Friday nights during my pre-calculus summer course, my friends and I got together to unwind by destroying other players in “Fortnite.” All of us usually died within the first two minutes, but at least we were persistent.

On PC, of course.

And, yes, I stayed up late.

This caught my parents’ attention.

One morning, my mom told me to stop playing video games and study.

I tried to explain to her that gaming is fun and relaxing, but she told me, “Video games are useless and addicting.”

My parents disapprove of gaming, yet they are fine with watching TV — which people watch five hours per day on average, according to the New York Times.

Then, this year, I started coding — to my parents’ approval — to pursue my goal of becoming a game developer — much to my parents’ disapproval. They said game development doesn’t involve much coding, which is horribly wrong, and that learning to make games won’t help me succeed.

To my parents, it was sound advice. To me, it was an insult — especially since video games are growing in relevancy.

I mean, making nearly $100,000 a year isn’t terribly useless, right?

Since the emergence of Atari’s “Pong” in 1972, the popularity of video games has increased exponentially. Animation became three-dimensional, consoles shrank from the size of a fridge to the size of your palm, and games transformed from 8-bit to 4K to even virtual reality.

The rapid development of the gaming industry is directly linked to its popularity. A study in 2018 from the Entertainment Software Association showed that 60 percent of Americans play video games daily — only 17 percent of whom are children.

However, many — at least my and my friends’ parents — think video games are a nefarious waste of time.

But there are positives to gaming.

First of all, video games aren’t as unhealthy as they seem. It’s true that staring at a computer screen excessively can give you headaches, make your eyes water and cause general discomfort.

However, the key word is “excessive.” Too much of anything is bad for you! If you read for five hours straight, your eyes will get tired; if you exercise for too long, your muscles will be damaged.

Plus, like many other activities, gaming can be beneficial if done healthily. A 2018 study from Psychological Bulletin showed that gaming for over five hours a week led to improved perception, coordination, attention and cognitive flexibility.

And because of gaming’s prominence, it makes sense to pursue a job in gaming as a streamer, developer or competitive player. According to Statistica, the revenue of the U.S. gaming industry in December 2018 was $3.42 billion. According to CNBC, Rockstar Games’ “Red Dead Redemption 2” earned $725 million in retail sales in the first three days of the game’s release, toppling Disney’s film, “Avengers: Infinity War,” which had the highest opening weekend box office of $640 million. Given how much people enjoy playing video games and watching gameplay, gaming is a viable way to make a living.

Finally, gaming is a way to bond. After a day of hard work, nothing beats getting in a group call with friends and having fun playing “Destiny 2.” Gaming is how I  bond with my old friends overseas. Since we can’t meet each other in person, playing online is the perfect way to renew our friendship.

Gaming is a source of entertainment, not addiction. It’s a relatively new concept and still underrepresented in the community, even with its popularity — and I’m doing my part to shed light on the topic.

Gamers, rise up!

—By Ming Zhu

Originally published in the March 19 edition of the Octagon.

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