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The Understated Benefits of Video Games For Neurodiverse People

Video games. They are fun. But what makes them enjoyable for autistic people in particular? And why do some people get stuck on the downsides when talking about them? Speaking from personal experience, I will explain and share my thoughts about the appeal and benefits of video games.

From The Beginning

The start of the now globally influential video game industry started back in 1972, when Atari released their now well known classic title “Pong”. It may have not technically been the first video game ever, but it was the first ever commercial success for the industry. Since then, video games have been on the rise in popularity across the globe.

So, how did video games avoid getting stuck in the “fad” zone and become one of the most influential industries since home television? The answer… I don’t know for sure, sorry. But I can tell you what I think:

They Were an Exciting New Thing

People born fifty years ago today lived in a time where video games were but a distraction in high class universities and the like. For us millennial folk, they were growing up just in time to see the start of the first era. For them, it was another Tuesday when they heard their friend in school recently got a new “Nintendo” that can play “Mario” on it.

Try to imagine, for a second, being in a world in which the most advanced technology was television. Would it not be the wildest thing conceivable to learn that there’s a new way to press a button connected to your television, but instead of simply changing the channel or raising the volume, a character on the screen responded to your button press? To have your actions influence a world you watch through the rectangular confines of a screen?

The point is, to the people of the 80’s, video games were such a wild concept that their introduction was all that was needed to spark a cultural revolution, which continues into the present.

They Encourage Hand-eye Coordination

Video games are absolutely one of the best platforms for encouraging hand-eye coordination. No matter what video game you play, you’ll always be using your hand-eye coordination, from moving your character around a screen to shuffling puzzle pieces around to even simply navigating menus. But the easiest examples would be games such as Guitar Hero or osu!, as they require fast-paced, precise movements in order to win.

So why is this detail important? Well, it’s because hand-eye coordination is something that appears with high frequency in real life. Sports and art are just two things which necessitate high levels of concentration and awareness. Video games are simply another addition, when it comes down to it.

Playing sports for a long time will help you improve in certain areas, whereas video games will help you improve in others, while still requiring a base minimum level of skill.

They’re Fun to Play

If there’s something I would promote the most about video games, I would make sure this point is my strongest. Video games are perhaps one of the best downtime activities for many years since their introduction, as most are easy to pick up and enjoy during downtime that millions around the world are playing video games when they’re not doing anything else.

Especially now, video games are the most accessible they have ever been to people of all ages, creeds and genders. There are all different kinds of games with different challenging aspects, engaging qualities, or even just a relaxing experience (yes, I am including walking simulators in this statement), which extends the reaches of the video game industry much further than it would have, had it not been for years of innovation and development from video game developers across the globe.

They Foster a Sense of Community

I would personally say I think this point is the second most important point, but in the rankings, it comes close, only marginally behind the fun factor.   

Video games are a platform for interactive controls which manipulate objects on a screen in order to achieve victory. In this line of thinking, what if you could have someone else with another set of controls controlling a different set of objects?

Perhaps they could help you to a shared victory, or they could be your adversary, trying to achieve a victory of their own. Now, halfway through reading that, you might be thinking “well this is obviously talking about multiplayer as a concept”, and it is. But let it be known that I am emphasising the significance of multiplayer because even the original Atari Pong (1972) was played with two players. It would be a couple of years before video games could support computer controlled opponents.

So you had people playing video games, sometimes with their friends. So what? Back in the early 80’s, they were considered a fad and likely to diminish just in time for the next one. What made them stick around? Well, that answer isn’t directly linked to this case, as it was Nintendo that swooped in after the video game crash of 1983 (in which Atari was a significant factor) and disguised their video game console with the name “Entertainment System”, as the stigma around video games at the time was the oversaturation of low-quality ports and games made by inexperienced parties (this was mostly happening in the US by the way). 

History lesson tangent aside, what made video games stick? I think the community aspect is an integral part of it, considering the lifespan of anything that is “trending” is how long people continue talking about it for. And the thing about video games as a genre means that you won’t usually be talking about them generally, but you’ll most likely refer to specific examples. Games that left a lasting impression on you. Games that you can play with others.

The important detail to note here is that any activity that gets talked about outside of the activity itself is going to start discussion. Don’t believe me? Who won the latest cricket match? You might not realise it, but there are many things that people talk about outside of the context of itself.

Not to mention that nowadays there are so many titles to talk about. I will often see my mother playing another round of Solitaire while listening to podcasts of people talking about their childhood upbringings. I will walk in on my brother playing Kingdom: Two Crowns and watch him for a bit before returning to my room to play some Bloons: Tower Defense 6. I will go online and see thousands on social media talking about the latest Battlefield, Stardew Valley, Minecraft, Terraria, Skyrim and even Team Fortress 2, which is over 10 years old.

The point being that gaming is such a widespread phenomenon that you might be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know about them.

To The End

In summary, video games are one of the biggest industries on the planet today, and people around the world use them to connect with others. Whether it be through fighting each other, working together or even just hanging out, video games will always provide a platform for people to express themselves, especially those who feel they cannot in the real world.

There will always be undeserved resistance to new things and ideas that become popular, but it takes a sensible mind to determine the positives and the negatives as a whole.


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