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The 9 surprising whole-family benefits of gaming

Gaming can be a great way to learn new skills and bring people together. We asked Mumsnet users to share their personal experiences and took a look at expert research to bring you some impressive benefits to gaming.

By Tina Williams | Last updated Feb 15, 2022

Family gaming holding

The number of hours spent gaming is a contentious issue in almost all family households. Many of us are concerned about how much is too much when it comes to screen time. It can be easy to look back with rose-tinted glasses at our ‘supposedly’ screen-free childhoods and wonder – are all these screens having a negative effect on our families?

Thankfully, the world of gaming has developed and expanded tremendously over the past decade, and research has shown that it can be a great way to bring families together, learn new skills and help to spark curiosity in the world. 

So we took a look at the latest research and asked Mumsnetters to share their experiences on the impressive benefits of gaming.

1. Gaming can help to build social skills and good habits

Many of the popular app-based or online games people play today aren’t designed to be played in isolation. They help users build friendships with other players and reward those who are working collaboratively. Games can be a great way to bring family and friends together, whether they’re living in the same house or not.

Games can also play a very positive role in the development of social skills. They often require teamwork, good communication and they reward pro-social behaviour. All great lessons that can then be used in the real world.

What Mumsnet users say

“When we play games together, we’re constantly interacting with one another, which is nice. We find it to be a real bonding activity. Sounds cheesy, but it’s true.”

2. It improves problem-solving skills and creativity

All games require users to learn rules and develop new skills in order to achieve the set objective, whether that’s figuring out where to make your next move or seeing problems coming and dodging to get out of the way. 

Several studies have found that these kinds of games help players to develop important problem-solving abilities that can be transferred into real-life situations. Plus, the sense of accomplishment is something that often goes unmatched. 

What Mumsnet users say

“Along with the more obvious skills of teamwork, co-operation, sharing, managing wins and losses, I think gaming helps players think on the go, and to problem-solve and strategise.”

Read next: The best family board games according to Mumsnet users »

3. It can increase concentration

Gaming woman on the phone

Playing a game encourages the whole family to turn their focus towards achieving a specific goal. This practiced concentration has been shown to improve our ability to filter out irrelevant information and concentrate on the relevant parts of tasks in real life too.

What Mumsnet users say

“Gaming itself teaches you a lot about setting and achieving goals and working out plans. The amount of study, time and effort that goes into being a good player is quite impressive."

4. Gaming can support learning and spark interest in new things

Lots of mobile, online and console-based games open users up to new activities, hobbies and habits, from painting and gardening to good behaviour like taking out the rubbish. Fantasy worlds can spark real-world learning conversations too.

For more serious gamers, gaming academies can be an educating experience for children and parents alike, where they can learn about their favourite hobbies and undertake structured learning through gaming. 

What Mumsnet users say

“Gaming has allowed me to visit countries I could never afford to in real life, meet wonderful characters, explore gorgeous worlds, and make new friends. They've been a hugely positive influence in my life.”

5. Gaming can improve vision

Yes, that’s right. In a 2009 study, scientists found that 50 hours of action-packed game play (spread over 10 to 12 weeks) improved the gamer’s ability to distinguish subtle differences in shades of grey. In other studies, it’s been found that gaming can improve eyesight in lazy eyes, more so than other types of concentrated activities like watching TV or knitting.

6. It helps to develop hand-eye coordination

Whether you’re on a phone or using a console, games that require real-time movement require fast reflexes. This kind of reflex practice can help players develop better hand-eye coordination. Some studies even show that gaming can improve performance in surgeons.

What Mumsnet users say

“It’s a great way to learn the importance of practicing in order to get better at something. You learn to be patient, strategic and it improves hand-eye coordination.”

7. It helps to generate positive feelings and emotional resilience

Contrary to popular belief, gaming has regularly been shown to reduce stress and increase positive emotions. In fact, some scientists go as far as saying that gaming is one of the most efficient and effective ways to generate positive feelings.

What Mumsnet users say

“We’re avid gamers. Gaming offers us a feeling of belonging. The barriers that exist in real-life are not present, the opportunity to develop and grow in multiple areas are endless, and then there’s the sheer feel-good emotion of simply playing. I'd be lying if I said winning wasn't important, but the search for success is a choice – and the ‘perks’ remain the same.”

Read next: The best kids' tablets to buy »

8. Playing virtual games can help develop understanding of the world and improve vocabulary skills

The variety of games available offer families the opportunity to learn about other people, cultures and languages in a safe environment. It can help you understand and celebrate differences, as well as boosting vocabulary along the way.

What Mumsnet users say

“I’ve seen a reading improvement from my DC since reading the storylines and character dialogue.”

9. Gaming can improve memory

How do you get a character from one place to another? Where in the house did you leave that skateboard? When we play games, we’re constantly training our brains to memorise new functions and new routes. This activity can help memory recall in other aspects of life too. So whether you're eight or 80, it’s a great chance to keep your brain active and engaged.

What Mumsnet users say

“I don't play virtual games, but my husband does. I believe it keeps the mind nimble. He has better cognitive function than me and I credit that to his years of gaming.”

Read next: How to keep children safe online »