Why it’s OK That my Husband Plays Video Games

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McGonigal’s  list of 10 positive emotions from video games

I used to worry that my husband’s video game addiction hobby was bad for his health. That is, until I was inspired by a presentation at CDMN’s Canada 3.0 conference last week.

Jane McGonigal, a world-renowned game designer and advocate for the positive impact of video games believes that games can help people achieve heightened emotions such as joy, contentment, a sense of awe and wonder, creativity and pride in achieving a new skill. As a result, these emotions spill over into other aspects of a gamers’ life and inspire them to become “more ambitious, feel a sense of positive momentum and make them want to keep trying to push even further” in their careers, etc.

During her keynote on day one of the Canada 3.0 2013 conference, McGonigal discussed how video games breed “super-engaged, hopeful individuals.” She said that video games have been proven to “outperform pharmaceuticals for treating anxiety and depression.” Apparently, the prescription is just “thirty minutes of gaming per day.”

To demonstrate that games create a positive state of mind, she challenged the Canada 3.0 audience to a “massively multi-player” game of thumb war. We all had to stand up, cross arms and simultaneously play thumb war with both hands with other members in the audience. The game had everyone laughing and smiling at each other while McGonigal explained that our brains were now wired to want to help the person sitting next to us because we had just played together – a great opportunity for networking!

She also described how she developed a video game to motivate youth in Ghana to create global solutions related to local social challenges. Touted as a “crash course in saving the world,” the game was called Evoke and taught gamers new skills such as entrepreneurship and sustainability. It attracted over 20,000 local gamers and some of the ideas inspired by the game received funding to launch in the real world. One example was a for-profit model (selling snacks, electronics and more) that would fund a new library in a local village.

McGonigal’s presentation was so motivational that it made me wonder if I should actually be encouraging my husband, and possibly my son (when he’s old enough) to play more video games. That is, provided that the games are somewhat positive and/or educational in nature and that they (my husband and son) don’t completely forget that I’m in the room.

In fact, McGonigal had me so convinced of the many benefits of video games that I’ve decided it’s time that I give gaming a try. After all, I’m a new mom who is constantly trying to stay mentally sharp and creative while on maternity leave. My husband couldn’t be more delighted by my sudden approval of his favourite pastime. He is now thoughtfully scrutinizing his video game library to figure out which game to teach me first. We’ll see how it goes.

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