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Science Suggests Geekiness Leads to Happiness

Science Suggests Geekiness Leads to Happiness

Those of us in the know realize that high nerditry and other geekology is deeply fun. Just look at the grins at any board game table, or hear the roar of the crowd at your local Con. And even if an entire table of D&D players fell off a trireme, were turned to stone by a gorgon, and sank to the depths of the Sunless Sea, odds are those players had smiles on their faces as they plunged to their absurd and watery doom.

But gaming is not just a thrill of the moment. New research is stacking up to show that being geeky actually makes you a happier person. Studies are showing that being a geek during adolescence actually makes you a happier adult.

A 2013 study in The Journal of Happiness Studies detailed by Wired shows a strong link between the social engagement of adolescents and their happiness as adults. The study, which was run in Dunedin, New Zealand, followed 1,000 Kiwis over 32 years. Every three years, participants were interviewed in detail for the study, and the results were surprising.

Firstly, academic achievement in adolescents did not strongly correlate to adult happiness. However, social connectedness was a strong indicator of adult happiness. What is social connectedness? It includes the “quality of social attachments, participation in organized clubs and groups, self-perceived competencies or strengths, and life satisfaction.”

Wired takes this data to be mean trouble for nerds, stating “our geeky kids may struggle with social connection[.]” Like, everybody knows that, right? Geeks so awkward in social situations.

I would boldly state that this is old fashioned, obviated, and stereotypical thinking on the part of Wired. The vision of the geek with social neuroses and underdeveloped physical prowess is a stereotype of the past. Rather, geeky pursuits increase the vaunted social connectedness of the study. Dungeons & Dragons provides a case in point.

The Christian Science Monitor reported the story of The Game Loft. The Game Loft is a non-profit in Belfast, Maine which runs tabletop role-playing games for students after school and aims “to guide young people age 6-18 to become confident, competent, caring, contributing and connected adults.”

The Christian Science Monitor interviewed Game Loft veteran Max Delaney, who claimed that he always felt like an “outsider.” He said he was searching for a community, and having problems with authority at school. And he found his community through gaming at the Game Loft. By playing Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop games, he learned how to interact with others. But a single anecdote does not an argument make.

There is extensive research showing that role-playing can increase social connectedness and social skills among players. For example, one study found that role-playing improved the social skills of adolescents with autism and behavior disorders. D&D has even been used with suicidal schizophrenics to help then find a reason to live.

Role-playing is not a symptom of dysfunction. It does not breed social awkwardness, or make its players nebbish. Rather, D&D fosters community and social skills. The game makes its players more socially adept. And every gamer who has ever participated in a regular D&D group knows that the game forges social bonds with other gamers.

So it falls to The Christian Science Monitor, the Principal Skinner of national news outlets, to tackle Wired‘s contention that geeks are socially maladroit. The Christian Science Monitor defends us one and all by stating that “The Game Loft has managed to turn the lingering ‘gaming is antisocial’ stereotype on its head.” The Christian Science Monitor, unlike Wired, knows a stereotype when it sees one.

And all this suggests, by way of the the New Zealand study, that we gamers are happier people for it.

Feature image credit: JD Hancock | Flickr


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