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Everyone knows that a voluntary stint with a not-for-profit organisation looks great on your CV. And if you’ve spent the past seven years flipping burgers at your casual job that’s a sure fire way to demonstrate your ability to commit. But have you ever wondered what your penchant for video games says about you? You may be surprised.
Dr Nic Droste and Dr Richelle Mayshak, from the School of Psychology at Deakin, are keen to counter fears that all modern gaming leads to addiction. In fact, when balanced with other pursuits, gaming is a hobby that has potential to enhance your life and contribute to your employability.
‘There are so many positive aspects to gaming now,’ says Dr Mayshak. ‘People can learn new skills, they can make new friends, they can develop their reaction time and other cognitive abilities. And if you’re really good you can enter e-sports.’
While career openings for professional video game players are few and far between, there are a number of ways that gaming may help your future prospects. And it’s not just about career options in the gaming industry, software development and animation. The reach of gaming experience is broader than that.
Dr Mayshak says some career counsellors in the US are using their student’s preferences in gaming as a way to find things that they particularly enjoy, which makes it easier to direct them towards a career they will find fulfilling. ‘Maybe if they like building things they might be into engineering and if they’ve been playing Sim City non-stop something like city planning may be a path for them. Gaming might actually lead to some really good outcomes.’
For previous generations, gaming used to mean sitting alone in front of the heater with a Nintendo 64 and a pixelated TV screen but times have changed significantly.
‘The online connectedness makes the social aspect of gaming real and powerful and that can make it more compelling and can draw people in,’ says Dr Droste. ‘There can be cross over between the player’s real world and the gaming world if they’ve got friends and peers who also play the game.’
Dr Mayshak agrees: ‘Connectedness really is such a big part of gaming at the moment. You now jump into a friend’s game and they’re already half way through. You chat with them in real time, you have team strategies, you meet new people and you develop crucial social and team work skills.’
'People can learn new skills, they can make new friends, they can develop their reaction time and other cognitive abilities.'
Dr Richelle Mayshak,
School of Psychology, Deakin University
If you’re thinking of becoming a doctor, it’s possible that the fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination developed through gaming may be an asset. One study found that surgeons who had played video games for at least three hours per week at some point in their past had superior skills performing surgeries such as laparoscopy compared to those who had never played video games.
So, why is this so? Well, gaming has the capacity to grow your brain. This growth appears to happen specifically in the areas responsible for spatial navigation, memory formation, strategic planning and fine motor skills. And the good news is, you’d be hard pressed to find a career where strengths in these areas were not useful.
Researchers are also interested in how these positive benefits to the brain could contribute to improved health across a lifetime. There is mounting evidence that video games can be used to reduce pain and treat mental health conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which is known to shrink certain parts of the brain. Gaming may build emotional resilience, promote relaxation and ward off anxiety. Studies also show a propensity to reverse cognitive decline. In fact, some older people are taking up gaming as a way to stay young.
We don’t suggest you ignore the risks around gaming addiction disorder. But the next time you hear someone hypothesise that modern video games have an exclusively negative impact, consider it might be more hype than reality.
Dr Droste says we’ve seen the hysteria before. ‘Before Fortnite it was Pokemon Go and before that it was Angry Birds all the way back to Pacman and Doom in the nineties which everyone was talking about and saying it was the downfall of society.’
So, feel safe to pair a moderate amount of time spent gaming with a healthy, active lifestyle and enjoy the many cognitive and social benefits that may help you build your career.
Fancy yourself developing your own games one day? Find out what a career as a software developer is really like.
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