Gaming Has Positive Effects On Your Health… So Where’s The Hype?

By Sparling Wilson

In class, we have discussed how video games incorporate many different philosophical, artistic, historical, and social issues across their many forms and types. For some games, relaying information or a critique to the player is the end of goal, while others incorporate these elements more subtly to make a deeper and more complex gaming experience. Even first person shooter games incorporate high though, such as Bioshock’s blatant critique of Ayn Rand’s objectivism. However, even games that are not as cerebral can benefit the players.

Heath and mental benefits of these games range. According to Dr. Daphne Bavelier players’ eyes may actually benefit from looking at a screen for hours, improving the ability of people who play most to distinguish gray scale and the definition of objects. She also indicated that playing certain kinds of games have positive effects on people’s ability to multitask and on their attention.

Here is the video, where you can see Dr. Bavelier giving the talk..

Ted Talk On The Benefits of Gaming

This Ted Talker spoke about designing games to be useful for rehabilitation or specific learning purposes, which of course is valid. At the same time, I must offer a critique on her idea, and specifically her presentation of it. While she just spoke about the benefits of playing video games, and most importantly first person shooter games, which have long been considered the most extra-regular of the gaming family (minimal story line, all focused on simple, repeated task of shooting enemies), she just took a major step back and gave a large blow for the gaming community. Sadly, she separates games played for pleasure from games with a practical application. If you watch the video, she spends a great deal of time relaying how these pleasurable games actually do have a practical application, and yet, she does not consider games played for pleasure to be completely as applicable as a game designed with a more scientific purpose.

Personally, I am constantly befuddled at the mainstream community and scientific community to continually write off gaming and gaming culture,  especially after seeing the great deal of high-concept thinking that video games employ. Why can’t we accept that games are a valid form of media, and event at their most basic form, they provide health and mental benefits when used in moderation?

I have come to view gaming as awesome: it incorporates visual art, audible art, narrative, philosophy, history, culture, participates in remediation, and critiques itself, probably more than any other form of media. What’s more, I’ve come to regard it as one of my favorite forms (although I’m still new) because it’s interactive and challenging: I am able to participate in the art and narrative in a way that is unique to gaming.

I guess going back to my previous question about people accepting the validity of gaming in the mainstream, I can relate to the haters. A few months ago, I didn’t really understand much of the hype or the depth that games can possess; I merely thought of gaming as entertainment. My assumption is that as gaming continues to attract more and more followers, both through a diversity of genres and increasing accessibility because of platform integration (hello, mobile games), people will begin to see games as a more valid form of media. As a result, more scientific and sociological research will be done on games, and then, once the artistic and scientific communities fully accept games, the medium will receive the respect it deserves. It is sad that acceptance necessitates this kind of validation, but I really hope that it comes soon.

Form and Function

Admittedly, I am a total newbie when it comes to gaming. Seriously.. I’m the kind of person whose experience with games stops with Mario cart and scoops for my iPhone. So when I jettisoned myself out of reality and into the world of gaming by downloading the game Braid, I was skeptical as to if I would have even the minimal amount of fine motor control to successfully play the game, let alone be able to enjoy it.


Luckily for me, Braid is the kind of game that is totally transformative. I found myself lost in the aesthetic beauty that appeared on the screen as it whisked the hero, Tim, and me to a fictional and imaginative land. It is the very visual appeal of this game that makes all the difference, as well as works in conjunction with the fiction of the game to elevate and transform the narrative.


The backdrop of the game is striking. It’s like being inside one of Monet’s masterpieces. The highly impressionistic setting is important because it lends itself to the creating the element imagination that so many gamers enjoy. I am personally in the camp with the game theorists that believe that the fiction and landscape of the game space are more than just decoration to the game’s rules, but rather are a part of entire gaming experience where form and function come together and help inform one another. I’d like to think that the creator, Jonathan Blow, is too. The game creates a cohesive theme of two-dimensionality within the landscape and the rules of the game that I assume help to enhance the narrative, but I’m not really sure yet. Don’t worry, guys, no spoilers here: it took me many hours and lots of help just to figure out the basics of how to play the game, and I still can’t figure out how to properly utilize the monsters to get more height… However, I assume that when I finally get to the end and have the whole story figured out (I can’t bring myself to read ahead on Wikipedia), this theme of two-dimensionality is going to tie-in some how.


Now, while the visual background to the game is exceedingly exquisite, I can’t get over Tim’s chic and streamlined menswear look. I love how his conservative and prep school-ish ensemble stands in direct opposition of his environment. Where a normal game maker might design a charter’s wardrobe to fit the theme of his surroundings, Tim’s outfit stands in stark contrast of it. However, his navy blazer and khakis don’t pull me out of the game, but rather help me to relate to Tim because he looks just as lost in this game as I feel. But actually, Tim’s outfit gives an ironic sense of realism to a game that plays with the concept of time and looks more like a painting than reality. And with class just starting back, the timing of discovering Tim’s outfit couldn’t be more perfect! With his navy blazer and khakis, he looks so ready to hit the books.


Here, I’ve made this ensemble more ladylike by incorporating my favorite brown leather Christian Louboutin wedges to keep the outfit from looking too masculine. This Brooks Brothers navy wool blazer and white (wrinkle-resistant!) button down and J Crew tailored khakis keep the look true to Tim. Of course, I had to include a braid as a tribute to the game itself. Now that I look the part, maybe I can figure out how to actually win!





-Sparling Wilson

To Go Hard, or Not to Go Hard.


“Hey man, what’re you doing?”


“cnt talk gaming”

This is a typical conversation when I’m gaming.


“Hey man, what’re you doing?”


“Haha just playing some COD.  Gotta love the ballistic knives!”

This is a typical conversation when I’m playing.

The two are vastly different, and for me, there’s no comparison. The best way to relay this to you, however, is to paint a picture.


                The coffee table has been pushed back.  The big leather chair from the corner has been positioned in the perfect position, about 10 feet back from the big screen.  The lights are turned off, the blackout shades are down.  My parents know not to talk to me, and the sound is turned up to glass-shaking levels.  I stretch out my neck, flex my fingers, and pop my Bluetooth mic into my ear.  The gentle orchestral hum of strings sounds out as I fire up the PS3, and I instantly load up Call of Duty: Black Ops.  I impatiently mash the buttons, skipping the intro cinematic.  I jump immediately into the online lobby.  After a thorough check of my settings, I head over to the load-out page.  My best class is still there, Famas with Arctic camo, Red Dot sight, and all the perks are in place.  I choose Hardcore Team Deathmatch and spend the next few hours barking instructions to my teammates, resisting the urge to throw my controller, and coming out on top of the leaderboards.


                I’m lounging on the couch, the sun is shining, the backdoor is open, and there is some nice, relaxing music on the stereo.  I turn on the PS3 and flip through my game collection.  “COD could be fun,” I think, and the disk is soon spinning away in the drive.  I have a nice conversation with my mom as the game loads, and eventually turn back to the TV and hop into online.  I load up my favorite class: sniper rifle with bright orange “camo,” ballistic knives as the secondary.  I set the game mode on random and pop in my mic.  “What’s up guys? Good luck.”  The game begins and I start running around the map, only using my knife.  I’m laughing, talking to my teammates, and my blood pressure is nice and low.  After a few games of screwing around, I’ll back out and join a new game mode.  I don’t get the best scores, but it’s so much fun.

                Sometimes you want to just have a chill time, just forget about your problems, and that’s great.  Sometimes, you want to kick some butt.  And that’s perfectly fine too.  I love to game, but I love to play just as much.  Remember, it’s just a game.  …Most of the time.

-Deathly Hallowed

Gaming vs. Playing: A Life Choice

What is the difference between playing and gaming? What is the difference between a player and a gamer? To me, the difference is the degree to which you commit yourself to the game, how much you make the new reality, your reality. The difference between playing and gaming is what you want to get out of the game, what your end goal is. When playing, you enter the game to forget about reality: let loose and have fun. When gaming, you enter the game to succeed in that alternate reality; you invest in that game in the hopes of winning, doing better than others, being triumphant. In that sense, the same game can be either played or gamed.

Children play a simple game of house because they wish to experience the lives of others they observe. In house, they can invent an alternate life with responsibilities because it is entertaining and different, or they can invent an alternate life because it allows them to have power which they lack in reality. Even though none of it is real, having a more powerful alternate self can be exhilarating for a child who has only known the rules and confines of societal norms.

How do we choose between playing and gaming a particular game? It is nearly impossible not to compare ourselves to others because people are innately competitive; therefore, we are all gamers not players in reality. We strive for success, victory, power. We know what we have because of what others lack. We know what we lack because of what others have. Even if the goal of each person is to find happiness, we only know happiness because we know sadness. Success is subjective and therefore everything is a competition. ‪ We don’t want just an alternate reality or illusion of success like in a game; we strive to attain the real thing.

People say that we are playing this game called life. I would say we are gaming this game called life. Occasionally, we play instead. We forget about the future and enjoy the here and now. We forget about our goals and responsibilities and enjoy tranquility. We forget about what we lack and praise what we have. But in truth, life has a series of levels, a set of steps that people must follow. You can’t get to the next level while sitting around doing nothing in your current one. You can’t get to college without competing against other students. You can’t get a job unless you are better, stronger, and faster than the other applicants. It’s Darwin’s theory of evolution at its finest. Natural selection, you have to compete at the highest level to survive.

So, if we are constantly gaming, why do we feel the need to create alternate realities in which we also game. I believe in games as a release from the stress of every day competition. Real life has enough to worry about, enough success to be sought without entering other realities as a gamer. Power in an alternate reality will not make life easier in this one, so why add the extra pressure? However, the choice to play rather than game is the more difficult one to choose. To force yourself be unconcerned with measuring up to others feels unnatural. It feels like failure, but sometimes it’s just the break we need. All in all, the difference between playing and gaming is simple. Playing is about focusing on the fun and carefree side of a game. It’s about the escape from daily stress. Gaming is about focusing on the competitive nature of games. It’s about finding more success even if it’s fictional. Both allow us to live a different life for a little, it just depends on what type of life we choose to live.


Gaming or Playing?

How many people do you know that consider themselves to be hardcore gamers?  Maybe 5? 10? Any more than that and you’re in a pretty big gaming club, or you’re just a very social MMORPG player. But now consider how many people you know that play video games, even if only a few times a year. That’s a lot more people, isn’t it?

So what is really the difference between the hardcore gamer and the once-a-month player? I will argue that, other than the obvious inequalities in the amount of time spent and likely the skill level (and the severity of Vitamin D deficiency), there is not much difference at all.

When someone turns on a video game, they might play “just for fun” or to “kill some time” or whatever else they can come up with. But once they start playing, they want to win: to get to the next level, to beat the current high score, or to improve their online rankings or develop a new, more effective strategy. In essence, no one continues to play a game only “to play.” They want to win, whether they play once a month or 7 hours a day.

To me, this is the difference between gaming and playing: working toward a goal. As long as someone picks up a controller or stares down a computer screen with the intent of beating some challenge or goal, they are gaming. They are trying to win, to be successful. If they were merely playing, this attempt to beat something would not be present. It would be like playing Call of Duty and not keeping the score in an online match. Players would simply repeat the same tasks over and over again with no goal or challenge in mind, like children playing with sparklers on the 4th of July. There is no goal to watching something give off sparks, but it is entertaining nonetheless.

To sum it all up, gamers play to win and players play to be entertained. So the next time you’re crushing your buddy in HALO, and he says something to the tune of “I’m just playing, don’t be so serious” or whatever lame excuse he comes up with, remind him that if he wasn’t trying to beat you, he wouldn’t care that he was being beat.

Game on, gamers.

Gaming v.s. Playing

We’ve all played before, right? Maybe it was a card game like go fish when we were young, or a game of catch outside with an older sibling. But have we all gamed before? Do you game at Jenga with a younger sibling? What about picking up a controller when your buddies are playing FIFA? Is that gaming?

When do we game?

I’ve seen a friend sit in front of WOW for hours on end before, and he was definitely gaming. But, I’ve dabbled in WOW before, played here and there, and I believe I was just playing. This past summer, when I had some free time, I would play a game or two of Madden. It was a great way to relax, I enjoyed it, always turning of my PS3 satisfied. It was never very challenging, but that’s what I enjoyed about—the big plays and the easy win. My twin brother also played madden this past summer, and he plays on the hardest settings. He knows the NFL inside and out, making my football knowledge seem as if I was one of those girls asking “what is a down?” And when he plays Madden, he yells at the fictional players when they drop a ball and yells encouragement or just straight profanities if the game isn’t going as intended. I’ve seen him walk away from a Madden game crushed, as if he truly did just lose a NFL playoff game. But I’ve also seen him put down the controller so feeling so accomplished that nothing could ruin his day. He games; I play.

In all cases the “player” and the “gamer” both want to win or beat the game they are playing. In the example of my brother an me, we were both playing madden, and trying to win in the same way. But if we look at our relative enjoyment levels from a game in which we both won (but were both losing in the third quarter) but I was playing and he was gaming, it would look like this:

Game enjoyment levels

From my experience (beyond video games) you reap what you sow, you get what you put in. I believe this is the difference between gaming and playing. A gamer is focused in what he is doing, fully engrossed, fully affected by the outcome. A player on the other hand, is playing for leisure, to relax, without the intensity of a gamer. NFL players should be called gamers, but I wouldn’t hold your breath for that change.