(BPT) - The holidays provide the perfect opportunity for family gatherings and gift exchanges. More so than ever, games of all kinds are factoring into a night by the fire or near the tree. If you're hesitant about letting consoles compromise your family time, consider the bonding potential and positive impact gaming can have on you, your loved ones, and even as a way to give back.
Gaming allows players to tap into their best qualities - motivation, optimism, collaboration and resiliency against failure - says Jane McGonigal, a designer of alternate reality games aimed to improve lives and solve problems. If you have children who love video games (and an estimated 95 percent of them do), consider the positive aspects of how playing video games can benefit your family, and others:
* Train your brain - Video games have plenty of educational opportunities for all ages. Some games work on math skills, others teach history lessons and many others require planning and strategy to achieve end goals. Research studies have also shown that fast-action games improve visual acuity and attention to details - especially when it comes to reading the fine print.
* Physical fitness - Gaming doesn't have to be a couch potato activity any longer. Many consoles encourage players to get on their feet, with technology tracking body movements to mirror the onscreen action. This physical activity can help improve muscle tone, fine-tune balance and provide a cardio workout while the player is engrossed in the game play.
* Social connectedness - With gaming systems encouraging multiple players to play at once, as well as online communities, players can connect and bond across the globe. Under your own roof, a family video game night promotes a bit of competitive fun among family members, while still enhancing the physical and educational skills that children and adults can glean from video game play.
* Community outreach - Take the joy of gaming to new heights and encourage your family to make gaming a give-back activity by signing up for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals 'Extra Life' event. Families can register to participate in this name-your-day gaming celebration, which functions like a traditional athletic marathon but in the name of gaming. Extra Life benefits 170 local CMN Hospitals across the country to fund the most pressing local pediatric needs. Families can find their area's member hospital and sign up to start their fundraising quest at www.extra-life.org.
Once registered for Extra Life, invite friends and other family members to also get involved in raising funds for your local CMN Hospital and the children they treat. You can even switch it up and play a mix of video, board and lawn games. Relays are a great way to keep the energy going while allowing regular breaks.
* Bonding time together - Consider keeping the tradition going strong by establishing a video game-playing night once a week or once a month. Push your children to the physical and educational games, and see if you can keep up with them. By joining them at the console or computer, you'll turn video gaming into family fun time - and show them that play can do the world a whole lot of good this holiday season and all year round.