For as long as I can remember, gaming has been said to be a “waste of time”. Slowly though, the benefits from gaming started to be researched and brought to the attention of the public. Now that esports is taking off, there are even more benefits to be had when you’re part of the gaming community.
What are the top 10 benefits of gaming and esports?
- Hand-eye coordination
- Critical thinking
- Problem Solving
- Increased memory capacity
- High school esports
- Money for schools
- Pathway for industry jobs
- Job skills
If you want to do your “due diligence in research”, check out my post on the Top 10 Negative Effects of Gaming & Esports.
In case you haven’t noticed, this website is all about bringing better performance to esports and gamers by improving the health and fitness of players.
It wouldn’t be a CyberAthletiks list if it didn’t include health.
The next few benefits are a little more generic and are the type that parents of young kids would like to read up on.
But if you’re a gamer, here are some benefits that gaming can provide you, and probably already has provided you.
Perhaps this is what hooked many of us to gaming. Gaming can be a great way to deal with unwanted stress.
Getting away from stress and spending time engaging in an activity you enjoy can do wonders for your health and peace of mind.
I’m not suggesting that gaming is a way to “escape all of your problems”. Gaming is akin to any other hobby, whether it’s gardening, reading or golfing.
If you enjoy gaming and it brings you pleasure then you should feel no shame.
When I was in grad school, I was commuting for school, doing an internship and working. When I would get home after long days, playing CS:GO was a great way to unwind.
I think gaming is particularly effective at relieving stress, especially competitive gaming, because it forces you to “be in the moment”.
Don’t get me wrong, CS:GO and other competitive games can be stressful themselves at times.
But I think gaming has a unique way of giving your mind something else to completely focus on, giving your mind a break from its usual stress or worries.
There was a study done on older adults who played Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, for six months.
The researchers found increases in three of the major areas of the brain: the prefrontal cortex, the right hippocampus, and the cerebellum.
This part of the brain is responsible for decision making, personality, cognitive planning and social behaviour.
I’m sure you can imagine how Super Mario 64 would help a players brain plan ahead, analyze how objects can be used and how to interact with them.
This is where we get short-term and long-term memory, as well as information processing and consolidation.
The study showed that navigating a 3D world caused this part of the brain to grow.
This is the part of the brain that controls your fine motor skills and muscular activity. It receives information from your sensory systems and then regulates your motor movements.
This is what you use for your voluntary movements (posture, balance, coordination and speech).
What I found interesting is that the study showed better results for the gamers that took the game more serious, that is, those who really wanted to beat the game and to figure out all the difficulties on different levels.
So, even after you retire, don’t quit gaming altogether (especially since the study noted gaming can help prevent the effects of ageing, like Alzheimer’s).
Gaming has also been found to improve eyesight. A study found that people who gamed, especial FPS, had a better perception of colour contrast. Gaming helps players become more responsive to different shades of colour.
From my own personal experience, once I got a 144hz 1ms gaming monitor, I almost never have to use my reading glasses throughout the day.
This one is a little “shady”. There are of course video games that keep kids active, but we’re trying to focus on competitive gaming and esports.
Being sedentary for long periods will negatively impact your health, but learning how to negate those effects and incorporate physical training will help improve your health.
Since I don’t game on a serious (i.e., competitive) level anymore, I’ve turned my gaming desk into a standing one.
This can help negate some of the negative effects of being sedentary, help you burn some extra calories and improve posture.
But as I discussed in my post about standing desks, only consider this if you’re not trying to be competitive and compete at tournaments.
Sure, use one when you’re not gaming, but it’s best to practice as close to the environment you’ll be competing in.
For a more in-depth look at the physical demands placed on gamers, which is backed by scientific sports research, check out my post on whether professional gaming should be considered a sport.
Gaming is unique in its requirements for hand-eye coordination.
Almost every sport requires it and the ones that come to mind for being the most “similar” to esports are sports that use some sort of racquet like table tennis, tennis and badminton.
What makes gaming and esports unique is the requirement for asymmetrical hand-eye coordination.
This means that gamers need to be able to do different actions with each hand simultaneously. Think about how you play LoL or CS:GO, the mouse and the keyboard require two very different actions but must be coordinated perfectly.
Even in console gaming, each hand is performing different actions.
In fact, Professor Ingo Froböse’s research on esports athletes found that the needed hand-eye coordination went far beyond that required for table tennis.
All of this hand-eye coordination must synch perfectly to what is happening in front of the gamer on the screen (which is often happening at extremely fast-paced rates).
Have you ever tried to get your parents to try the game you were playing after they said it was easy compared to more traditional sports? I bet it didn’t end well.
Most competitive gamers started gaming at a young age and have perfected the required hand-eye coordination, reaction timing and muscle memory over many years.
An interesting study I came across looked at surgeons who played video games (although it was more specific to the Wii).
The findings show that surgeons who played video games improved their hand-eye coordination and the precise muscle movements necessary for surgery (shouldn’t gaming be mandatory for surgeons then?).
This should be obvious for those of you already immersed in esports and competitive gaming or even recreational gaming.
Perhaps you may not know the extent that gaming can improve critical thinking, or haven’t really thought about it.
Gaming, especially competitive gaming and esports, requires players to take in mass amounts of information, process and analyze it, then make split-second decisions, over and over.
Competitive gaming is like chess on steroids (even that speed style of chess that uses the clock).
Gaming requires you to think about what your opponent is thinking about, and even to think about what you think your opponent is thinking that you’re thinking about (I hope that made sense).
Once you’ve taken in the presented information, processed and analyzed it, you need to then react with what you think the most logical next step should be.
Often, this logical reaction needs to happen in a split second, and many of these decisions become instinctual for players.
Having played counter-strike since the early 00s, I’ve noticed that I’ve carried over certain habits or skills to my driving. When I drive, I am constantly surveying my environment.
I’m checking mirrors, I’m checking beside and behind me, I’m looking at what’s ahead. When I see other cars around me, I am anticipating what they’re going to be doing, especially if I suspect someone is going to do something really stupid.
I suspect these habits taken from counter-strike to driving have played a role in me having a crisp clean record with no accidents (knock on wood).
I want to add, the ability to take in and process large amounts of information and make split-second logical decisions is going to become more and more of an invaluable skill.
Lots of people take in large amounts of information and think about it, but what can separate gamers, is that they take action.
Problem-solving of defines esports and gaming in a way. I mean, at the most fundamental level, gaming starts off with a problem that needs to be solved.
In esports, once the match starts, there’s a problem, and you need to solve it. I suppose this defines many things in life, even life itself…
Anyways, gaming improves your problem-solving abilities because you are constantly solving problems at an incredibly fast rate.
In LoL, you can be going along with a plan only to have an enemy champion get the drop on you. You don’t get to sit back and think about your next steps for a few minutes, you need to problem-solve immediately.
Ever heard the saying “practice makes perfect”? Well practicing solving problems will make you better at solving problems, and gaming is a great, fast-paced way to solve many problems.
Another aspect of solving problems is thinking ahead. Thinking ahead allows you to prevent encountering a problem, and this is sort of like solving a future potential problem.
In CS:GO, this is evident in the way teams manage their economy, and in Starcraft, it’s evident in building and managing resources.
Esports and competitive gaming take problem-solving to a much bigger level as you do so with the added stress of being watched and competing for a title.
Messing up in a scrim or SoloQ sucks, but you can shake it off pretty quick. Messing up during a Worlds or Major, that can haunt you for the rest of your life.
INCREASED MEMORY CAPACITY
This point is really directed towards older gamers, but I figured I’d include it so you can feel even better about your choice to game.
As we age, we start to see a decline in our:
- cognitive flexibility
- working memory
- abstract reasoning
One study found that on top of the above benefits, enhanced life qualities such as a better self-concept were experienced by the participants.
I don’t know about you, but when I clutch around to win a game, with my team watching me, I feel great for the next few days. Even when I was younger and playing offline games, finally succeeding in something challenging was a huge boost for myself.
Regarding memory, this is pretty self-explanatory. I have a mental image for every competitive counter-strike map, even for different versions that have existed over the years.
Now that I think of it, I have a lot of photographic memories from way back to SNES games. In competitive gaming, you need to know the game inside and out to get an edge on your opponent.
It’s not enough to know your own character in Overwatch or champion in LoL, you need to know it all.
I remember watching pros play PUBG (on a massive map) and some of them would even know when rocks were coming up ahead in some random field while driving.
Having to exercise and use your memory as you do with competitive gaming is again like “practice makes perfect”; the more you commit things to memory, the better you’ll get at it.
COLLEGE ESPORTS SCHOLARSHIPS
That’s right, esports scholarships exist. They come in varying amounts financially, but they often mean you are an athlete on a college varsity sports team.
The amount of schools offering esports scholarships has grown rapidly over just a few years and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
When I was 15, pro gaming and esports was an extremely underground niche that most people had never even heard of. As it grew over the last couple of decades, people kept saying it was a fad or that it’s not a real sport.
Well, I’m not sure what’s left to argue when there are varsity esports teams offering full-ride scholarships.
Sure, esports may never be as big as some of the more traditional sports, but there aren’t many colleges offering scholarships for darts or billiards (I can’t think of any, to be honest).
The beginning of varsity esports
In 2014, Robert Morris University made headlines around the world by being the first institution of its kind to bring esports into its athletic program.
This is when esports, at least in the US, became a varsity sport.
Robert Morris University created its own League of Legends team in 2014. Although schools technically had college esports teams, what marked this as the “beginning” was Robert Morris University’s designation of their LoL team being a varsity sports team.
Fast forward a bit and in the spring of 2016, University of California Irvine became the first public university to create an official esports program. By September 2016 the UCI Esports Arena, sponsored by iBUYPOWER, was opened.
It has since gained additional sponsorship.
HIGH SCHOOL ESPORTS
As varsity esports continues to grow in colleges, high schools are now starting to realize the potential in esports.
Esports in high schools have gone from recreational gaming clubs to full-on competitive gaming where players compete in high school esports leagues.
The benefits for players participating in high school esports are similar to any other type of sport or extracurricular activity: discipline, commitment, goal setting, socializing.
In team-based esports games, communication is fundamental, and developing these skills in high school will stay with the player throughout life.
As high school esports continues to grow, it will make getting an esports scholarship more accessible for high school students.
Additionally, competitive gaming is a skill in itself, and building that skill while still in high school will increase a players ability to turn pro or play in college.
Esports is an untapped market that schools could potentially cash in on. High schools that support esports have the opportunity to receive positive media exposure.
Any school in a city that does something first is going to get an article in their local paper, and potentially bigger media outlets will pick up on the story.
This sort of exposure helps separate schools and shows to the public which ones are actually innovating, and not just talking about it.
There is also the potential for additional revenue. You don’t think that the top high school esports teams are going to get attention from big gaming sponsors?
The University of California, Irvine understood this potential and has gained sponsorships from iBuyPower, Logitech and Gameful (it helped them build a fancy esports arena on campus too).
PATHWAY FOR INDUSTRY JOBS
Having a passion for esports and competitive gaming doesn’t mean you have to work toward the goal of becoming a professional gamer.
Esports is an industry, and industries require many hands behind the scenes. Here’s a list of potential employment opportunities in esports:
- Social media manager
- Event manager
- Sales and marketing specialist
- Organization owner
Having the experience of competitive gaming under your belt will help give you an edge when exploring other opportunities in esports.
You will have not only networked with other people in the industry, but you’ll have gained a fundamental understanding of what it means to be inside esports, as opposed to outside looking in, and employers will appreciate this perspective.
REAL-LIFE JOB SKILLS
I hope it is evident by now how gaming, especially competitive gaming and esports, can help develop real-life job skills. In case you missed the connection, let’s look back on what I discussed.
Critical thinking & problem solving: every single job requires you to think critically and solve problems.
The better and faster you can do this, the more you’ll stand out in the workplace as a valuable employee, and gaming is an excellent practice for this.
Something I didn’t discuss was how gaming improves a players ability to engage in multiple tasks simultaneously. In this study, it was found that 50 hours of action-based video gaming significantly improved test scores that measured the participants’ ability to multi-task.
Let’s not forget communication. Communication is imperative for competitive team-based games (sorry solo gamers).
The ability to effectively communicate under high pressure and when things feel like they’re falling apart is a skill that will carry forward into any job.
There you have it, what I consider some of the most fundamental and transferable job skills that gaming builds in its players: critical thinking, problem-solving, multi-tasking and communication.
Some jobs may not need all of these, but every job will need at least one.
*It’s not all good news, check out my post on the Top 10 Negative Effects of Gaming & Esports.