On Being the Parent of a Gamer

Wiktor “Taz” Wojtas, a professional CS:GO player with Team Kinguin

My son is a gamer. He’s been that way since he was nine. He loves it. Plays every chance he gets. There have been several times when I had to convince him to stop playing in order to do something with the family.

I admit, there were also times when I worried about the impact of the games of his grades and well-being. Sometimes I even worried that he would not make it as an adult. That he would grow up to find a job that just barely supported his gaming.

I was wrong.

My son graduated from university with a degree in economics, with a minor in business administration and a focus on industrial and game theory. Basically, he explained it to me as behavioral economics.

Then he got a job in the esports business. While most of his classmates were starting jobs they really didn’t care for (other than it being a job), he was following his passion. He turned his entry-level coordinator job in to a position as the revenue and growth manager. Then he turned his attention to programming and is now one of the first employees as a very promising startup in the online entertainment industry.

If you can see why I was worried, then I hope you can see why my worries were a bit unfounded.

Gaming is Not a Deadend Passion

The video game industry is huge and growing. In 2017, it generated more than $108 billion in revenue with 18-percent growth, and there are 2.8 billion players worldwide. That number includes people like me, who play games every now and again, as well as professionals who play for work.

The esports industry generated $756 million in revenue, while video content, such as streaming, contributed $3.2 billion.

In the US alone, there are more than 2,400 companies employing almost a quarter-million people in a variety of roles. These jobs are high-paying positions, well above the national average. And today there are more than 500 college and university programs dedicated to video games, with some offering esports scholarships.

It’s a real industry, and a growing one at that.

Gaming is Not Addictive

This is not to diminish a gaming addict’s struggle, but gaming is no more addictive to the general population than sports, sex, or even chocolate. Unfortunately, because of medical conditions, there will always be people who will become addicted to something offering short-term rewards. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), addicts account for between 1 and 3 percent of all gamers (which works out to 0.38% to 1.2% of the population), significantly below the addiction levels for substances like alcohol and drugs (8.1% of the population) or even gambling (2–3%)

Like ADHD, this medical condition has become very liberally applied. This is unfortunate for everybody — especially those individuals who actually are addicted. Right now our media and society tend to use the term “addiction” not just to describe those things that we have a true physical and psychological dependency upon, but for things we want to stop doing but struggle to stop. Not to belittle true addiction, if you apply the current, accepted usage of the word, then I would qualify as being addicted to not exercising (I do qualify as clinically diagnosed ADHD, however).

Gaming is Actually Good for You

Gaming offers a lot of benefits to both the brain and the spirit that we don’t realize. According to brain scientist Daphne Bavelier’s 2010 research, playing games 5 to 15 hours a week correlates to better vision, better ability to see more detail in clutter, better ability to track more objects around you (twice as many), and an improved ability to multitask in general. Equally important, these traits stay with a player weeks after they stop playing.

For people with physical impairments, gaming offers additional benefits. To paraphrase Napoleon Hill, the body achieves what the mind believes. Gaming technologies like AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) allow patients to see themselves walking again after a serious injury. It allows wheelchair-bound gamers to run, jump, and even dance. And it allows people who are confined to their home or bed to play with friends.

Esports Pros are Real Athletes

Esports athletes have precise motor skills to make 400 keyboard-mouse movements per minute (most people max out at 100). They have better hand-eye coordination than most Olympic table-tennis players, and they have the heart rate of a marathon runner. They are now considered professional athletes by governments worldwide for visa purposes. Former pro basketball player, Rick Fox, now owns an esports team and speaks often about the physical and mental demands of esports.

In addition to the complex motor skills required, a lot of games require a high degree of tactical understanding for an athlete to defeat his opponent. As Professor Ingo Froböse from the German Sports University in Cologne noted, “The amount of cortisol produced is about the same level as that of a race-car driver. This is combined with a high pulse, sometimes as high as 160 to 180 beats per minute… So in my opinion, eSports are just as demanding as most other types of sports, if not more demanding.”

People Like Video Games for Good Reasons

According to Jane McGonigal from the Institute for the Future, the reason people love to play games is because they get immediate feedback, rewards, and they are almost always on the verge of an epic win. So gamers are positive and upbeat in games. Additionally, she found that gamers weave a pretty tight social fabric of friends that they trust and work together with well.

Contrast that with most people’s emotions during middle school and high school.

Basically, people love to play games is because they receive things they do not get outside of games. For starters, they collect rewards for accomplishing tasks. They “level up” or earn promotions much faster — often two or more times in a single day. And they believe that they can be a hero and make a difference in the game world. When they play games with friends, they get many of the same emotional rewards as they would playing sports.

Gaming is Entertaining and Educational

Back to my son. He is happy, well-adjusted, and pretty successful. Like any parent, I worried about him in school. After he showed me Assassin’s Creed 2, where he was racing through an incredibly detailed 16th century Italy, I realized he was absorbing information about architecture and history while having fun. When I realized that League of Legends was really just Capture the Flag on a computer, I stopped worrying.

My generation didn’t have the internet and smartphones, we had the woods, paperback novels, and our middle names (which was how we were called home). My parents worried about me listening to music that is now played in grocery stores. My mom wanted me to take chemistry instead of journalism because that’s what she thought would help me get a job.

Gaming is this generation’s rock and roll. But with better job prospects.

MARK JORDAN

Kinguin’s VP of Communications, and the father of a gamer.

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