Coronavirus: Could gaming be good for you during lockdown?
For gamers around the country, lockdown might appear to be an ideal opportunity to hone your skills in pretty much every waking moment. But how much should we be playing online? And could it offer some benefits at a time of social isolation?
According to Dr Dayna Galloway, who heads of the division of games and arts at Abertay University, the main message – as in all things – is not to overdo it.
“Screentime guidance varies for age groups – but the key is to ensure a healthy balance across activities,” he said.
“It’s important for individuals to ensure a mix of physical activity, sedentary behaviour such as reading and screen time, and, of course, a good night’s sleep.
“Isolation and lockdown in different circumstances will of course skew this, but it’s important for people to try to maintain as much balance as possible.”
There are a range of activities aimed at trying to persuade young people in particular to take a screen break.
In Dumfries and Galloway, the council’s youth work team has sent out isolation packs which include old-school games like dominoes and playing cards.
The Wigtown Book Festival recently launched a writing competition for children from eight to 18.
The Scottish Book Trust is also encouraging us to get our pens out and contribute stories to a publication planned on the theme of “future”.
In addition, fitness classes have gone online and are proving particularly successful.
No man is an island
A recent festival in Dumfries highlighted the positive aspects of gaming and these could be particularly relevant while confined to your home for large parts of the day.
Dr Galloway said online gameplay allowed for “communication and collaboration” to achieve goals or compete with others.
“It easily replaces some of the activities that are no longer feasible due to social distancing and isolation,” he said.
“It’s very important for mental well-being to maintain relationships and contact with friends and family, and online games are an excellent method for facilitating this.
“The games themselves also create emergent outcomes and scenarios that create positive shared experiences, and memories for those engaged with them.”
He said that meant they could have more impact than a video call and were “a good replacement in the current circumstances” for other forms of social interaction.
“Entertainment such as games and streaming services also help us pass the time and, more importantly, stay indoors – so this aspect is particularly helpful in the situation we are in,” he added.
There are different potential benefits attached, according to the type of game being played.
Minecraft, Sea of Thieves or Fortnite can help maintain social activity and encourage contact with your peer-group.
Dr Galloway said they boosted “communication, creativity and collaboration”.
Other games encourage physical activity, which is something we are being encouraged to maintain.
“It may be a good opportunity to dust off the Nintendo Wii for some Wii Sports,” suggested Dr Galloway.
Pokemon Go, with social distancing, could be used on a daily exercise walk.
But it might also be time to go retro – but using technology to give it a twist.
“Raid the cupboard or pick up some traditional board games to have some fun with whoever you are under lockdown with,” suggested Dr Galloway.
“Some games can also be played over video chats – if you are creative and promise not to cheat.”
But above all, the recommendation is moderation for however long lockdown may continue.