Gamer well-being may be one of the most ignored aspects of the video game lifestyle. It is also perhaps one of the most hard to define and explain. I am here to tell you it IS the most important aspect of gaming, and life, and I want to tell you why.
- a person who plays games; especially : a person who regularly plays computer or video games (Merriam-Webster)
- a good or satisfactory condition of existence; a state characterized by health, happiness, and prosperity; welfare: (Dictionary.com)
Put them together and what have you got? This is the question. As the first and opening article of Mind, Body, GAMING!, I will explain what I know and think on gamer well-being and go into the long list of positive and negative influences that affect it, and what destroys it. This will be an introduction article, focusing on this broad and quite abstract subject with hope to go into great details in future articles.
What is Gamer Well-Being?
Gamer well-being is the state of peace one has while gaming. It is an overall constant contentment during ones gaming session; one with no opposite. This, in turn, will hopefully continue when one has stopped gaming. A gaming life harmony! But while this idea is nice and all, how many have really achieved it?
Us gamers like to play video games, and sometimes, perhaps most of the time, we like to play alot. Do we have a sense of peace going on when we game? Well, do you? And how often? Everyone may answer that differently at any different time and different game naturally. That is why we have the gamer well-being X-Factors.
Your state of mind in both the real world and in the virtual world will affect each other. They are connected! And just the same, many things in gaming, as in life, can benefit or hinder one’s well-being.
What factors can affect gamer well-being?
I’m glad I asked. While video games are generally made for consumer enjoyment, they don’t always succeed. There are many reasons why your enjoyment may be comprimised in game. Technically, all things outside of gaming can affect the gamer while he/she games, too, as I mentioned before.
Therefore, to clarify and simplify, and also to not go into every facet of human suffering, I will stick to things that affect actual single and long term game sessions ONLY. This includes the influential lifestyle of the individual.
In other words, the gamer’s personal health both internal and external, or mind and body. Not to cause any confusion, I consider the brain as part of the body, not the mind, which is the element or complex of consciousness and thought. Yes, the mind might exist in the brain but different subject, different debate, different article. Complicated? I love our language! To the lists!
Games offer us enjoyment, plain and simple. Nothing can maintain a sense of gamer well-being better than constant enjoyment. A list of what contributes to enjoyment is massive and potentially endless.
This list includes success in overcoming a challenge, like any boss battle, or finishing the game itself, finding a hidden secret, solving a puzzle, completing everything, being surprised, learning about a story, a character, or yourself. Also, seeing improvement in your skill, gaining confidence outside of gaming, the discipline of practice, relaxation and stress relief, and even meditation can be thoroughly enjoyable.
Don’t forget being blown away by technical achievement and/or art of the game creators, experiencing the wonder of a realistic or imaginative universe and just going there.
Gaming can be used to deal with real world stresses (stress relief) as well as keep those bored souls out there un-bored. Last but not least I should not forget the universal enjoyment of creation in those games that give such a gift (Minecraft, never ending).
Social enjoyment in game include meeting new people, getting to know people, camaraderie, friendships or even romantic relationships, winning in a competitive match, helping other players overcome their obstacle, as well as them helping you overcome yours, in game and out.
Add more players and this equates into learning how to work with a team of potentially any size. Bonding with a friend or family member is also lovely. And you may get culture you would otherwise not get, by being able to play with people from different places around the world. Gaming could also end up opening up job opportunities or sponsorships, too.
I hesitate including beating another human being in a game as a good thing, especially dominating. But alas this does make many gamers feel good about themselves, even if it is temporary and ultimately needs quick replenishment or otherwise may suffer the consequence of quickly jumping into the negatives.
Let’s not forget the externals of gamer well-being. There are many great benefits physically in playing video games, too. The obvious are games that include physical activity like dance or other body movements, as well as music/instrument games, and definitely transportation games (cough Pokémon GO).
More general benefits, though, include relaxation while gaming, rest and healing from physical activities or injury, increased and better developed coordination from eye hand to spacial, improved focus, faster reading ability, memory, problem solving, attention, pattern recognition, multitasking, and general processing speed. Games can even provide distraction from chronic and temporary pain and/or other external stimuli, like world events, parents, or wife(s), or kid(s).
When you are not enjoying a gaming experience, Houston, we have a problem. Non-enjoyment is a major gamer well-being bummer. What causes this? Not enjoying your time can be due to in game stress, any form of disappointment which creates anger, sadness, or feelings of failure, like not being able to finish or accomplish something in game, not beating a boss (any Souls game, here’s looking at you), or not winning a competitive game.
Or maybe the game isn’t as good as you want it to be due to expectation, or misunderstanding. Maybe it’s just boring or poorly designed. Maybe you are just having a bad day.
Other more external mind topics include hiding in games to not deal with real life issues, which can be infinite. Debatively, games can desensitize you or those younger than you to violence, or introduce unsupervised youth to adult subjects in games.
Procrastination is also a great bad use of gaming, as well, and likely one of the most common. We do things we like instead of what we need to do. Sound familiar?
Playing with or against negative people can influence your experience, and that can take all sorts of forms with examples (hello tea bagging). In fact, this can be so destructive, it has its own section below.
Physically, gaming can influence all sorts of negative body outcomes that affect one’s gamer well-being, especially long term daily gaming and beyond. Possibilities include habitual hunching or worse, scoliosis, among many other back issues, general muscle stiffness, carpal tunnel syndrome, what I call video game butt, muscle atrophy and all other general lack of exercise results.
Other negative physical results include increased laziness, poor hygiene including them teeth, stress eating, poor diet, overeating, and undereating. And if you stay up too late gaming, or sleep too little for days, lack of sleep can become a major issue, too, sometimes leading to death (most epic result).
Being inside too much reduces chance of natural vitamin D absorption in addition to lack of fresh air. And depending on how clean your gaming environment is you may be subjected to poor air quality, like dust, molds and germs, or worse (stank).
The Destroyers of Gamer Well-Being
The destroyers include the more severe detriments of gamer well-being. Be it a one time game related incident or long term, each would best be never encountered or experienced for maximum enjoyment.
These destroyers are not listed in any order as each can be equally important. Most can influence, overlap, or even domino effect into each other. These are the negative extremes, the dark side of gaming. And though they are not described in depth here, they show how such a simple entertainment device can influence our lives drastically not just in game, but outside as well.
I’ll begin with rage as a starting point here; when anger goes overboard. If you have experienced it, in yourself or in someone else you witness or hear, you know it is anything but a nice gaming experience. Be it you or another, no matter what the reason, this can destroys everyone’s gamer well-being at that moment.
Even if not playing with others, this heavily adrenaline oriented impulse can take you over, leading you to saying things you otherwise may not, yelling and screaming, reacting more physically leading to broken controllers, broken hands or walls or desks or all three, broken tvs or monitors, and even broken hearts.
The runoff of such an event can carry on way after the act, as well. If others were involved during or after, repercussions far greater than just the own rager’s suffering can result. This is a severe stress scenario.
Gamer rage can get you reported in game, resulting in a temporary or permanent ban. More importantly, it can cause you to lose real life as well as in-game friends, involve family, neighbors, or the police.
The important thing to understand here is that gaming rage is an explosion of negative energy that affects all parties involved in a bad way. No one wins here.
Harassment and Negative Chatter
While harassment can be a result of gamer rage, it does not require it. Any form of harassment is a one stop attack and attempted end of another’s well-being and gaming is no exception. In fact, it unfortunately is very common in my experience.
These people verbally attack, and like gamer rage, can ruin a gaming experience for anybody. Be it sexual harassment, bullying, cyberbullying more accurately, any hate speech, exclusion, outing if you know the person, stalking, threats, and griefing, even just profanity without permission, any form of harassment can create a lack of enjoyment for another and a toxic, unpleasant environment. Anyone can say mean or inappropriate things. Unfortunately this is just a risk of playing anything with others.
Long Term Effects
A major part of the destroyers of gamer well-being must include the long term effects that can develop from playing video games over time.
Game dependence and/or obsession, or gaming addiction, in other words, can be a terrible disease with horrible real world consequences, personally, and health wise. It also can affect your job or career, or schooling, in the form of the quality of your work, as well as being more likely late, to not showing up at all.
And on the subject of losing money, overspending, in the form of in-game transactions, is a big part of the gaming industry these days, and too easily a cause of stress. It is easier than ever to unload your wallet, or your parents or spouse, into a game with a click of a button.
Before you know it, that neat new in-game outfit can be yours for some money. Maybe you want all of the new outfits for every event they can possibly have. Every holiday.
Even worse, the game may offer a mystery box that randomly gives you game items you cannot choose, fitting into a gray area of almost gambling with real world money, only with no hopes of winning that money back (you know which games do this). One purchase becomes two, two becomes four, and before you know it, your entire paycheck is gone. Maybe you even get a couple bonus boxes?
This urge may not seem like a destroyer of well-being, but it can be. It feeds on a general weakness of the human mind and is why gambling addiction is a serious deal. It can spiral out of control and affect many other aspects of a gamers life. For some, it is difficult to control. For many, it is not. But cheers to any of you whom have not ever spent a little more than you originally intended to once or twice…
Poor health, while mentioned in the negatives section above, cannot be emphasized enough as a main variable to gamer well-being, especially once it gets into disorder-ville and/or medication-land and therapy-world. Sure, gaming would not be the sole reason for poor mental or physical health, but as a heavy influencer, there is a limit you do not want to go past regarding it.
The social repercussions related to friends and family can be some of the harshest. As mentioned before, any kind of negative time while gaming can affect your real world relationships and interactions. But a result of poor decision making, like sacrificing responsibilities such as work, reduced time with friends, a girlfriend or spouse, your child or children, or any family member(s), can have negative real world consequences of all kinds. In other words, just simply missing a social life in its entirety.
You may miss other life aspects too such as accomplishing goals you have, big or small, or reading that book, even writing that book you always wanted write. The list goes on forever.
Real world interactions and personal development are a vital part of one’s well-being. You don’t want to miss that. It reduces that chance for something new in this wide world of random amazement. In fact, it reduces that chance for anything to even happen at all! Games can be good, but not that good. Nothing can emulate life experience better than life experience.
Video gaming, which was originally nothing more than just small form entertainment, has become quite a complex lifestyle with many variables that can affect an individual’s gamer well-being. I did my best in this article to explain what gamer well-being is as well as list many of the positives and negatives in-game that can affect it. This includes an even bigger section on the destroyers of this well-being and potential long term effects gaming can have.
Hopefully upon examination, one can see how these things may influence their own enjoyment of gaming as well as how important these things are to the well-being of a video gamer’s life inside and outside of gaming. That’s a lot of well-being and a lot of gaming! Your test is next week, multiple choice with two essay questions. Bring a pencil.
If I forgot anything, I’m sorry! Tell me. Giant lists grant giant error potential, but I am open to all additions I missed.
What events have affected your gamer well-being? Share your stories below.