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Genese Davis: AMMOnition

Column By Genese Davis on May 30, 2013

As gamers we encounter friends and family who, at times, wonder about the pros and cons of online gaming. They can misunderstand why we are committed to playing certain nights of the week, and make assumptions based on stereotypes. The benefits to playing MMOs are often undisclosed, so it’s helpful to explore more ways to describe those benefits.

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Recently, a few of my girlfriends asked (yet again) why I played online games. They had five reasons why they believed MMOs were detrimental. I jotted down those five statements, crossed out some of the words, and “[inserted]” my own to counter those opinions and suggest ways that MMOs were beneficial:

1.  MMOs Make You A Unsociable Weirdo [Social Hero]

When my girlfriends said that video games are anti-social, I had to ask them to explain. One response: “Well, if you sit in your room playing video games, you’re not going out and meeting new people.” In that moment I knew I had to offer my two cents on the subject. I explained that when we play video games like MMOs, we are constantly meeting new people, and not just in our neighborhoods, but we are meeting new people from all over the world. Video games are one of the most interactive and social forms of entertainment we have available.

Another listener then said, “Well, video games make you look like an unsociable weirdo.” Again I had to give a rebuttal. Video games offer a way for us to become social heroes. Fictional characters like batman and superman don’t have to be left on the comic book page anymore, they can be extended through digital art, and allow players to live the experience. Through video games, players get to experience what it’s like to be needed, what it’s like to save lives, restore trust, and help the public stand up against criminals. Would it be better to spend all of your free time at a bar or watching television? Both of those activities have their pros and cons, too, but video games stand apart as a unique alternative: Instead of taking in empty calories, or watching television programs that imply you’re not good enough and you’ll lose, games teach us that we’re epic and we’ll win. Through games we learn the habits of heroes—our batteries get jumpstarted.

2.  MMOs Make You Lazy [More Proactive]

Next came the statement: “MMOs make you lazy”. To counter, I pointed out how MMOs force players to be the opposite of lazy. When we play collaborative video games like MMOs we are learning an array of new information about art, technology, programming, entertainment, and community. And at the same time we are constantly challenged to solve problems, create strategies, and formulate plans to protect our team. These experiences open up skill sets for building camaraderie and teamwork that in turn can make us more proactive in both our professional and social circles.

And to touch on a more technical and scientific aspect, I added notes about brain scientists like Daphne Bavelier who continue to discuss the power of video games and how much they improve our cognitive functions making us smarter human beings. Communication improves when playing MMOs, as well as our ability to adapt and make quick decisions. These multi-player games constantly challenge players, which improves awareness and cognitive responses simultaneously, and can also open up opportunities for players to utilize these unique skills outside of game-play, too! I found that after playing MMOs I was even more of an active listener. While playing an MMO, it is paramount that you maintain eagle-eye awareness and that you are always ready to help your team.

3.  MMOs Build Up Your Ego [Self-Esteem]

Building self-esteem or maintaining a sense of confidence can be difficult. Self-doubt is one of the most profound and detrimental human struggles. Thankfully, MMOs open the door for players to build confidence. When you turn on your game, you are the hero. By surrounding ourselves with positive affirmations, we are going to feel better. And when we feel better, our positive attitude will translate into positive behavior in both our professional and personal lives. Storylines in video games empower us to believe in ourselves and constantly reaffirm our importance in the mission. As players, we will often hear statements like, “We couldn't have won without you,” “Good work!” “Thank you so much,” and “You saved us!” MMOs offer crucial validation and give players the means to enhance their lives.

4.  Life is Better [With]out MMOs

When one of my friends made the statement that life was better without MMOs, I quickly had to offer the opposite perspective. Every once in a while we all get that overworked, overtired, and underpaid feeling. Impossible demands take their toll. Students face peer pressure in school. Professionals starve for feedback in the workplace, and at home, stress feeds negativity. It is easy to blame the things around us when life gets hectic. But hobbies like playing MMOs are often not the cause of stress but the reliever of it. It might be easy to observe someone playing a video game and misinterpret that action as apathy. However, it’s important to remember that all humans need time to unwind, because when we relax our minds have the chance to process our daily stress and to rejuvenate. Video games offer relaxing entertainment that can help reduce stress. They offer a way to explore, create, and imagine—which is not something adults get to do that often.

5.  [Anything] MMOs Can Be Addictive

The statement that MMOs are addictive is a popular one, but one that I wanted to revise. I suggested that it’s important to remember that people who have addictive behavior can get addicted to anything: Alcohol, TV, drugs, movies, adopting pets, shopping, caffeine, sugar… if a person over indulges in anything they could potentially become addicted. Does that mean that no one should ever bite into a morsel of chocolate again or pour a glass of chardonnay? Of course not. We hear all the time that a glass of wine with dinner is healthy, but too many glasses will garner addictive behavior. The point is: the same idea applies to video games. Playing video games before or after work improves cognitive ability and can be a very healthy activity. Video game players develop a heightened sensitivity to what is going on around them, they develop skills in multi-tasking, driving, reading, and navigation, plus gamers find improvement in their eyesight and decision-making skills.

When you encounter friends or family who ask about MMOs and whether or not they are detrimental, what kind of “aMMOnition” do you use to share your perspective?

I love hearing from you—let’s connect! Find me at GeneseDavis.com and on Facebook and Twitter. Until then: Game on, and Lark Your Life. <3

Every week, Holder’s Dominion author Genese Davis opines about MMO gaming, the issues the genre faces, and the power of shaping online worlds.


Check out more columns by Genese: Interactive Storytelling Evolution, Transcending MMOs with Transmedia, The Trailer, A Guild Management Suggestion Box

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