’t an exception, and even the blue light problem is dramatically reduced.

Jennifer L.
Jennifer L.
2 years 7 months ago
Raising kids is hard work! I often think it would be so much simpler to park their bottoms in front of a screen for some video game time to cook dinner, or clean the house, but alas, I am not sure I have seen the benefits of this. As a teacher, I have experience that children who play lots of video games often only talk about video games. I will say something like, “Let’s write about something you did over the weekend” and they will go on and on about every detail of their game, which I diligently write down… Read more »
Andrey
Andrey
2 years 7 months ago
I try to treat video games like a “sensible indulgence.” Yes, there have been times that I used an MMO to distract myself / cope with some depression that may have been more productive to tackle head on or through exercise. And yes, I’ve also met people online who view the online world as their “home” while basically doing the bare minimum in life to maintain that. There are some who are drawn to MMOs because they don’t fit in, and perhaps in the earlier days they’d have to try until they did, now they can just hop online and… Read more »
Morghan
Morghan
2 years 7 months ago
It still has a significant user base though. I started playing MMOs with UO back in the 90s, though EA ruined that quick, and WoW never really managed to interest me as even RP servers had little to do with the lore and much to do with Chuck Norris jokes spammed across all public channels. That was before I slowed down on gaming and decided anything but the Guild Wars model was dead to me. Free games attract trolls and griefers like flies to honey, monthly subscriptions require you to have no life to get your money’s worth, an initial… Read more »
Andrey
Andrey
2 years 7 months ago

I honestly don’t know the WoW subscription rates vs other MMOs, and I agree that it is an important milestone in gaming history. I’ve just seen it used way too many times by non-gamers as “that evil MMO addiction!” because it was so popular, thus there was a higher percentage of people who abused the privilege so to speak.

I just think it would also be a good idea to mention other games and demographics within the MMO genre than some game that came out a decade ago.

sharon thumann
sharon thumann
2 years 7 months ago

WoW is still very popular. I think the subscription rate is somewhere around 7 million, that’s not anything to sneeze at.

Storm
Storm
2 years 7 months ago

I wonder if there is a market for a virtual “grok” game ?

Andrey
Andrey
2 years 7 months ago

lol I hope so, because I am working on something like that 😉

barry
barry
2 years 7 months ago
The prehistoric theme is quite popular with game developers nowadays. In “Rust” for example, you start out as a naked guy with only a rock somewhere in nature. You hunt animals, build a shelter, and gradually make more advanced buildings, weapons and armor. If you want to be successful, you have to work together with other players. Of course, nothing is stopping you from invading other players’ camps, killing them and taking their stuff. I played it for a while with a bunch of friends, we had our own little tribe and competed with other tribes in the server, it… Read more »
Ryan O.
Ryan O.
2 years 7 months ago
I played tons of games as a kid. Gaming kind of got squeezed out of my life once I reached legal drinking age. I’m 34 now and last fall I discovered “Rocksmith”. It uses a “Guitar Hero” like interface along with a special cord that plugs into a real electric guitar to help train you to play real songs. This game has made practice fun and rewarding. Learning to play a few of my favorite songs has been a long time bucket list item for me and I’m steadily progressing toward achieving it. I always play standing up and I… Read more »
Neil
Neil
2 years 7 months ago

Highly recommend RPG games such as Fallout, Skyrim or the Batman Trilogy. I have actually found that being an engineering student and a gamer, I have been able to actually think through problems more efficiently and creatively because that’s is what RPG games are, solving a problem.

Marthazon
Marthazon
2 years 7 months ago

I’ve played a World of Warcraft mage for 10 years and will play it until the game is no longer supported. Oh … and I’m female and 73 years old. Primal/paleo is my real life that keeps me healthy and fit. My mage keeps my brain active and fit.

Yomi
Yomi
2 years 5 months ago

OH MY–
a 73 year old Girl Gamer?!?
I SALUTE YOU BY FAR
about 10 years of WoW?
thats just- THATS JUST AMAZING omg!

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