A Positive Approach to Gaming
You’ve all heard about video games (you know, Mario, Pong, and Space Invaders). They are what many parents knew from the Atari, Nintendo, and arcade days. And those were good days.
They were unstructured, free, and, most importantly, fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But the raging debate still goes on and the stigma reigns supreme through households across America. “Gaming is unhealthy.” “Screen time is killing your eyes.” “There’s too much violence in games.” And the list goes on…
But what in life that we cherish today ever started as something that was founded with structure, a following, and a deep understanding of value? From traditional sports to music, or various forms of dance, all had their underground movements. They are now celebrated as activities that drive lifelong skills, socialization, healthy hobbies, and for the most dedicated: careers. So why should we treat this now mainstream movement and clash around video games any differently? And there is nothing wrong with casual gaming in moderation, but to take the next leap we need structure, positive mentors, and community support.
Esports are competitive, organized video games. It’s taking what can be viewed as “the wild west” of unstructured gaming and placing people in an environment in which they have teammates, coaches, and a coordinated approach to achieve goals. Just like… any other traditional activity!
But this concept of esports can be hard to grasp. How could a group of people playing a video game be healthy, positive, and social? There’s now extensive research that debunks the age-old myths around gaming and esports. In fact, there's research dating back to the early 2000s that supports the claim that "game players can be highly productive in the games they play, accomplishing and achieving, and improving skills that contribute to positive experiences and enhanced self-worth" (Gaming well: links between videogames and flourishing mental health; Seligman, M. (2004). Authentic Happiness. New York: Free Press., p.40). In addition, "the experience of feelings of competence, autonomy, and relatedness during videogame play has been linked with higher self-esteem and positive affect." (Gaming well: links between videogames and flourishing mental health).
As Julie Mavrogeorge put it in her article for Gaming Concepts, “esports is the most inclusive, diverse, and engaging activity in the world.” This ranges from every background imaginable. It’s a calling for everyone, including introverted individuals, senior citizens, those who are neurodivergent (autism spectrum, dyslexia, Tourette syndrome, ADHD, etc.), girls and women, and those with physical disabilities. In society today, not everyone is the next basketball or soccer superstar and that is okay and deserves celebration. Drop these esports competitors into a virtual arena, and they can be the star of the show! With the right mentors and structure, gaming and esports can be a vehicle to a much brighter future.
So, try this on for size.
Do not discount the value of gaming and esports in your child’s world. Make that world yours. Do the research. Go on the journey with them. Realize that there are now hundreds of colleges and universities that have recreational gaming clubs, varsity esports teams (part of athletics, with scholarships), and educational programs. Even here in Connecticut, you don’t have to go far. Post University offers the entire experience.
What more could you ask for than the opportunity to understand and support your child’s passion, while helping make their dream a reality?
Mark Kilpatrick is the founder of Affinity Esports. They are paving the way to healthier gaming experiences, by providing a safe community meeting space for kids and teens to play games and interact with their peers, all while learning technology and problem-solving skills. They are located at 27 Glen Road, Suite #408, Sandy Hook, CT, 06482. For more information, please call (203) 290-1656 or visit https://www.affinityesports.gg.