Did you know that more than 3 billion people actively play video games? But for many adults, online gaming often spawns negative associations. Their generations have grown up spending time on the playgrounds, having face-to-face conversations, and interacting in person with friends. Digital interactions were minimal.
But today, technology has dispersed into every aspect of ordinary life, from entertainment to socializing. Video gaming is one of the most popular outcomes of these technology-led developments. It is also among the most criticized for its seemingly harmful social impact. But according to experts, video games may have surprisingly positive effects on social skill development. In this article, we examine some of their key benefits.
Video Games: A Friend or Foe?
Many parents have grievances about their kids’ gaming habits. For them, it is an incomprehensible activity played in isolation, staring at a screen for long hours. This type of entertainment or game seems reclusive and unsociable.
In their eyes, the ideal gaming activities involve the outdoors, open air, physical exertion, verbal dialogue, and face-to-face interactions. These are seen as much more fun than a solitary video game played indoors, seated at a desk.
So, understandably, parents start worrying when their kids take an interest in video games. Some even resort to extreme measures to encourage positive social interactions. These typically include limiting screen time or banning games altogether.
But proponents of online gaming have a different theory. Backed by research, studies show that video games can positively impact social skills.
The fact is, each individual is different, and so would be their inclination to socialize. Some are comfortable in groups, while others may prefer interacting with one person at a time. Therefore, socializing through outdoor games might not be for everyone. For these individuals, video games can provide the perfect platform to connect with others.
Positive Effects of Video Games on Developing Social Skills
Unlike in the early days, video games now come in several interactive formats. Many are designed for multiple players.
World of Warcraft, for instance, is a massively multiplayer online game where thousands of players can join from across the world. These types of games allow individuals to interact with large communities of gaming enthusiasts from the comfort of their homes.
Of course, interactions take place within a virtual environment. However, the benefits could be remarkable. Here are some of the notable ways they could help develop social skills:
Multiplayer games encourage individuals to work together. They can help you learn how to cooperate, negotiate, and solve problems with others so you can, for example, defeat a common enemy.
Many games involve fast-changing scenarios and circumstances that require players to adapt to different situations.
Role-playing video games, in particular, enable players to communicate and interact with others, for example, to gather vital information to progress through the game.
Role-playing also requires taking on different characters and dealing with many others. Players will need to work together with individuals or characters from various backgrounds. So, it is natural to develop essential qualities, such as respecting diversity, individuality, and differing views, opinions, and beliefs.
Some games may involve recruiting team members and leading teams toward accomplishing a mission. This allows players to learn how to empathize, help, support, protect, motivate, and lead others in their teams.
Moreover, video games could offer a safe environment to build social skills for those uncomfortable with interacting within large groups. For example, role-playing can give them added confidence to communicate with other players.
Another excellent example is Twitch, where gamers live-stream their gameplay for thousands of others to watch. The platform allows participants to comment, respond, and freely interact as they follow their favorite players. This type of cyber environment could encourage shy or insecure individuals to express their thoughts without fear or apprehension.
Interactive video games are also great for meeting new people with similar interests and inclinations. They can create opportunities to build friendships that may cross over to the real world as well.
Research confirms that video games could yield multiple benefits for individuals with autism spectrum conditions, too. For example, online gaming could help them escape from negative moods and practice social interactions. For those who are differently abled, communicating and engaging with others in a virtual environment could be ideal for learning social skills within a more non-discriminatory space.
However, if your child is interested in video gaming, ensuring digital safety with the right precautions is crucial. Spend time with them to understand the games they play. Teach them about the potential dangers of interacting with strangers online. Educate them about personal safety essentials, such as keeping identifiable information secure.
Be extra vigilant if your child takes a virtual friendship offline. Monitor their activities, emails, and phone calls. Look up any unrecognizable numbers on PhoneHistory to verify the owner’s identity. Search them on Google and social media. Ensure your child doesn’t meet their new-found friends without informing you first.
A Final Thought
Despite its stereotypical negative associations, video gaming has various benefits for developing social skills. Studies and research increasingly highlight its many positive outcomes, from learning communication skills and collaboration to respecting individuality. Online games can provide a safe virtual environment to connect with others and build healthy relationships, especially for those with social anxiety.
However, it is important to recognize that anything in excess could eventually lead to negative repercussions. Video gaming is no different. Spending excessive time online could cause numerous mental and physical issues. For example, a lack of physical activity may result in obesity. Sitting for long hours can cause neck and back pain and repetitive strain injury.
There is no denying the mental health benefits of getting outdoors, breathing in the fresh air, enjoying the sunshine, and interacting with real people. Besides, social skills involve understanding body language, vocal tones, non-verbal cues, and other similar aspects. A video game might not provide the opportunity to learn all of them. Therefore, a good balance of virtual and real-world interactions might be the best solution for optimum results.