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Home » Video Games & Esports » Video games advantages and how to incorporate them into life in a healthy way

Professor Catherine Flick

Professor in Ethics and Games Technology, Staffordshire University

While video games can have their downsides, it’s easy to overlook their many positive aspects — including the creativity they display and the different skills they can teach us.

Play is a crucial part of human development. It teaches us about taking turns, fairness and social interaction. “And, of course, we don’t stop playing as we get older,” says Prof Catherine Flick, Professor in Ethics and Games Technology, Staffordshire University. “Although, what we play changes. It might be board games, chess, sports — or video games.”

Video games advantages and accessibility

Video games are a unique form of play. They trigger feelings of playfulness and competitiveness yet are something we can do on our own. “Plus, they offer play that we can’t always do in real life, with fantasy elements that take us outside our comfort zones,” explains Prof Flick.

“Video games give us the chance to be the hero and, say, defeat monsters. They’re ‘active’ activities that engage our brains and allow us to try different decision-making patterns. Some even get us physically moving. Plus, they’re easily accessible because mobile games are so prevalent now. In fact, mobile gaming is what the modern industry looks like.”

Measuring the global popularity of video games

Gaming certainly isn’t a niche activity anymore — if it ever was. According to Ukie (UK Interactive Entertainment), the UK video games sector was worth £7.8 billion in 2023. Figures from Statista estimate that the global games market will reach a staggering $282 billion this year.

“A lot of stats show that most people — of all genders — play games these days,” says Prof Flick. “The thing is they don’t consider themselves to be ‘gamers’ because they’re not using a classic console or sitting at their computer. Yet, if they’re playing games on their phones, that’s exactly what they are.”

With the right guardrails in place, games
can provide bonding time for families.

Ensuring a healthy and positive games experience

Prof Flick highlights the many positive aspects of video games. For one, today’s titles are exceptionally creative. She’s seen this firsthand in the projects designed by her students. “It’s so good to see them working together because that’s how it would be in an independent games studio,” she says.

However, unlike sports or board games, there are negative connotations attached to video games. Prof Flick puts that down to generational differences. “There’s always been a moral panic about the ‘unknown’,” she says. “I think it’s because some people don’t understand how to incorporate gaming into their lives in a healthy way.”

This does not mean all is rosy in the gaming garden. “In some instances, predatory monetisation techniques, especially with mobile games, mean that young people can run up massive bills on their parents’ credit cards,” admits Prof Flick. “We certainly have to educate ourselves and our children about online safety and which games are suitable for younger players. Going forward, we’ll see a lot more about the protection of children in the games space, which is so important.”

Playing games safely and responsibly as a family

There are also age-old concerns about too much screen time. “If you spend long periods playing, it could be problematic for your physical health,” warns Prof Flick. “Depending on your circumstances, it could be problematic for your mental health. You have to work out where the boundaries are between beneficial usage and harmful usage. I always say to parents: ‘Play games yourself, even if it’s just for five minutes’ because if you’ve never experienced it, you’re not in a position to advise your children.”

With the right guardrails in place, games can provide bonding time for families. “On the weekends, we let our four-year-old play an hour of video games,” says Prof Flick. “He’ll fail and fail but keeps trying until he gets good at it. Little children especially need to learn how to lose — it’s a great skill to have. It teaches resilience.

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