How can video games play a productive role in society?

Last month, video game enthusiasts watched nearly 775 million hours of content on Twitch!

To the outsider looking in, that’s 775 million hours that could’ve been used in far more productive ways. But this view of the gaming industry is a view that needs to be changed.

Professional sport franchises are beginning hire gaming teams to complement their athletic teams. Popular pro-gamers are bringing home 7-figure checks. Even ESPN and TBS are regularly broadcasting gaming tournaments.

Society is coming around to the career opportunities of playing video games. One of my old roommates made a decent living streaming his gameplay and interacting with fans. For a select few, video games are a passion, a career, and a livelihood.

And like anything else in life, that much emotional attachment to a single activity can spell disaster:

A 24-year-old gamer opened fire during a Madden NFL 19 qualifying tournament in a Jacksonville, Florida mall on Sunday, killing two people and wounding 11 others in the process before he turned the gun on himself.

Emma Ockerman, Vice News

While we don’t know the motives of this tragedy, I encourage you to first not jump to conclusions. Most likely, the media will the play the narrative of David (gunman) playing too many video games – isolation which turned to a lack of reality and emotional intelligence.

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But I think the days of blaming video games is past. And it’s time for us to dig deeper.

We live in stressful times, and the home environment is not as connected because of the very real pressures of life. It makes sense kids are looking for external ways of making connections. – Aaron Langille, CBC News

Gaming is no longer a solitary activity. Those 775 million hours on Twitch is time spent talking with like-minded individuals and in some cases even talking with the “athlete”. This is actually a positive differentiator from watching traditional sports – where you only ever watch with the people in the same room as you and rarely ever connect with your favorite athletes.

People build meaningful friendships playing games online:

Without a doubt, gamers are among of the most misunderstood and stereotyped personas. To prevent future violence and other foreseeable problems from happening it’s important we begin to care for their perspective. Instead of reverting to the cliche’ guidance of “getting off the screen”, maybe it’s time we help gamers create a more comprehensive ecosystem, as we’ve done with all other sports / activities.

Basketball has competitive youth teams to help teach teamwork. Football has trainers to help keep players healthy. And YMCA’s across the nation bring youth to one area to learn how to function around others.

There’s no reason that gaming (as an activity) can’t foster the same personal growth we see with competitive sports.

Video games aren’t going to leave us anytime soon. It’s time we stop chastising people for doing something they enjoy and help them build around this thriving industry so that it becomes a productive means for our society.

How can video games play a productive role in society?