Video games used to be perceived as a waste of time or a distraction to studies and even associated with violence. Because of the stigma that video games are bad, several advantages and opportunities from them were overlooked.
In the past years, however, video games went beyond being considered an unproductive activity, given the ascent of competitive gaming between individuals or teams across the world, more known as esports.
Whether among gamers or spectators, esports has grown its popularity in recent years. In 2019, the League of Legends (LoL) World Championship in Paris drew 100 million people. That year’s most-watched American broadcast program, the NFL Super Bowl, gathered around 149 million people, according to Market Research Southeast Asia. The global esports audience is expected to grow 8.7% year on year to 532 million this 2022, games and esports analytics provider Newzoo’s report showed. And this would exceed 640 million in 2025.
But even as esports continues to expand, there are still misunderstandings about video games that exist today. When understood better — and of course, used appropriately — esports and video games present advantages and opportunities. Apart from being a source of entertainment, they could help improve social and thinking skills, especially for younger people, which could be beneficial for them in the future.
Games are generally amusing. Hence, playing video games is treated by many as a break from worries and stress. Yet, winning a game requires skills, and playing put these skills to the test, which eventually could be sharpened further.
Like other sports, video games require good hand-eye coordination, which is the ability to simultaneously use one’s eyes and hands to do a particular activity. According to Dr. Nithin Natwa, M.D., a sports medicine specialist at Henry Ford Health, a professional gamer has 300 to 400 precise actions for every minute. And these actions entail having superior hand-eye coordination abilities among gamers.
Another skill that a player could also enhance in video games is problem-solving. After all, most games are all about solving challenges to win. As one continues to play and be able to solve more and more problems, the game thus allows them to exercise and improve their problem-solving abilities as well.
Furthermore, in esports, gamers have various information to absorb and examine, such as understanding the moves and capacities of video game characters or considering the way their opponents think, enabling them to deliberate carefully and make quick decisions about the next steps they should take to proceed and eventually emerge victorious. And this involves critical thinking, which could be improved as such a skill is put into practice in the game
But aside from supporting individuals to hone their thinking, video games are also considered helpful in improving social skills, especially among students, and fostering a community with a sense of belongingness.
Esports is an opportunity for players to connect, which is beneficial amid the social distancing and other restrictions during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “A lot of gamers say esports helps them connect socially with friends,” Dr. Natwa was quoted in an article published on Henry Ford Health’s website.
Dr. Laurie Walczak, an English teacher at the University School of Milwaukee (USM), also believed that esports could help nurture social-emotional learning skills. “Regardless of one’s skill in gaming, esports players gain social and emotional learning skills as they establish teams, develop mentorships, collaborate, and compete amongst students who may not otherwise interact with one another,” she wrote in an article from USM’s website.
She also considered esports as an ideal opportunity for students who want to belong to a team and acquire new skills, especially for those who are not into traditional athletics. Furthermore, it presents a unique opportunity to create connections among diverse populations and promote inclusion. “Playing together in a shared space — whether a shared virtual space or a physical space like an esports arena — is the goal of esports, and doing so establishes community, friendship, school spirit, and a sense of belonging,” she added.
Social skills, as we know, are important while growing up. Meanwhile, problem-solving and critical thinking skills are crucial for almost every job. Esports also offers different opportunities to kickstart one’s career in the industry, apart from being a professional gamer, such as in the side of social media, broadcasting, and management, among others.
Esports and video games are being participated by many people, including children. Nonetheless, while they provide several advantages and opportunities, video games should be used in moderation. Note that there is a difference between being interested and being addicted to video games. When engaged in a game just right, players could realize the benefits and avoid experiencing the pitfalls.
“If you’re not a professional gamer, make sure to restrict the amount of time you’re participating in esports and diversify your activities,” Henry Ford Health’s Dr. Natwa said. He also said that parents must regulate the passion of the athlete, similar in physical sports. “Since esports is a new field, parents need to educate themselves so they can make informed decisions for their children.” — Chelsey Keith P. Ignacio