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Subject: Can Playing Games Be Good (or Bad) for You? rss

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p55carroll
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We often talk about the fun we have with games (or the fun we wish we were having but aren't for one reason or another), but we don't often discuss the benefits of game playing. Here's an exchange between "clearclaw" and me from another thread, which seems (to me, anyway) to deserve a thread of its own:

Patrick Carroll wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:
What kind of value are you contrasting with "the emotional value" you mention?


Learning, exploration, discovery, exercise and other like things.

Quote:
Would you play a game just because it afforded you the opportunity to manipulate the system and win, even if it made you feel bad to play it?


Yes, in a heart beat.

Quote:
If you don't love the game--if you're not having fun--why play it?


Because it offers me the opportunity to think and view things in different ways than I had before, to observe and manipulate patterns I'd not considered, to learn, to grow, to compete.


Interesting. So, it's not enough for a game to feel good; it has to be good for you. And if it's good for you, it doesn't even matter if it feels bad.

Kinda the way some people think of food: junk food may taste good and give you some short-term gratification, but it the long run too much of it will ruin your health; so it's best to eat for the sake of nutrition, not just pander to your palate.

I wonder if there are "junk" games and "nutritious" games. Probably. But it would vary, I guess, from one individual to another according to his specific needs.


What do you think? Are some games better for us than others? Do you play games to get certain benefits? Can you think of good (or bad) reasons to play games besides just that they're fun?

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Paul DeStefano
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Re: Can Games Be Good (or Bad) for You?
Sure, some games have benefits. Wargames teach geography.

And many fantasy games teach misogyny.

They can be good and bad just like books or TV.
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Marvin
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Re: Can Games Be Good (or Bad) for You?
Geosphere wrote:
Sure, some games have benefits. Wargames teach geography.

And many fantasy games teach misogyny.

They can be good and bad just like books or TV.


Not just those things. It teaches you how to connect several aspects of a whole. It teaches you how to form strategies when confronted with other actions. It makes you interact with other players both in the game and at the table. You get to talk with people (something most people frown upon while watching TV )

And while it may not always teach you things that you can use in daily life, it surely isn't bad for you.

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Matthew Kloth
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Re: Can Games Be Good (or Bad) for You?
I'm a game designer (nothing published yet), and I've played a massive number of games that I didn't like. Some I knew I wouldn't like before I even played. I feel compelled to learn game mechanics, and often that requires me to actually play the game so I get a full knowledge of what the mechanic does for the game.

I've also played games because they where the least shitty option available. I'd probably play Munchkin or Zombies!!! if I was trapped in an elevator for 3 days (but short of that probably not).
 
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Re: Can Games Be Good (or Bad) for You?
Depending on your POV;

Wargaming will either make you into a bloodthirsty Neo-Fascist SS wannabe, or into a considerate Peace Appreciating Strategist with deep insight.

----------------

In all things moderation, as they say. Too much gaming will burn you out, just like anything else. Not enough, and you get antsy and irritated. forlorn and nostalgically hollow.

 
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Josh Harrelson
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Re: Can Games Be Good (or Bad) for You?
As a future school teacher, I have seen that board games can benefit people in many ways. Schools are trying to have more of a focus on teaching students problem solving and critical thinking skills. This is something that I believe board games do a great job at. They give you practice at analyzing information in order to make the best decision that will help you achieve your goal. Board games are about evaluating, synthesizing, creating, social communication, and infering. These are things that you need to survive in an academic world and the real world. The cool thing is that most of the time we forget that we are exercising our brain while we play board games because they are fun!
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p55carroll
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Re: Can Games Be Good (or Bad) for You?
EuroHobbes wrote:

And while it may not always teach you things that you can use in daily life, it surely isn't bad for you.


Surely? What about excessive escapism? "Johnny's always in his room playing that fantasy game with his friend. I wish he'd break that habit and start doing something productive."

Or gambling addictions? "Martha blew the rent money on the slot machine again."

Or misplaced heroism: "I may be a dork and a wimp in so-called 'real life,' but I rule at Warhammer!"

I would think there are lots of ways games can be bad for you.

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Jon W
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Re: Can Games Be Good (or Bad) for You?
Patrick Carroll wrote:
I would think there are lots of ways games can be bad for you.

But can they possibly be worse for you than navel-gazing?

Discuss.
 
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Re: Can Games Be Good (or Bad) for You?
I'm sure there are many people who spend way too much money in boardgames for their wallet. That's bad.
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Anthony Simons
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Re: Can Games Be Good (or Bad) for You?
Patrick Carroll wrote:
EuroHobbes wrote:

And while it may not always teach you things that you can use in daily life, it surely isn't bad for you.


Surely? What about excessive escapism? "Johnny's always in his room playing that fantasy game with his friend. I wish he'd break that habit and start doing something productive."

Or gambling addictions? "Martha blew the rent money on the slot machine again."

Or misplaced heroism: "I may be a dork and a wimp in so-called 'real life,' but I rule at Warhammer!"

I would think there are lots of ways games can be bad for you.



But then it's not really the game at all.

Somebody who is going to be an addict at gambling is prone to be an addict at something else if you take the gambling away.

Somebody who would consider constant victory at Warhammer a praiseworthy achievement would think the same if they were answering the questions from quiz shows, or doing The Times crossword.

Somebody who spends the bulk of their time poring over FRPG rules would do something just as unproductive if they weren't doing that.

In short, it isn't the game that is bad for you, it's your whole psychological approach to it. I think I often allow gaming to take up too much of my life, but it takes me away from the stress and trials of "normal" life enough that I can relax a bit more and cope with those stressors.
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tim Tim TIm TIM TIMMY!!
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Re: Can Games Be Good (or Bad) for You?
I play games to forget about a tough day I had or I have coming up.

For me I can forget any problems when I am gaming because I enjoy it so much, so it is very good for me. I find myself trying to find strategy to even a so so game, so it can be fun playing a bad game if your thinking of how to.

I think you can learn a lot of skills from games, resource management comes to mind?


 
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Virginia Milne
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Re: Can Games Be Good (or Bad) for You?
In Korea I have heard some women claim to be "Go widows" just as some women in other countries claim to be "Golf widows".
 
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Re: Can Games Be Good (or Bad) for You?
fellonmyhead wrote:

In short, it isn't the game that is bad for you, it's your whole psychological approach to it. . . .


Fair enough. Then I'll rename this thread for clarity: "Can Playing Games Be Good (or Bad) for You?" It's what I meant in the first place; obviously a game is just a game until it's put to use.

 
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waddball wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:
I would think there are lots of ways games can be bad for you.

But can they possibly be worse for you than navel-gazing?

Discuss.


Off the top of my head, I'd say it can be a good thing to put some attention on what's beneficial (or possibly destructive) about playing games--i.e., to do more than just shrug moronically and say, "Uh, gee, I dunno . . . I guess I just play games cuz they're so fun."

At the other extreme, I suppose it can be a terrible waste of time to dwell too much on the whys and wherefores of games, life, the universe, and everything. A person who does that is liable to end up like me. blush

As to navel-gazing per se, I'm not sure what the tie-in is. Navel-gazing is "useless or excessive self-contemplation" (Webster's). Are you saying game playing might be a good alternative to that? Or just telling me to shut up and go play some games or something for my own good?

 
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Paul Whittenhall
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Playing boardgames can be very good. As stated by others it gets people together. They talk to each other. It teaches kids, and some adults, social skills. You can learn strategy, math skills, reading skill, negotiations, and many other skills that will help in life.
The one bad thing I can see about boardgames is going broke buying all the games you want.
 
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Jeff Brown
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Problem solving, pattern recognition, long term planning, strategizing, are a few of the many skills that I have improved since starting playing games.

I teach life skills classes in high school and sometimes I wish all of my kids were boardgame players so I could build on some of the things learned in boardgames.
 
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There's a guy that spends all his free time teaching chess to inner city kids. His reasoning is simple - it teaches you that good decisions matter. For many kids, life has given them so many hard knocks that they get to the point where they don't believe their decisions matter. In chess, the player who makes the best decisions wins. By teaching the kids to play chess and play it well, they learn this important life lesson.

He's apparently had very good results with this - most of the kids he teaches end up going on to college and leading meaningful, productive lives.

So yes, I think games can be good for you. They can teach you about decision-making, money management, resource management, time management, hand-eye co-ordination, pattern recognition, math skills, social skills, all sorts of things.

And yes, this would also mean that some games are better than others. The card-game "War" is not going to teach you much about making good decisions. It might teach you some basic math skills though (i.e. what numbers are bigger than other numbers.) But overall, even if my kid thought "War" was fun, I'd probably push him or her towards other games that will develop more abilities better.
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Jeff Brown
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Too much boardgame playing can be bad for you because of opportunity cost.
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James Palmer
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jeff brown wrote:
Too much boardgame playing can be bad for you because of opportunity cost.


One could say the same thing about doing anything that -isn't- boardgaming. ;-)
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Anthony Simons
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
fellonmyhead wrote:

In short, it isn't the game that is bad for you, it's your whole psychological approach to it. . . .


Fair enough. Then I'll rename this thread for clarity: "Can Playing Games Be Good (or Bad) for You?" It's what I meant in the first place; obviously a game is just a game until it's put to use.



That wouldn't make a difference to the answer, Patrick; it isn't playing the game that's bad for you.
 
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fellonmyhead wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:
fellonmyhead wrote:

In short, it isn't the game that is bad for you, it's your whole psychological approach to it. . . .


Fair enough. Then I'll rename this thread for clarity: "Can Playing Games Be Good (or Bad) for You?" It's what I meant in the first place; obviously a game is just a game until it's put to use.



That wouldn't make a difference to the answer, Patrick; it isn't playing the game that's bad for you.


Well, if you want to split hairs, you're saying it's one's approach to playing games. But I ain't renaming the thread again. I think that's implied in the current subject line.

There's no physical object in the world that's always good or always bad. Nor is there any activity in the world that's always good or always bad. Those things go without saying.

The question here is, Can we identify some good (beneficial) or bad (destructive or counterproductive) aspects or approaches to game playing?

As "clearclaw" says in the original post, it can be worth playing a game that's good for you even if you don't have any fun playing it. Does anyone else play games that aren't fun, just because they see a benefit in playing?

Conversely, some people might play games just because they're fun, even though they're harming themselves in some way by playing them (or just missing out on benefits they might otherwise get from playing different games or playing in a different way). Do you know of anyone like that?

Those are the questions I'm trying to address here.

 
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
Does anyone else play games that aren't fun, just because they see a benefit in playing?


I do. Sometimes I'll play a party game even though I generally dislike that type of game, just because I'm too reclusive a person and need to lighten up and socialize sometimes.

I also make myself play games like chess (vs a computer AI) just for the mental exercise, because my emotions often get in the way of logic, and I figure it's good to discipline myself to be coolly logical sometimes.

Someday I may even have to try Diplomacy or some other negotiation game again. It's not my forte, and I've had nothing but bad experiences with that game. But maybe that means I have something to learn from it.


Quote:
Conversely, some people might play games just because they're fun, even though they're harming themselves in some way by playing them (or just missing out on benefits they might otherwise get from playing different games or playing in a different way). Do you know of anyone like that?


Probably me--and maybe my wife too. We both get hooked on computer games sometimes, and we'll remain absorbed in them for hours on end. And while it may be fun, it's also an escape. To some extent, we're probably evading responsibilities during those times. It's not necessarily bad; maybe there's something we're just not ready to face up to, and we need to "hide" awhile before we can take action. But if we let it go too far, I could see it getting in the way of living a satisfying and productive life.

For me personally, games have always been a comfortable refuge. In my teen years, it was wonderful to lose myself in a wargame and tune out all the social stress of day-to-day life for a couple hours. And even today, I still like to have a game set up in my den, so I can just get immersed in it at the end of a long, hard day.

It can backfire on me, though, if I choose the wrong game for the purpose. If I decide to play chess or something, it's liable to turn into more work than play; and then I'm more frustrated than ever--having to deal with knottier challenges than I have to face in real life.

 
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I don't usually play a game I know I won't like, mostly because I feel that games, as a recreational activity, are something I should have fun at. That said, I do sometimes play a game I don't like several times to make sure I don't like it. I also study games I don't like if I find a particular mechanic or system in use that I think will teach me something, but I rarely play it much at that point.

I do however, see there are a ton of benefits to playing board games. There are also a ton of disadvantages that are possible, so let me make a list or two.

Pros of Boardgaming (In General):

thumbsup Mental Exercise. The thinking you do while gaming can drastically improve your problem solving, critical thinking, and math skills.
thumbsup Social Interaction. Games pretty much require you to spend face-time with other human beings, and cause you to interact with them in a very different way than watching TV with friends or playing video games online does.
thumbsup Unplugging. You spend enough hours looking at video screens. Boardgames give you a chance to get away from electronics.
thumbsup Important Life Skills. Board games teach young players important concepts like Sportsmanship, Waiting your Turn, and fair play. Higher level gaming experience also gives them ideas on how to interact with their peers constructively, for example, to talk out a problem rather than to just get angry.
thumbsup Inexpensive. If you take boardgames in moderation and don't overextend your dollars, board games provide a lot of enjoyment for very little money compared with other hobbies or activities, particularly going to bars or the movies, or messing around with automobiles.


General Cons of Boardgaming:

thumbsdown Money. As with any hobby, board games have a tendancy to drain a wallet. People tend to buy games just because they can, even if the overall value of boardgames is pretty high.
thumbsdown Lack of Activity. Boardgames are, by nature, usually played sitting. While some games offer some physical activity, particularly dexterity games, most games are unhealthy as you spend a lot of time not moving very much.
thumbsdown Obsessiveness. Hobby gamers can spend a LOT of time with games, even when not playing them. Reading rules, researching games, or posting long, well thought-out lists of pros and cons on boardgame websites with little to no hope anyone will read them. This is time invested that can not be gotten back.
thumbsdown Opportunity Cost. Board Games sometimes take up time that should be used for other activities, like working, socializing, spending time with a loved one, or exercising.
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
Someday I may even have to try Diplomacy or some other negotiation game again. It's not my forte, and I've had nothing but bad experiences with that game. But maybe that means I have something to learn from it.
There is nothing good to learn from Diplomacy. It can only harm you, not help you.
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I think that the problem is not the playing of the games it is money that you spend on the games for some of the bigger box games are now 80-90USD.

Though some of the games for kids do teach them to conserve their resources and not blow it all at once for gratification.

Arkham Horror teaches you to work together even though you know in the end it is hopeless and you will go insane anyways.

Diplomacy teaches you to break every deal you ever make and that lying will always get you ahead.

Nuclear War teaches you that in the end you all lose. Oh, it also shows you how to make change for 25 million people.
 
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