My dad, like me, is a very casual video gamer. Some of my earliest memories of gaming were watching him lead countless side-scrolling characters to their untimely demises. But despite his glaring deficiencies, there was one game my dad absolutely slayed at: Tetris — perhaps the best-known casual video game of all time. The way he moved and rotated the puzzle pieces into perfect position with laser-beam accuracy was downright savant-like. Though very impressive to a 5-year-old, these skills didn’t seem all that useful beyond the confines of our living room.
Fast-forward to a summer day sometime in the early 1990s. My dad is packing an impossibly large payload into the back of the family car ahead of a road trip vacation — turning, shifting, and rotating items until they all seemed to magically fit. It was the first tangible proof that playing video games could pay dividends in the real world. Here are some more everyday things that casual gaming can help you be a little bit better at:
While over 70% of gamers play with other people, I find that casual gamers such as me tend to game solo, whenever we can find the time. This doesn’t mean that we’re antisocial — it’s quite the opposite. No matter what your level of gaming dedication or expertise, it gives you something to talk about with others, or better yet, with significant others. Like any other hobby, casual gaming can be a conversation-starter and a window into what makes you tick. Just don’t let the other person know how lonely and starved for attention you really are.
A study published in Psychological Science last year observed that hand-eye coordination improved among action gamers who played just five hours a week compared to those who spent less than an hour a month playing. While being better-coordinated isn’t necessarily a life-saving skill (or is it?), it definitely comes in handy in everyday life: from driving a car, to hitting a tennis ball, to not drenching the floor like a doofus when it’s your turn to switch out the water-cooler jug at work.
Research suggests that playing video games, even on a casual basis, can help build crucial cognitive skills like memory, pattern recognition, and visual attention. Just 12 hours of gaming were shown to boost dyslexic children’s reading scores, and elderly people who played a simple 3D game on a laptop three times a week demonstrated better memory and multitasking abilities. Even basic pattern-matching games have been linked to improved visual search ability when played for just an hour a day. Now you have a great excuse for when your boss catches you sneaking in a round of Bejeweled during a conference call: You’re working out your brain!
Sandbox-style games are thought to encourage creativity, which makes sense considering Minecraft has a literal “creative mode.” In fact, Minecraft’s emphasis on exploration, building, and coding has led educators to use it as a teaching tool in the classroom. Chances are that building a replica of the Taj Mahal inside the game won’t give you the know-how to build it in your front yard (which would probably be a zoning violation anyway). But, at the very least, it seems like games can help shake up our thinking patterns and how we solve problems — and that’s always a good thing.
It’s just a fact: Casual gamers don’t buy nearly as many games as our hardcore counterparts. We don’t devote endless hours of our days to playing, so it takes us longer to get through them. This makes us naturally selective; buying more than we need would simply be wasteful. One purchase casual gamers shouldn’t be afraid to make, however, is a quality computer to play on — and with a laptop like the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming laptop, you’ll be getting a great-performing machine at a great price.
Life is full of little disappointments: A job you didn’t get. A date who didn’t text you back. A new dish you tried to cook but you had to FaceTime your mom to ask if your chicken looked undercooked. Being a casual gamer prepares you for real-world setbacks like these, and encourages you to buck up and learn from them. Though we’re not training for championships or pwning n00bs online, we still want to get better at the games we play — and the only way to do that is to motivate ourselves into practicing and staying mentally competitive, even if the only high score we’re competing against is our own.
Most importantly, casual gaming teaches you patience, and how to take life as it comes. Most casual games are designed to ease you into things, with each level slightly harder than the previous one. You’re never jumping into something you can’t learn to handle. That’s how video-game developers get you to keep playing. And that’s what surviving this life is all about, my dudes: Just. Keep. On. Playing.
Those are just a few things that casual gaming can help make you slightly better at — and I suspect there might even be more. Tell me if I missed any skills in the comments, and be sure to check out how the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming laptop can help you hone them.
Chris Vespoli is a Senior Strategist for Studio@Gizmodo and a freelance writer/producer. This is his website.