Some people play video games. Some don’t. But people tend to have stronger feelings about the matter than you’d think of, based on a short synopsis like that one. Gamers are sometimes made to feel lazy, at least that their hobby is a pure time killer: not harmful, but certainly not helpful. A great percentage of Americans play video games than ever before. With so many people involved, regardless of age or gender, it’s time to understand a little better what’s up with video games, and what benefits the practice might actually offer.

For one thing, playing video games gives us a new way to spend our down time. Rather than sitting still staring off into space, or into a TV screen, playing video games allows people to remain much more mentally active by comparison. Players of games like one popular strategy war game have been shown to have similar brain activity to those learning a new language. It might be hard to believe for those not involved with video games, but complex games can be demanding.

Minecraft

They can even contribute to better long term brain connectivity in aging adults. Many people know older folks who try to maintain their mental acuity by playing crossword puzzles or the like. But fast paced new video games, which constantly require players to improvise and find new solutions to problems, may actually provide a more connected brain over the long term, than quiet solo activities.

This may not just be due to the colors and action within video games. Video games are becoming increasingly collaborative in their design. No longer do you just play solitaire by yourself (unless that’s exactly what you want to do). Today’s games, even the simple ones, have more and more opportunities for coop play. People who play video games with other people, or with their own friends either online or in person, derive much of the social benefits of dancing.

So, far from being solo activities for lazy people, video games are becoming a part of healthy and active society. With more than half of American residents playing video games at least once a week, it’s certainly not going away. Many different industries and efforts have taken video games into previously uncharted territories, like employee training and language learning. No matter what you do with your time or for money, you are likely to find a video game at the center of the activity, teaching you a new skill, reinforcing an unfamiliar idea, or simply to give you a fun way to pass the time.

So if you are one of those people who doesn’t quite get video games, perhaps it’s time to pick up a controller of your own (or at least finally download candy crush). Games can be fun and involving. They can give your brain something active to do when you’re resting or simply need a break from work. They can challenge you and even help you learn. Finally, they can be a way to connect with people, friends and strangers.