Become a better you
It doesn't matter who you are--everyone has room for some kind of improvement. And while video games have a reputation for bringing out the worst in people, I say that's total nonsense. We've written articles before about how science proves that games are good your your brain, but there's more to self improvement than synapses.
Social skills, time management, cultural enlightenment... gaming is a wonderful way to expand your horizons. I'm not sure where the dissenters get their information, as I've been playing games for almost 25 years and I've never once been influenced by a video game to physically injure someone. I have, on the other hand, learned to be a better person, and here's how.
They teach you the importance of teamwork
Anyone whos played an online team-based shooter knows the deal. The lone wolf that goes out on their own is often the one who keeps the team from victory. I cant count how many times my friends and I would perform well in a Call of Duty match, only to be submarined by some random, silent jerk we got stuck with.
Theres no I in team, as they say, and playing multiplayer games with team-based modes can drive that point home pretty quickly. I certainly dont want to be the pariah, so Im not going to stray too far from the team. Whats more, theres a certain satisfaction to gain from seeing a teammate in trouble and bailing him out. Just like in every great sports film youve ever seen, being a good team is more important that individual ability.
You learn to deal with harsh consequences (without actually having to deal with them)
Youre stuck in the middle of an attack on your safe house, and two of your friends are in serious trouble. Unfortunately, you only have enough time to save one of them, sentencing the other to instant death. What do you do? Games present us with choices like this all the time, and those choices have real consequences for the rest of the game consequences well have to accept and deal with.
Thats a real life lesson if Ive ever heard one. Everything we do has consequences that we have to face head-on. Choice-based gaming is becoming the same way, locking us into our decisions and making us adapt to whatever those choices mean for the rest of our experience. Some may argue that the moments dont hold any weight, but I disagree; Ive regretted plenty of in-game decisions Ive made, and that regret authenticates the consequences.
They give you exposure to different cultures, along with their myths and legends
No matter where you come from, you probably know more about your place of birth than anywhere else. That makes sense, but Id argue that you might not be as out-of-touch with the rest of the world as you may think. Remember how Looney Tunes exposed you to a bunch of classical music you wouldnt have cared to seek out otherwise? Video games are filled with cultural references too, some completely obvious, others not as in-your-face.
An example of not-so-obvious culture lies in 2012s Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which should have been called Kingdoms of The Emerald Isle with all of the Irish and Gaelic folklore found in it. (Example: Tuatha De Danann is a race of supernaturally gifted people in Irish lore, which would also describe the Tuatha Deohn.) Similarly, Too Human is one giant Norse mythology reference, although those nods are much easier to recognize--though we wouldnt blame you if you didnt know that, because not many people played the game.
They'll help you gain a varied appreciation of music
I cant speak for those who read this, but Im convinced that without game music, my iPod would be filled with the Beatles, Metallica, and WWE wrestler entrances. Video games continue to give me a whole new perception of all kinds of music, and I know Im not alone: how many of you were happy to ignore The Beach Boys until BioShock Infinite gave the pop icons the barbershop treatment? Also, I wouldnt even know who DeVotchKa is if not for the Gears of War 2 commercial with How It Ends, but thats just me.
Video game music might not get any radio play time, but Id bet that the first song many of you tried to play on a musical instrument came from a video game (yes, the Super Mario Bros. theme does count) and not from the Top 40 charts. Im not just talking about musical ability either; nothing gets me going on a treadmill at the gym like The Man With The Machine Gun from Final Fantasy 8, or Zeros theme from Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. Hearing the music of my favorite games has really expanded my musical tastes, and I doubt Im the only one to feel that way.
They can help you with health and fitness
Theres a reason Wii Fit U, EA Sports Active, and Xbox Fitness exist--and why Nintendo has mentioned they're pursuing some kind of "quality of life device" in the future: the world is concerned about health. Your life depends on it, after all, and games have always been a scapegoat for child obesity and unhealthy living habits. However, games have done a decent job at alleviating those old stereotypes, with exercise games at the forefront (and a recent study says that literally any game time can help kids stay healthier).
Games like Just Dance and Dance Central get us up out of our chairs and moving while we play, disguising a workout as a dance party. If you dont want to hide from it, Wii Fit U and Xbox Fitness act as a personal trainer, giving real health tips and teaching real exercises (with some fun games mixed in). And there are also handheld games like Brain Age, Personal Trainer: Cooking, and My Healthy Cooking Coach, which provides recipes from all over the globe to help us with our diets. Game companies are at least acknowledging the health problems of the world with titles like these, laying the groundwork for us to improve our health while still playing games. Thats a win-win.
They focus on the benefits of camaraderie and friendship
Video games, even the single player ones, can be a social tool. I distinctly remember running into school the next day to talk about the big scene in Final Fantasy 7, or to talk about what class I preferred in Tactics Ogre. I recall many a time spending a night at a friends house and staying up to ungodly hours duking it out in Street Fighter, Tekken, or Soul Blade on PS1.
Im not talking about making in-game friends (Ill get to that in a second), either--this is strictly about making friends through video games. Now, with online gaming being so popular, its easier than ever to build a strong friendship with players all over the world, be they WoW guildmates or members of your Titanfall clan. I have a few names on my friend lists that I only know from playing games, yet I play with them more than anyone else. Its the pen pal of the online age, so to speak.
You can learn relationship building skills
Games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age have us talking to our party mates about all sorts of things: the missions, the world, life itself, etc. However, in some instances, the more we talk to certain characters, the more we start to build a relationship with them; one that, if we play our cards right, can blossom into a full-on (video game) romance capped off by an awkward love-making scene or something.
Inept romps aside, choosing the right way to talk to these romantic interests is key to actually making the relationships work, and that carries a higher lesson: by properly talking to people and not being a total jerk, youll be able to successfully build relationships--romantic or otherwise. All it takes is being nice to people, and thats not a hard thing to do.
They help with stress management
I'll be honest: Ive wanted to throw my controller at the television and scream to high heaven many times. That one boss, that one jump, that one obstacle that kept me from reaching my goal quickly became the bane of my existence, the single worst thing to ever exist, and it had to be conquered before I could go on living a sane life.
But, you know what? That gave me one hell of an outlet. After beating that boss, or making that jump, I suddenly felt a surge or relief. I didn't feel like punching a wall because of random thing that happened at work, or screaming into a pillow because someone cut me off on the way home. Having an outlet is important, and video games--especially ones that challenge you--do a good job of providing one.
They can help you learn time management
The time management skills video games can bestow upon us are two-fold: first, the obvious beat the timer tasks that many games put onto us. I dont want that clock to show all zeroes before I complete the task, so Im going to do my damnedest to make sure I complete in the most time-efficient way possible. Dead Rising is particularly good for this, stretching the time limit over three in-game days and adding time-specific events. These teachings can be turned into real-world skills, according to many smart folks.
However, the second not-so-obvious time management lesson involves the real world and finding time to actually play video games in our busy schedules. Between the full-time gig, freelancing, and being married with dogs (not married to dogs, sicko), I barely have time to breathe let alone sit down and enjoy a game. By making sure I clear time on my schedule for me time, my consoles will never go neglected. Of course there will still be the ARE YOU READY YET?! JUST ONE MORE LEVEL SO I CAN SAVE! arguments, but those are... just going to happen.
You can learn better organizational skills
Look in the room around you and take it all in. Id wager that those among you who dont dabble in RPGs with tons of inventory to collect and limited space to hold it are sporting a lot more organization in your real-life belongings than those of us who dont have to worry about keeping a space open for epic loot. Im not the biggest RPG guy, so my office has seen better days: I have one of those RadioShack electric pianos in the dead center of the room, simply because theres nowhere else to put it, and hell if its going anywhere else anytime soon.
Through massive inventory offerings, games teach us that keeping things clean, neat, and organized is much better than allowing everything to get mixed up. When I really need a certain broadsword, it helps to know exactly where that sucker is instead of having to look through the menus to find it. The same goes for real life, as knowing exactly where my 3DS is works much better than digging through papers and the occasional food wrapper to be able to play Pokemon.
Be the best you can be!
See? Playing video games can be an enriching experience for more than just the normal reasons. By following the lessons some games teach, you can become a better all-around person to your friends and peers, which can only mean good things. Video games are in your DNA, so you might as well take all you can from them.
For more GamesRadar goofiness, check out 10 insanely complex video game plots explained (in 10 words) and the top 7 violent games that don't force you to kill.