How Games Balance Your Work Life

A well-designed game captures your attention and retains it for a long time. We keep training ourselves to predominantly consume short-term media, which grows ever shorter on all social platforms.

This way of approaching the media can easily lead to a shorter attention span, which transfers to our home and work lives.

Video games have been proven to positively affect our attention span, spatial awareness, hand- eye coordination, etc. Both offline and online gamesOpens in a new tab., single and multi-player, have also been documented to relieve stress, reduce anxietyOpens in a new tab. and help people be more productive overall.

Your Attention Is Your Main Resource

We’ve all heard of the phrase “having someone’s undivided attention” at some point. It’s a valuable thing to give and receive.

Social scientists often claim our attention is what everyone is competing for nowadays. So it only makes sense that we become mindful of how we distribute it, both at work and home.

But attention isn’t a one-dimensional thing. On the contrary, it’s multi-faceted! To better understand its importance, let’s look at its different aspects and how it functions in our daily lives.

Divided Attention

Otherwise known as multitasking, the term “divided attention” refers to our ability to work on multiple problems simultaneously.

For example, think of solving a math problem in your head while brushing your teeth. In this case, the math equations don’t require motor function, and brushing your teeth is a simple, habitual thing. It requires no thought or effort.

These two activities don’t interfere with each other; hence we can do both effectively simultaneously.

On the other hand, playing chess while having a conference call doesn’t work so well. This is where we get to our next point: alternating attention.

Alternating Attention

When multiple activities demand our attention simultaneously and require similar brain functions, we start going back and forth between those activities.

Unfortunately, this is what often gets conflated with multitasking. In reality, we switch between tasks so quickly that they appear that way.

Alternating several tasks for long periods is very taxing on the brain and can lower productivity overall. This is because our brains need a sort of “buffer” to get into an activity and start working correctly.

That’s why playing games while actively working doesn’t help you relax. Although it might feel like you’re getting some sort of a break, the chances are that both your work and games are suffering.

It’s a much better solution to play games during breaks when no other activities require immediate attention.

Just a few minutes of an online game can boost your overall mood and give you a jolt of energy. Especially during those afternoon lulls when your focus starts to go down.

Selective Attention

When faced with multiple stimuli during problem-solving, a trained expert can instinctively filter out unnecessary information and focus only on the most critical factors.

That’s not to say that only experts have this ability. Instead, it’s something we all have naturally. At any given point throughout the day, we’re faced with more or less important stimuli.

It can be texting while commuting to work or ignoring the crackling of snacks at the movies. We instinctively filter out the less important information so that the high-priority things can receive proper attention.

Talking to a friend in a crowded, loud environment is second nature, or listening to a song and isolating an instrument in our heads. But how easily we can do this is quite impressive.

Sustained Attention

We’ve started with divided attention and have now reached the opposite side of the spectrum.

Sustained attention results from focusing on one problem or a task for prolonged periods. Reading, playing music, writing, meditating, etc. — all these activities require some sort of warm-up effort until optimal performance is reached.

Once warmed up, our brains only have that one activity in mind, and it becomes that much easier to do.

Professionals in all fields, entrepreneurs, athletes, artists, scientists, and gamers, all experience something called “flow” at one point or another.

The idea of flow is best explained as a state of mind that arises when one’s competency in doing something aligns perfectly with a task’s difficulty.

You may have experienced moments at work, home, or the gym where you find yourself completely immersed in an activity. Since you completely absorbed the activity, you lose track of time. That’s a sensation referred to as “flow.”

Understanding many aspects of attention can help you keep it in check when you need to focus. Knowing exactly why your attention is starting to waiver makes it easier to find a solution and get back on track.

Games In Work Environments

Games in the workplace have been on the rise for some time now. At first, only a few startups brought in air hockey or pool tables to their offices. Then, small basketball hoops. Eventually, video game consoles have found their way into thousands of modern offices.

Organizing groups to play games is a legitimate form of team building and has been shown as an effective way of fostering teamwork. Whether those will be online shooters, strategies, sports games, or something completely different depends on the people.

In a project-based work environment, individuals can plan their breaks instead of working on a set shift. Some prefer several shorter breaks during the day, while others work better if they have one or two longer pauses.

Overall, these practices have led to a better mood and increased productivity in the office.

Of course, many people still hold a more traditional opinion that games have no place in the workplace. Yet the trend is on the rise, taking over multiple industries.

Passive Consumption vs. Interaction

Playing online or single-player games is a unique way of media consumption.

It would be incorrect to call it “media consumption,” as that would put video games in the same category as watching movies or listening to music. What sets games apart from other media types is the interactive element they bring.

The player doesn’t just idly sit and consume media. They actively influence what will happen and find creative ways to win. For this reason, media interaction would be a more precise term.

This interaction is what keeps the brain engaged and focused. It’s another reason why games can be very beneficial to productivity.

Games Can Reduce Anxiety and Depression

Multiple studies conducted over the past two decades have shown that games can positively affect mental health. And more research is still being done.

While the effects of playing a particular game will be different on each individual, it’s been long since established that anyone can find something to play.

Not everyone reacts to games the same way. Violent or highly competitive games are too much for some personality types and can have adverse effects.

For someone struggling with anxiety, competing against experienced players in online matches and being evaluated (ranked) afterward will seldom improve wellbeing. Casual games, on the other hand, are a great option.

However, thriving in such a competitive setting is a desirable goal for many people.

Adapting to different challenges, learning new rules, and overcoming obstacles produce feelings of competence and agency. And such feelings are the cornerstones of self-confidence.

Games Require as Much Time as You Want Them To

The great thing about today’s game industry is that it gives variety. When video games first came out, they demanded a lot of time from players.

Kids would stand in lines for hours in arcades waiting for their turn and trying to beat an entire game in a single attempt. That era of gaming certainly has its charm, but we live in a very different world now. Our day-to-day lives have a faster pace and can scarcely afford to invest so much time into something.

Instead, we can see the dominance of ever-shorter content on social media. These are often light, shareable videos or images streamed through your feed. As stated earlier, only receiving information for hours brings about adverse effects.

That’s one of the reasons why anxiety and depression often correlate with unregulated online behavior. Our brains are simply not meant to receive information passively. They need us to think and interact with something actively.

Of course, we need time off. We need time during the day to not do anything at all. However, it’s often the case that we assume that’s all we need. Well, studies have shown the opposite: actively engaging in things you enjoy produces much better effects and makes you feel more well-rested than doing nothing.

Creative Rest

Today’s jobs have a high demand for creativity, as routine workflows are becoming a thing of the past. At the same time, workloads are increasing, and so is the stress.

With that in mind, it’s important to seek out proper ways to rest. That depends on the actual reasons you’re stressed or tired.

If you feel mentally drained during the day, then sifting through dozens of videos isn’t going to make the situation any easier.

Instead, actively engaging and interacting with something will make you feel more refreshed and well-rested.

Final Words

Our lives are becoming faster by the day, and our work demands more and more. Dealing with high amounts of stress frequently is expected of everyone.

And this demands effective and practical methods of reducing stress.

Fortunately, the availability of interactive entertainment, games, is readily available on our phones and laptops.

Don’t hesitate to play a game while resting — enjoy the benefits it brings!

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