Prepare to have your mind blown: I’m a gamer, and I’m also in decent shape.
Seems impossible, doesn’t it? That a person could play videogames for 5 to 10 hours a week and still have time for the occasional bout of physical activity? It certainly contradicts most of what parents and politicians have been saying about gaming and childhood obesity rates. Sure enough, picking up an Xbox 360 controller doesn’t automatically give you type 2 diabetes. I’m living proof.
But as easy as it is to mock the hysteria around games’ effects on your health, the truth is that the critics have a point. Anyone who’s ever lost a weekend to his or her latest gaming obsessions knows it, too: When you’re deep in a game, you have a tendency to forget about minor details like food, exercise and sleep in favor of more pressing concerns like reaching the next checkpoint or leveling up. That was certainly the case when I started playing WoW in college. A year, two Level 60 characters and many skipped meals later, I was down to a paltry 125 pounds. I may have looked malnourished, but at least my warrior had maxed out his cooking skill, right?
That’s the downside of games: When they’re good (or maybe “effective” is a better word), they can make you forget you have a body that requires food, sleep and movement at regular intervals in order to function. The upside is that game designers are starting to figure out how to apply this principle to make games that actually improve your health and wellbeing. It turns out that games aren’t just able to make you forget about exercise – a select few may even be able to make you forget that you’re exercising.
In this week’s issue, “Healthy Living,” we look at what effects – both good and bad – games can have on your health. Chris LaVigne looks at how regular gaming may put you at risk for vitamin D deficiency – and why gaming blogs are skeptical of that conclusion. Sara Grimes examines how portable gaming devices like the DS and iPhone can actually encourage kids to go play outside. Lauren Admire investigates the Wii’s potential as a rehabilitation tool. And Craig Owens spends two weeks with a selection of fitness games to figure out which ones make the cut.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go level up my quads.