Self-Care Challenge (Day 101): Playing Games

Skee BallSkee-Ball brings back childhood memories of excitedly counting out tickets to redeem cheap prizes at Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Looking back, I can’t even remember what any of the trinkets were, but I can still remember how fun the game was to play.

Imagine my delight when I noticed the bright lights of several Skee-Ball machines lighting up a wall at a local bar in Austin. I immediately turned into a 7-year-old child. (Ironically, there actually was a Zoltar machine there too!)

After playing a few games (decidedly not as well as the days of my youth), I sat down and watched. Several other contenders of various ages approached the leaning targets to try their hand, eventually taking a seat to have a drink. 

Games force us to take a break, have a little fun and connect with friends. Whether you enjoy simple board games, video games or games that involve high levels of skill, usually there isn’t much at stake except bragging rights. But there appears to be some health benefits to playing games too.

Most of the research to date related to the use of video games has focused on the negative outcomes, but a 2014 study published in American Psychologist points to several potential benefits. The study suggests that there are cognitive, motivational, emotional and social benefits tied to playing video games. 

For example, gamers have been shown to have enhanced spatial skills, which has been tied to greater achievements in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. (I’m starting to see a strong correlation here with my husband.) Likewise, increased problem-solving abilities have been identified. This may explain why many gamers are able to arrive at solutions more quickly. From an emotional standpoint, gaming has also been associated with positive feelings and reduced levels of anxiety.

While there are still many valid concerns related to games, such as the risks associated with inactivity, addiction and aggressive behavior, some interesting benefits are beginning to emerge.    

What games to you enjoy playing?

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