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If you were a child of the 80s or 90s, you might remember your parents telling you of the horrible consequences of playing video games. They’ll rot your brain they said, that your eyes will go square from staring at the screen, and more fantastical warnings of how video games would ruin your life. If you’re on the younger side, your parents might be a bit more accepting. They’ll at least understand the joy of a relaxing day playing some mobile games, or maybe they’re being a little too pushy with those Facebook invites themselves. However, as we approach a new decade of the 2020s, gaming as an activity has never been more accepted or promoted, not only as a hobby, but for health reasons and even as a career choice.
It’s not a ‘loner nerd thing’ anymore
Gaming was always deemed a “nerdy” thing. You sit at home alone playing video games all day, not talking to anyone and being antisocial. Us gamers know that’s not true, we hung out with friends all the time, played multiplayer matches, and had LAN parties, but the idea of it from an outside perspective was that we sat in a darkened room being depressed and stayed unhealthy. People (mostly) don’t think like that anymore.
Gaming for everyone
The average gamer is over 30 years old. Guys, gals, adults, kids, and older people are all gaming in some form. Sure, not everyone is playing DOOM or competing in Dota 2 tournaments, but casual gaming like Plants vs Zombies, Candy Crush, and Pokémon Go opened up gaming to everyone, and now, it’s not even rare to see families game together.
Art for games’ sake
The question of whether video games constitute art was a big debate, but the consensus is generally a “yes” today. There are straight up National Video Game Museums in the world now and interactive media is just a part of the exhibits. Even when you’re checking out some ancient history or classical paintings, there’s often a screen or projector nearby that you can play with that are like minigames.
Video Games As A Career
Video making & live streaming
Probably the most obvious and feasible career path is to live stream on a platform like YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, or Mixer and try to entertain and educate people about video games. You can make a living creating gaming content through ads, subscriptions and donations, and although not everyone is going to be a megastar, it’s very possible to earn a basic to decent living doing this. Just five years ago, platforms like Twitch didn’t even exist and getting into it was technically complicated. Today, you can just press “stream” on your phone and you’re live. If you’re interested, I’ve written multiple articles about this:
1. Turning a passion into a career
2. The daily life of a creator
3. Sacrifices made to become a YouTuber
Esports are primed for the Olympics
The debate of whether gaming is art is kind of settling down. Is gaming a sport? Well, that’s a whole other argument. The Olympics used to have non-physical competitions with events like chess and even poetry writing. Way back in the annals of history, athleticism was more a part of culture, so cultural endeavours were expected at the Olympics, too. It’s not like that today though, as everything’s pretty physical. So, can gaming be introduced as an Olympic sport? It’s not guaranteed, but it’s a serious contender and consideration. It’s also reassuring to know that even outside of the Olympics, there are numerous tournaments, competitions and challenges where you can take your pro skills in a video game and have a career that pays the bills. Obviously, you gotta be really good, though.
Business is booming!
Everything around gaming is a practical gold rush. You can design gaming inspired shirts and merchandise on services like Design By Humans and Teespring and sell them to the world. You can paint your favourite video game character and sell prints on DeviantArt. You can have a gaming podcast or find a job writing about video games (like this article). It’s now the time of the 4th Industrial Revolution and just recently, Google found e-commerce in Southeast Asia to be exploding. Us gamers can tap into the new global market too, turning our passion for gaming into business. It doesn’t even matter if your family or friends don’t enjoy gaming, because your customers can still be from all over the world. If you love gaming, there are now more avenues than ever before to find a job, and the best part is, people are paying for it.
Gaming In Schools
Addiction! Violence! Truancy!
Back in the 90s, playing video games was deemed a pure distraction from studies. It was a social ill — an epidemic of cybercafé goers plagued our education — causing kids to fail exams and ruin their lives. Turns out, video games weren’t really the cause of those downfalls, and in fact, can actually help.
Video game addiction is real, WHO classified it as such, but as they say it “affects only a small proportion of people“ and enjoying video games doesn’t mean you’re addicted to them. Video games categorically do not make people violent. Study upon study has disproved this notion. Finally, there’s the accusation of video games causing kids to skip school! Honestly, has there ever been a generation in history that didn’t have kids who wanted to skip school? That’s down to discipline and parental issues. When kids want to skip school, they’ll do it with or without video games being involved. If you’re a parent, you should totally limit your kid’s gaming hours, but this isn’t just about gaming either. Kids can watch too much YouTube, overuse social media, or eat too much chocolate. Talk to your child and agree on some schedules.
(Also, I can imagine some parents questioning my credentials for providing parental advice. As a reference, I used to work as a school teacher and taught hundreds of kids for years, with my degree specialising in digital pedagogy.)
Gaming can be a healthy activity
People have been so fixated on the unhealthiness of video games that they completely ignore its benefits. Drinking eight cups of coffee for lunch is most likely bad for you, but a cup of coffee a day has been shown to improve health in humans and even in cats. The same can be said about video games … though cats might have issues handling a controller.
Watch that ad for the Switch above. It’s a perfect depiction of how perceptions of health and gaming have changed. Video games are good for relaxation and mental health. Stressful day at work? Going through a tough breakup? That sucks. Some people smoke, others drink, sometimes worse. Playing video games can help take your mind off things and let you chill out for a while before figuring out what you need to do. I’d recommend Stardew Valley in such scenarios.
They are also good for your brain and hand-eye coordination. There are even studies that show video games can even help with those suffering from brain function deterioration, whether from old age or something more serious like Alzheimer’s disease.
Of course, social benefits are not to be forgotten. Cooperation and teamwork are a huge part of gaming, and although we might be more familiar with angry, salty and toxic gamers, those are usually only the random people you encounter online. If you and a bunch of friends get together to play video games, it’s a fun and healthy activity that strengthens your personal relationships and helps you make new friends, too. Here are some I would recommend if you don’t know what games to have on hand for your next party.
Esports school clubs are a real thing
You read that right! Gaming is starting to be taken seriously by education ministries and could become a norm in schools. You won’t need to play truant and cruise the cybercafés anymore — just sign up for esports as your co-curricular activity and play after school in a classroom. Obviously, it’s not just randomly gaming. Health, social and educational benefits would be paired with the programs, but it’s a very real idea of combining education and gaming for the benefit of the younger generation. There’s already a school testing this in Indonesia, and Malaysia could be next.
Just Like Anything Else
At the end of the day, video games are just a new form of media, like magazines, cinema, radio and TV. It’s a new platform that we can integrate into our lives for fun and work, and if we ignore the judgement of those who refuse to change their minds, you can find joy and full-on careers in the video game industry. There have never been this many people who understand and enjoy gaming at this point. And in all likelihood, they could be your friends, gaming buddies, business partners or customers, so, that means more games to play and actual real-life opportunities to turn into a lifestyle.
How do you feel as a gamer? Do you think being a gamer is becoming more accepted?
This is a guest post and the views expressed here are the author’s own.