As gamers I think we have so much potential for changing the world. I actually, legitimately do. The more I think about gaming the more convinced I am that it’s a great metaphor for the world – there are different people from different countries, ethnicity’s, backgrounds, financial situations, and preferences interacting on a daily basis. We meet up in online chats for all sorts of games and we experience this thing we love together. And that, I think, gives us a positive advantage over so many other people. The skills we learn while gaming can help, to use a bit of a cliche, make the world a better place. Here are 5 reasons why I truly believe that:
Gaming online can help with positive social interaction:
When you interact with someone new it can be daunting, intimidating, and unfamiliar. It’s so much easier to bond with people who enjoy the same things you do and who, frankly, you don’t have to look in the eye when you chat. Instead of using online chat and online gaming as a toxic dumping grounds of sadness try using it to build positive social interaction. Treat it like you would if that person where sitting right next to you gaming, instead of sitting 600 miles or more away. Talk, be kind and understanding, helpful instead of hurtful. Take the opportunity to instruct in a positive way instead of criticizing and bond over the fact that you both love playing as D.Va. This will translate to how you treat people offline, as well. The kindness we show becomes a part of us and helps mold our interactions everywhere. We, because we are with people who love the same things we do, have a unique opportunity to encourage and uplift! Let’s try and make someone’s day just a bit better by being a person worth knowing.
Games can help us understand other cultures:
I love how much I learn about Japanese culture when I play JRPGs. Or the minor insights I get when I read bio’s on Overwatch. It incites my curiosity and makes me want to actually learn more about the real cultures! I don’t know about you guys, but I see that kind of infectious appetite to learn about the people and cultures that are deep within our games all around me. Learning about others helps us become more tolerant of them, more accepting of who they are, and less critical of why they choose to be certain ways. So take a leaf out of your own book and go learn about other people, both on and off screen. Ask someone in chat about why their name is unfamiliar. Read up on why a particular animation was used for a particular game. Learn something new and I bet it’ll make you love not only your game, but also those people, a lot more!
Games can help break down prejudice toward other preferences and points of view:
I love that the entire Zelda franchise has no qualms about inter-race relationships. Ruto, princess of the Zora’s in Ocarina of Time, falls in love with Link, a Hylian. A Hylian and a Gerudo wind up getting married in Breath of the Wild. Nintendo acts like it’s no big deal – and it isn’t. There are so many subtle and not-so-subtle points in a story that can help break down social barriers against any kind of prejudice. This includes sexual preference, gender identity, religious beliefs, and cultural “norms”. Everyone in the games get along based on a scale of good and evil, not a scale of differences. These messages are ingrained in us from childhood (those of us who grew up gaming) and are something we can easily translate from the screen to the real world. Lets become more like these characters and become more accepting, loving, and kind toward others. Because what they identify as or what they choose to be should not define whether they are a good person.
Goal setting and goal achieving can help our outlook on life:
Raise your hands if you’ve ever felt better about yourself after completing goal? Me, too. It has some serious motivating power and can help us feel 1,000 times better about how we are doing in our lives. Now, I know this is a mechanic developers use to try and get it hooked but achieving small goals in games can help us achieve goals in real life, too. Whether you are accomplishing a task in a game, at the gym, or at work the feelings of happiness and the endorphin rush are the same. And this motivates you to set and achieve even more goals. It’s a fantastic positive feedback loop. All we need to do is take that high we get when we finish that side quest and, when we turn off the game, use it to finish something else. Finishing that other thing will make you more likely to finish other side quests, or other real life goals. Lather, rinse, repeat and you’re an unstoppable force of awesome.
Stories can positively affect our outlook on the world around us:
How many games do you play that follow this format: some kind of evil took over the world/destroyed it, and now you have to rebuild/figure out what the evil is/fight the darkness threatening the world/etc… Horizon Zero Dawn, any of the Arkham series, and the entire Zelda franchise follow this, along with a myriad of other games. You know what this says to me? The world has been and can again be messed up. But you know what happens when it becomes like this? People step in and clean up the messes. Most of the time these stories involve some kind of destiny surrounding the hero, but not all of them. And that’s great because we, just our regular selves, can affect positive change on our surroundings! We can be the good neighbor who makes someone’s day a little better. We can take small steps to fight the enemies surrounding us and help make the world a more positive place, not more despondent. We should take the lessons we learn in our games and know that the work we do in the real world can make a difference in overcoming the darkness that threatens us.
So let’s do it! Let’s become the positive change we want to see in the world. We’re already being trained with the skills to make a difference because of our love of gaming. Why don’t we use that love and make the world a happier, safer, more accepting place to be.