Thank God I’m a Gamer: The Reason Why Video Games Will Make You Great

Polygons anyone?

Let me guess. You thought video games were somewhere on the scale between pernicious fantasy life and harmless pastime, right?

Right. But there is a rule we all understand and don’t often mention. Anything you do will force you to adapt. Some of those adaptations will help you when it comes to other things, and some of them will hurt you. Time spent equals growth acquired.

Some growth is specialization that doesn’t cross over into most other things. Time spent using a joystick will not make you better at basketball. In fact, time you spend on NBA Jam is time you don’t spend shooting hoops and running drills. But some growth is growth of you, your personality, your broad capabilities. Getting more agile, more dextrous, more humorous, more confident, will carry over to anything and everything.

As it turns out, playing video games does help us grow the second way as well as the first.

Why? Because of why we play in the first place. We play because we like to flow.

Flow is when you disappear. It’s when you’re so tuned in to running that play or writing that article that the space between it and you seems to disappear. You know, that little ego-shroud, that margin of thought we keep in between ourselves and our environment to insulate and protect us. Almost like hallucinogenic drugs, it seems to disappear when people are ‘in the zone’. Time slows down when you shoot that fadeaway jumper or make it to the final stage of Pac Man.

In fact, a huge part of elite performance is knowing how to get into this type of mindstate. But we all have it. In fact, Mihalyi Cziksentmihalyi, the original flow researcher, thinks humans need flow to be happy. That is, he hypothesizes, one of the driving reasons behind the game industry’s success: people are missing flow, and video games allow them a way to get their zen time in.

But video games can lead you into a place where you feel fruitless. A close buddy of mine is ranked in the top 1% of the world at League of Legends. Not quite good enough to make a living on it, but good enough that he’s better than any casual. It’s his ‘thing’. On the other hand, he feels like the 10,000 hours he spent to master a MOBA could’ve been spent mastering something more useful. And it might be true.

But by now, he should know how to flow. He should know how to perform at a high level. He should know what mastery takes. And those lessons, my friends, are forever.