Footballers are known for their lavish lifestyles, fast cars, big trips to the casino and superhero status among fans.
To get to these privileges, they have had to sacrifice a lot of their childhood to train frequently, stay focused and eat healthily. They were the kids kicking a ball after dark with scraped knees rather than the ones playing video games each night.
Yet, there is a chance that video games may improve footballing participation and performance. Due to improved cognitive ability, and increased engagement at grassroots level, playing video games may actually benefit football. So, are those team FIFA sessions actually improving performance?
The Reputation of Video Games
Playing video games often has a bad reputation to cause violence, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity. In fact, the list of problems goes further than these issues to psychological, behavioural and emotional problems. Plus there is the issue of gambling in video games, which has led to ES Sports having concerns with FIFA’s In Game currency.
Earlier this year, China decided to impose restrictions on video gaming in an effort to reduce video game addiction in the country. Under 18s are not allowed to game between 10pm and 8am and they can only game for 90 mins on a weekday and three hours on a weekend.
China is not a huge footballing nation and their youth gaming culture is arguably the biggest in the world. If they were a footballing nation, this move may be a detrimental one. It has been found that video gaming does benefit the footballing community at a professional and grassroots level.
Video Games Benefiting the Pros
Nobody seems to question the speed at which professional football is now played. Cognitive speed is now one of the most important attributes of the game, along with pass accuracy, stamina, strength and the rest of it. This has led some professional teams to ask the question of how they can train cognitive speed – and the answer is video gaming.
Thinking Fast and Slow is a book by academic by Daniel Kahneman. It tells us of how our brain has two cognitive systems. One is quick and automated and the other is slow and not. It is the first system that footballers need to improve and by playing video games at high speeds that require us to automate decisions quickly. It is thought that they can improve the same automated decisions on the pitch.
Video Games for Grassroots Sport Engagement
The idea that video games could be the catalyst for an improved active lifestyle among children would sound far-fetched to researchers who have spent years proving that it leads to obesity and such. However, using video games as a model for coaching has been proven to improve engagement with football.
If coaches deliver sessions with the principles of gaming in mind, such as having a superpower where a player cannot be tackled for the first five seconds they have the ball (the “power” could be awarded to different players throughout the game), then it could improve engagement within real sport. This gamifying of football is a new idea – but could be revolutionary in childrens’ sport.