Are Video Games Good or Bad for Us?

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?

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

117 thoughts on “Are Video Games Good or Bad for Us?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. 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

    1. 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

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

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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 about the social and money based progression games… I enjoyed “Clash of Clans” for many months until I realized #1 I was needing to check it more and more, and #2 The game became less fun because I refused to let it nickle and dime me. I deleted it and the next day, much more relaxed.

    In the end… games are fun! Some evenings my wife says, lets go play a game upstairs, I get super excited and then realize she means Ratchet and Clank.. 🙁 haha oh well, still great times bonding with her and learning to work together on something that if we fail at, the house or car isn’t repossed…

    If you aren’t a gamer, I suggest it. Even playing a quick majong or bejeweled game is better than Keeping up with the Kardashapunks.

    1. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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 least, I’d like a study about whether or not it actually decreases attention span.

      1. 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 any major twist 😀

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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 various speeds. I’ve also done World of Warcraft although not currently.

        2. 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 too. So yes, it’s a great socialising tool if you approach it the right way.

  8. 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.

    1. 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.

  9. 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 large projects into smaller parts, skills mastery, money management, altruism, sportsmanship, fostering community — it’s all there. And it’s fun! I especially love the seasonal holiday world events. I have no trouble eating healthy while gaming — nuts and berries are just as easy to shove into your mouth as Doritos!

    I have an 18 year old son with special needs (autism spectrum disorder, severe anxiety, misophonia, Tourette’s) who plays as well. He’s the one who got me into it, actually. While he does NOT limit his game time and I do wish he would, I still see a lot of positives for him. All the stuff I mentioned above, plus being a guild officer and a “tank” in the game gives him a lot of responsibility, which he takes very seriously. I’ve seen some really positive personality traits come out in him in the context of, and as a result of, his gaming. It’s also a great social outlet for him when he’s not feeling up to in-person encounters.

    1. 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.

    2. 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

      1. 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!

      2. 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.

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

  10. 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. I have a pull up bar in the doorway to the computer room that gets used when I walk through it. The only issue I have at the moment is that I play on an EST server, and raid nights go later that I’d like them to – until 11pm.
    I haven’t made many friends where I live because I don’t do what most of the people here do to meet people – go to church or go to bars – so I use gaming as a way to stay socially connected. Playing games with real life friends keeps us in touch in a different way than phone calls do. Does anyone else use gaming as a way to fend off social isolation when they move to a new area?

    1. 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.

    2. 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. 😀

  11. 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.

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

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

    1. 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 it (and in extension, the household is going to become mostly screen free, because that’s only fair.)

    2. 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.

    3. “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 aren’t implying that your diet should be made up of red wine and chocolate. They are things to be enjoyed in moderation that have positive benefits in moderation, but are very negative when consumed in large quanitites. Like gaming, you don’t need them to live a fulfilling life, but if you enjoy them, there’s no reason not to enjoy them in moderation.

  14. 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).

  15. 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…

    It’s interesting to read your perspective on video-gaming benefits. I feel like I’m a really good problem solver, and can pick things up logically and intuitively better than others whom I know have not had the same video-gaming experience as I have. I definitely feel there’s a lot of benefits to be reaped. But was it worth being a pudding for 17 years and going to university with virtually no life skills?

    I think maybe a balance is required, and a variety within video games (after completing a game once, re-doing it is more a pursuit of comfort rather than anything else). And an avoidance of prolonged sessions. Even then, I wonder if the benefits they offer are inferior to benefits that can be gleaned from other “real” activities.

    Finally, as was mentioned in the video you posted at the weekend, I am definitely against addictive mobile phone games – for the most part because they inhibit social interaction – not because they’re a financial drain or anything.

    1. 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!

      1. 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.

  16. 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 my social skills.

  17. 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 games teaching someone to appreciate and enjoy the work in their life.

    While they’re awesome in our modern lives and provide a killer fallback option (social life -> social games, real work -> challenging games etc), I am not certain if video games in an independent living-off-the-land setting would play a beneficial role big enough to justify their inclusion in life. This is a thing I will think about for a long time.

  18. 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 I would never meet again.
    Second, they gave me a world with predictable outcomes. A world where puzzles always had solutions, and where actions always had predictable consequences. Contrasting with the real world where I could (and often did) incur a negative consequence through no fault of my own, this gave me an interface for developing my puzzle-solving and critical reasoning skills in a totally safe environment.
    Third, they gave me a world I could control. As an intelligent child, the world felt so unbelievably out of my control. I was just along for the ride with whatever my parents decided to do, and that frustrated me to an exasperating extent. In video games I had a world where nothing would happen if I didn’t allow it to happen, and at any moment if the game upset me I could just turn it off.

    I have no trouble admitting I was addicted to video games for the first 20+ years of my life, but now I’m at a point where I can simply enjoy them for what they are — entertainment. I still think that I wouldn’t be in the place I am today though if I didn’t have access to video games which helped develop my reflexes and critical thinking skills.

  19. 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.

    This introduction into video games completely changed my limited views on technologies. The possibilities my adolescent mind came up with were endless, and I think directly influenced my career as a software engineer later in life.

    With my children I want to make it a point to play the games with them, so they are not playing by themselves all the time. To answer their questions about what they see in games. So their early experiences with games are a social aspect not something you isolate yourself from the world to participate in.

    1. 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.

  20. 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.
    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.

  21. 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 play a healthy role in my life. Turns out that all the reasons I used to justify gaming to myself are all echoed in the post above. Socializing. Competing. Engaging. Enjoying.

    I examine games as art, as well, trying to understand the story the designers are trying to tell; dissecting design decision they made in constructing a certain area of the world, or in placing obstacles in the way that they did. What response were they trying to elicit from me? What kind of puzzle-solving ability are they trying to help me hone? This is pleasurable stimuli for me as I relax, the same as I get from a good book or music album, only more engaging.

    I’m not saying that an examination of the medium by Marksdailyapple automatically means I can binge-game and that I’m completely vindicated, but rather that it’s comforting knowing that what I thought were benefits of this oft-maligned medium isn’t just crazy talk made in an attempt to convince myself of something.

    Still, I take the following cautions when playing games:

    – avoiding sitting traditionally to play; I either stand, recline, or sit in a backless kneeling stool

    – if playing in the evening, do so with tinted glasses on

    – maximizing playing time to where going out for a walk in the sun isn’t an option (e.g. a subway ride, a cold or rainy day, waiting for a flight to board)

    – playing in a space where I can actively converse about it as it’s happening(e.g. playing it alongside a friend or my girlfriend)

    – reminding myself that regardless of frustrations, or artistic criticisms I feel like applying against a particular game, I’m still having a fun time doing it (which is why I’m playing to begin with)… and that of all things to be annoyed with in life, to be annoyed with a videogame is, relatively speaking, a privilege

    – choosing games that will elicit critical, problem-solving, tactical/strategic, or spatial-recognition responses as opposed to a dopamine-triggering “addictive” response (the social games Mark referred to)

  22. 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. The brain gets very fooled.
    – It is a truly amazing experience. Orders of magnitude ahead of what we currently experience in games.
    – As a parent it is scary, because it looks like this will make it even easier to overindulge in video games. People are going to forget to eat/drink/sleep in these things.
    – As a gamer and tech enthusiast, it’s exciting. Believe the hype on this. There is going to be some incredible applications, not just for gaming. I can envision plenty of mental health and educational purposes. And of course also plenty of lowest common denominator stuff.

    1. 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.

  23. 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 less on most days, along with an active lifestyle outside of gaming, along with a very health diet has me convinced there is a lot more to it than just the games themselves.

  24. 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 or celery grow.

  25. 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 games.

  26. 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!

  27. 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 of time would be I am unsure of. I do believe there are probably massive numbers of outliers and plenty of others that are at risk in so many ways.

    1. 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).

      1. 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 types. It’s about finding the right pieces to consume, as with everything else (including food!).

        It wouldn’t be right, for example, for me to decry reading as a harmless pastime by endlessly pointing to “50 Shades of Grey”.

  28. 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 violent impulses in a fictional world or if it just takes them off the streets is still debated. This has been going on since 1993, the year the original first 3d person shooters were rolled out.

    The only two countries with lower youth violence rates than the US are the only two with higher hours of game play.

    On the other hand, there is a terrific amount of evidence that video games, especially the fast action, use both ‘hands’ with multiple weapons and spells and powers builds both critical and creative thinking. The player must experiment and internally visualize which tools will help them succeed.

    I actually employed video games as a reading and critical thinking tool for my son. Since he was 3 I had him playing games where he had to read to follow along with what he was supposed to do. I also taught him the epiphany of cheat codes and modifications that made the games do much more or gave him special powers. Deal was he had to research it online, write down the info, then use his ‘cheat sheets’ to enable the goodies. Shortly thereafter he was using minecraft with multiple mod managers and troubleshooting his mod loads like a pro. He’s in the 4th grade now and reads at a college level, and can troubleshoot almost any technical issue. His teacher appointed him the IT expert for the class. Weight wise he’s in the bottom 5% weight group for his age and height. This year he’s playing the latest Madden NFL game, managing a roster and a salary cap, negotiating contracts and making trades.

    So yes kids, video games can be a positive and powerful tool for children. Just don’t play them 8 hours a day 7 days a week and pick ones that make you think.

  29. 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 an MMO (usually) than in real-life. It’s a lot cheaper to unlock content in a game than to travel to new places. You can play sports games sitting on your bum in the house without organizing a bunch of players for a pick-up game. The list goes on and on about ways in which games can be used as proxies for real-world experiences or goals.

    While MMOs are probably the most common culprit of this illusion of achievement, I think many types of games can have this effect on certain people. And I definitely think it does vary by person and by game, as plenty of people can sit down and knock off a bit of leveling or a few rounds of an FPS without taking it too seriously (these people are often derogatorily known as “casuals” in the gamer community, for whatever reason). This doesn’t necessarily lead to neglecting basic responsibilities, like in the examples in the article, but it can lead to not doing “extra” things, like learning new languages, trying new things, meeting new people, etc.

    I don’t think this is a universal problem by any means, but I think it’s fairly common, more so than a lot of us like to admit. It’s probably also aggravated by recent game design trends, which often focus on creating a Skinner Box effect to keep players hooked (and spending).

    I think that’s a big part of the reason for Nerd Fitness and its large audience. There’s a lot of gamers in the world who woke up one morning and decided they’d like to redirect some of the drive they put into games into leveling up in real-life. The site gave them (us?) a place to organize, to read guides to various things (including paleo), and get support. It’s pretty amazing to see some of the results.

    I guess, to sum, I’d say that I think this is actually one of the biggest “risks” of gaming, that 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.

    1. 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 achieving something is achieving something no matter where it was done.

  30. “…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.”

  31. 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.

  32. 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 enjoys a glass or two of wine every day. Feel great…

  33. 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…

  34. 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.

  35. 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 🙁

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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 games, especially MMO’s are all encompassing. It can be hard to focus on other things when your in that mindset. It’s just so good that everything else seems so boring, until you step away for awhile. My work, studies and health all suffered when I played video games a lot. I put on 25kgs!!! Because I didn’t want to have to make dinner. It sounds so awful when I write it down. These days I allow myself to play when I have not commitments, but if I do I don’t play. It sucks away my creativity and productivity – even if I potentially could be more productive because I play the game, I am not because I don’t do anything else.

    But then again I am that obsessive type personality.

  40. 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 for those who play, write about and think about games. The American University School of Communication even accepted a hundreds of thousands of dollars grant from the Knight Foundation to sponsor a curricula that applies game design principles to journalism.

    The important thing here is that games are not just toys, trivialities that you “outgrow” or regard as a guilty pleasure. They are, by definition, an interactive media, with every bit as much potential as its peers. Games as art is growing in recognition (it’s already met the standard of the Supreme Court). And, of course, you don’t need people to tell you that games are art when you can see their value in so many examples: when you’re forced to make a tough choice in an rpg and, in so doing, learn a little more about yourself and your values; when you’re immersed in a unique world that an artist poured their heart and soul into; or when you’re simply having a blast playing your favorite game.

    While I don’t dispute that video games were not a part of Grok’s life, they can very much be a happy and fruitful addition to the experience of the modern Grok.

    1. “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…..!

  41. 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 myself a serial obsessionist. 🙂

  42. 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.

  43. 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 for them (grades K-1). It’s great that they have a whole world in the game, but it’s kind of sad that they don’t have “real life” experiences with their families, pets or whatever. The kids who play the most video games also seem to have the most knowledge about the latest movies. It’s rare to meet the kid who has parents that can effectively control the amount so that it doesn’t take over life. Anyone who has tried to lay down the law about gaming time knows it can be hard with a 6-7-8 year old kid (or older). “Come eat dinner” is met with, “In a minute…After I finish x, y, z….”

    Maybe this article applies to adults who have a little more freedom in deciding when to stop and how to spend their time overall. With kids though, I am not sure the problem-solving skills outweigh the negative aspects of missing out on real life. Life with kids who have no screen time in their early years is messy, chaotic and noisy. Parking them in front of the video games for an hour would certainly be easier, and hey, the house will be clean and my kids will be better problem solvers…Who needs social skills?

  44. 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 feel a part of the community – without ever resolving their problems.

    As for myself, at this point I just play some games that I know wont demand too much time. I must admit when a game that I really dig comes out, I can get carried away and binge-play it a few days, until it’s out of my system. I don’t really feel bad about that though (it’s not a 24/7 binge or anything), and equate it to going out drinking once in a while – more than just one glass of red wine. Moderation in moderation, that’s part of being human 🙂

    PS. Mark, stop referencing World of Warcraft, that game is so old! It’s also very easy to pick on because it was the first big MMO that appealed to tons of people (although not me), so it’s kind of a monolith that’s hard to ignore… but it does date you! That game is OLD. You may find that a lot less players are that extreme with modern MMOs.

    1. 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 investment with no recurring costs creates a barrier to entry and supplies consequence for inappropriate behavior while not leeching funds for a few hours per month.

      Still, WoW made quite an impact, and it continues to. I can’t think of any MMO that has a higher subscription rate, even now that it has begun to decline, than WoW does.

      1. 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.

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

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

    2. 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 was incredibly fun.

      There are a lot of other games nowadays that copy this concept and add in some other elements too (like Dinosaurs for example, in The Stomping Land)

  45. 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 believe the cognitive and coordination exercise will benefit me for years to come. Great way to spend free time during the long, cold winters here in Wisconsin.

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

    1. OH MY–
      a 73 year old Girl Gamer?!?
      about 10 years of WoW?
      thats just- THATS JUST AMAZING omg!

  48. Just try not to get PTSD. The more “real” the violence becomes, the more real your PTSD will be.

  49. Nice article about gaming from a non-gamer I must say.

    I’ve been playing games for most of my life and I don’t think I’ll quit anytime soon. I’m working on making my own game too now.

    I don’t think playing games every negatively contributed to my health, especially not since going primal.

    The only “problem” I have with games is that once in a while I’ll find a game that’s so good that I just want to play it all the time, and it’ll cut into time I would otherwise use for my social life, productive things (like making my own game) and not as fun things that need doing too.

  50. Interesting article, and ironic, as I did a speech about this recently at my local Toastmasters club.

    I’m mid-30s, female and have been gaming my whole life. Hubby and I have been playing WoW for over 8 years now, and it’s our main hobby that we do together. Throughout my life, gaming has been a social thing, especially when I was young and my dad and I would get up early on Sunday mornings to play Centipede on my Atari 🙂

    I agree that children need to be watched when it comes to video games. Even I can have full day binges on WoW when I’m trying to bust out a ton of cheeves! But game time should not get in the way of homework or real life socializing.

    For me, gaming keeps my mind active and off of work. I have a stressful job and melting face on WoW is a good de-stressor 😉

    Is it primal? Probably not. Does it help with my personal primal lifestyle? Yes it does 🙂

    1. <3 thats awesome!
      I Hope my Gaming life turns out as awesome as yours ^.^

  51. Sorry to be obvious but it is about balance & personality I think.

    I used to have a cak ‘relationship’ with games where I played too much/added to stress/lost out on sleep etc.

    But these days I find non-multi-player story/movie type games (& puzzle games in airports/when travelling) a stress-relieving distraction.

  52. Writing from Montreal…

    You say “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”

    Its not gaming that does that, its work… For a good portion of the year I get to work while it is still dim, and when I leave it is darkening if not dark… there goes my sunlight. I don’t really feel like going and sitting in the park in the dark, or hiking in the woods in the dark… And it isn’t really “green” at that time.

    I keep up physical activity, I try and eat well. My relationships are OK(helped by the fact that my wife is also a gamer)…

    Sleep suffers, as allowed to do it naturally I fall asleep around 1AM-2AM, and wake up naturally around 10AM. Having to Wake up at 7am doesn’t magically allow me to fall asleep at 10pm, and I often lie in bed and stare at the ceiling till 1AM.

    Gaming is an evening/night activity, when there aren’t other things that need to be done.

  53. Gaming of any kind is a problem when it becomes addictive and when fantasy lives and alter egos displace reality. Live your life–your REAL life. Enjoy it while you can because the years go by unbelievably fast.

  54. My wife and I love an occasional Mario Bros Wii, Dr. Mario (NES), or Donkey Kong Country (Wii). It’s a great wind-down for us and it’s FUN! That’s about all we’ll do as far as gaming goes. A BYU study found gaming TOGETHER can bring satisfaction to marriage, whereas playing alone can damage the marriage:

  55. I’ve been guilty of the occasional video game binge session.

    That said, I’ve sat and read a book for hours straight, watched a dozen TV shows in a row, or watched 3 straight movies.

    It’s another form of entertainment, and should be treated the same way. Take breaks, have a decent snack around, and enjoy it.

  56. I love gaming.

    But I don’t get to play as much as I would like which causes me some stress at times.

    Since I don’t get to play as often, some games cause me to get frustrated because my competitive skills have dropped “Street Fighter 4”

    One day I had off from work, I played Destiney and some tough missions. I regularly check my Blood Pressure and it was sitting high all day

  57. I have been a gamer for around 30 years, starting with arcade machines and then progressing to PCs, initially an 8Mhz Amstrad. I even made a career of it for much of the 90s, working on a couple of PC games magazines as a reviews editor, and I still game now at the age of 47.
    Here’s the thing. As a child, I couldn’t catch. I was always the last girl picked for team games at school. I fell over frequently and had such poor coordination I couldn’t ride a bike. These days it’s known as being dyspraxic, but they didn’t have a label for it during the 70s.
    Gaming helped to fix that. I now work as a PE teacher at a primary school where I’m uniquely equipped to help the kids who aren’t natural athletes and maybe can’t catch or do basic gymnastic moves. When I started there I was fit and trained with weights but once I realised I’d have to teach gymnastics I enrolled in an adult class at a Crossfit gym and learned the basics: forward and backward rolls, headstand, cartwheel, handstand. These were things I couldn’t imagine doing as that uncoordinated child, but as an adult in her 40s, I managed to do them all. I can also catch well enough not to make a fool of myself in front of the children. Games get a bad rap but they really can help in situations like mine.

    1. :’) I Salute You Madam
      Im the same in my PE class, but Video Games helps me get through life
      so once again reading that you’ve played for about 30 years?!?! ITS AMAZING <3

  58. I am a professional video game developer, and long time reader of MDA. It was very heartening to see what a thorough, accurate, and objective treatment the subject was given here, particularly considering that Mark is not a gamer himself. Most non-gamer focused media is much more sensationalist, pretty loose with the facts, and even when it reports on the good aspects, it’s usually just a blurb about whatever study was just published that week.

    By contrast, this was a great overview of all the relevant science. It was informative, but included all the conflicts, inconsistencies, and gaping voids of knowledge that come with such a hot-button and complicated topic of scientific study.

    I can testify that the wide range of subjects addressed here are constantly discussed among developers in the industry. It has been a source of great frustration that the effects our creations are rarely presented in such an honest way.

    Strangely, this actually makes me trust all the other nutrition and fitness advice here even more – if Mark can so accurately tackle a subject so out of his realm as gaming, then it makes me even more confident about the accuracy of his other articles.

  59. One nice thing about not “playing” any of these “games” is not having the need to either deny or rationalize a behavour I don’t own.

  60. Great article! I think Mark’s last line is the most important – it’s PLAY! Me and the boyfriend will play Little Big Planet, laughing till our stomach hurts, or work together to build a world in Minecraft. When I play alone, I like games with wide maps and lots of freedom, like Skyrim or GTA. They require a lot of creativity and thinking. Also, in the more linear games (like The Last of Us), the stories can be really great! Who doesn’t enjoy a good story? I felt real emotions playing that game (mostly fear and anticipation though hahaha)

  61. I played League of Legends for 4 years. Every time I died I would feel bad about it. So I quit

    1. I Agree…id quit for like an hour and go to Xbox come back to Computer and play once more XD

      1. Oh yeah. I’ve got an update to this. I was playing the game too much and not doing other things. Now that I do other things too, I can enjoy the game.

        It can be addicting

  62. In a recent story the quite fantasy of Suite 101 was brought into question and dubbed Churnalism churning out story after fable as net copy and content rather than any real journalistic alternatively literary worth.While the chip itself included comments from both sides, the tone was overall towards the negate kill of the debates spectrum; the question namely is it deserved? Are sites that generate articles for the Internet wholly negative in ecology exploitative to writers and never worth the H

  63. A few people have made comments about video games being possibly linked to a short attention span. I think that really depends on the game.

    When I was a kid, some of my friends had a Nintendo or a Sega, and while I enjoyed going over and playing video games with them, I fairly quickly got bored with stomping on the heads of little cutesy monsters over and over again.

    These days, my favorite game is a WWII flight simulator that I play on the computer. The game’s got a steep learning curve: you’ve got to learn all the controls (there are a lot of them); then you’ve got to learn how to fly the plane; and finally you’ve got to learn how to shoot and drop bombs accurately, land on a carrier, etc, none of which is particularly easy. And a large percentage of time in the game involves just flying straight and level between your base and your target. Obviously, all this requires PATIENCE!

    I also enjoy the Myst series, which one of my friends criticized as being too “slow.”

  64. Okay, so now I understand why I’ve always been dreadful at most video games, my spatial skills suck! Maybe I should work on that. And I feel a whole lot better about my dyslexic daughter playing her video games. They may be part of her huge leap in progress last year – not that her previous progress was anything to scoff at. Now, if we can just find something to help with the writing, which just has not progressed as well as the reading has.

  65. I think the amount of gaming is a bit like tweaking one’s diet: no one size fits all.

  66. Honestly
    im still gaming tbh im going to say this now im only 13 XD
    I Play Xbox Everyday, and i mean EVERYDAY
    i say i rage at video games, i laugh, smile ect. But gaming is my life, if i dont game i literally go into a deep depression, mainly becuz i have all my friends online, my clan mates and the people i meet in games its just so FUN.
    Xbox is basically my Social Life, out side of my room i just see people that i know despise me for staying in a room on games for 6 hours a day.
    Mainly my Mom but Im not quitting my life and selling my Xbox just to make her care. Now im saying this by heart, I Love Gaming, I Love the Community of Gamers, I Love Everything about gaming. Being a Girl i get criticized and stuff but its all just fun in games right?
    ive met someone who is now still today my Best friend because of Xbox, what is it 3 years now?
    ive met my Clan Mates, Ive Met my Best friends, Ive gotten along with my cousins just through a Headset and Screen. Gaming is my way of life, And my opinion is that gaming is Good xD -NRA xKawaii

  67. I am having a baby in 3 months with a 35 man who spends 2-6 hours a day playing play station, grand theft auto or watching youtube videos about it.. I spend that much time cooking and cleaning and hanging with my two daughters and being outside. I am going to move 2000 miles away after I am all healed up after I have my baby and I am never going to talk to him again because I feel like he loves Grand Theft Auto more than he loves us. He has taken us for granted and we are going to leave him so he can play his stupid video games for the rest of his life without us being upset that he won’t spend time with us!!

  68. I think the reason why most of us, such as myself I’ve been playing video games since I was 5 and I’m 15 and am even more invested then I used to be, is because we like the feeling of progression. The main reason that I’m not really into sports even though the rest of my family is, is because the only sense of progress are numbers going up something that isn’t entirely evident. Video games however, you feel yourself getting stronger, you feel a greater challenge and your glad you made something happen. Take my favorite video game franchise, Metroid, it’s all about getting more to explore more you can fell yourself getting stronger you know something is happening. RPGs, such as Pokemon which is my second favorite franchise, requires that you grow more and that franchise is the second best selling video game franchise for a reason.

  69. Hi everyone, it’s my first pay a visit at this site, and post is in fact fruitful in support of me, keep up posting these types of posts.