Gaming and Personal Health
Gaming and personal health at first glance appear to be mutually exclusive subjects. News coverage about these issues more often than not implies that gaming is detrimental to both ones physical and mental well-being. Apart from titles that utilise motion sensing devices such as the Kinnect and require the player to physically move, gaming is a sedentary pastime. Combine that with a society that has an already broken relationship with food and their own personal health in general and there is scope for a wealth of medical problems.
There are many notable issues associated with prolonged periods of time spent sitting down. Back, posture and circulatory problems immediately spring to mind, as well as conditions such as RSI and eye strain. Then there are wider issues associated with long and regular periods of gaming, such as its impact upon the quality of a person’s diet. This in turn can lead to both weight gain or weight loss. There is also scope for adverse psychological issues such as addiction; although I think this simply manifests itself through the medium of games, rather than directly because of them. Overall, although gaming can be great fun, it does have the potential to have a negative impact upon our well-being.
Outside of the obvious health issues, gaming can also keep you from other activities. Although people are free to live their lives how they see fit, it is broadly recognised that engaging with real life does have positive benefits. I often hear gamers talk about how virtual worlds offer a retreat from the hardships of life and I understand that this can be a useful safety valve. However I do have concerns that if this becomes a preferred environment to real life, then it may well have knock on effects for society in the long run. If people are not engaged with their immediate world, then how can they affect any change? I worry about a return to the Roman ideology of bread and circuses. It is also saddening to think that so many people turn to gaming because they simply do not feel they have a stake in the society.
Like many things in life this issue is a question of trying to strike the right balance; ensuring that you game responsibly, while maintaining a healthy body and mind. This can be quite a challenge. Imposing time limits and a schedule upon gaming takes discipline. We live in a world were self-regulation and denial are frequently avoided and in some quarters even frowned upon. Some people seem content to embrace their cognitive dissonance, rather than address it. Unfortunately it is the gamers that fall victim of their own excesses, that always seem to grab the headlines and shape the wider public perception of gaming.
However it is not all doom and gloom and we should take time to focus on the positive benefits that gaming can have upon your life and personal well-being. Through gaming I have met a wide variety of people from diverse backgrounds. This has been very illuminating and has broadened my personal horizons. We often have friends in real life that mirror our own lifestyles. Gaming can bridge socio-economic divides in ways that other real world activities cannot. Such situations can lead to unlikely friendships and a greater understanding of people who have different points of views and ways of life.
When I first started playing online games, I was initially struck by how many other gamers were dealing with varying degrees of medical, psychological or personal issues. However I have learned since that online gaming is often very beneficial for them. It provides a controlled environment for measured social interaction and a means to build confidence. It can also offer physical and mental therapy, through group activities and simply chatting. Online communities are an invaluable social lifeline for some. The ability to log on and hear a friendly voice can in extreme situations mean the difference between life and death. However it should be noted that the opposite is also true. Sadly online bullying is common and there are predatory individuals who see online gaming communities as acceptable hunting grounds.
Over the years that I’ve greatly benefited from my time spent gaming. I have met a lot of people whose company I enjoy and through my involvement in the wider gaming community, learned a lot of new technical skills that have been transferable to real life. Gaming has also had some negative effects upon me. In recent years I've become self-employed and work from home. This has reduced my levels of exercise and gaming has compounded this further. As a result I am currently embarking upon a personal health plan to get myself back it to shape. So I am playing a little less, attending to my diet and doing more exercise.
Gaming is in many ways is a microcosm of the world we live in, for good or ill. It can teach you things about yourself that have a real world application. From time to time it will remind you that you cannot always succeed or get exactly what you want. It makes you reflect upon what you are good at as well as what you are not. Gaming sometimes plays with a loaded deck, just like life. I may not like all the lessons I’ve been taught but it would be unwise to ignore them. Gaming and personal health do not have to be mutually exclusive. Both can be enjoyed and even work together. Make the right decision and you can enjoy quality gaming along with good health for years to come. The alternative is not so appealing.