When you hear the word “gamer,” what do you think? You probably envision a teenage boy, controller in hand, screaming at the TV for hours on end. You might think that playing video games is a waste of valuable time that would be better spent learning new skills, building friendships or participating in friendly competition. The irony is that video games teach all those skills and many more. There’s a stigma surrounding gamers. During the rapid development and popularization of video games over the past two decades, the term has begun to carry a less than desirable — and frankly, inaccurate — connotation. It is time to break the stigma surrounding gamers and realize that the same lessons can be taught through video games. By no means should kids stop playing physical sports, but we shouldn’t look to traditional sports as the only way to learn these lessons. It is important to know that most video games are not just about driving cars, blowing things up and shooting people. Video games teach valuable lessons to people of all ages. Our society encourages youth to get active in sports. Aside from keeping them active, sports teach kids valuable life lessons, including social skills, teamwork, dedication to self-improvement and mastery of a skill. The vast majority of little leaguers will not become professional baseball players, and the majority of kids playing video games will not become professional e-athletes. It is imperative that kids learn to reach a goal through self-improvement, regardless of what form of game teaches them that lesson. Video games provide that opportunity. Competitive titles like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch encourage teamwork, strategy and mastery of technique. Those skills seem isolated in those games, but they are not in the slightest. In today’s age, video games provide a platform on which multiple people can play together at any time from anywhere. If friends move apart, video games provide a reliable way for them to keep in touch and continue doing what they love together. We should not discourage kids or adults from playing video games. By reinforcing the stigma that people who frequently play video games are wasting their time, we are shaming people for exercising their minds while challenging and bettering themselves. Whether in sports, competition or life, losing sucks. Human nature compels us to better ourselves, to outperform ourselves and those around us. Competitive video games, like traditional sports, take dedication and years of practice to perfect. For growing youth, perfecting a curveball or learning to hit a trickshot in a video game is not about the actual skill — it’s about the process. Our society encourages participation in sports because it recognizes the multitude of benefits they provide people of all ages. Video games seem like they have been around for ages, but the reality is that they are still in their infancy. Because of that, the majority of people don’t fully understand the benefits of video games. Rather than prejudicially writing video games off as a waste of time, take time to understand the role these games can play in society. For example, take Portal, a first-person problem-solving game with a thrilling storyline. Games like Portal exercise the mind against a problem, similar to a maze or jigsaw puzzle. Like traditional sports, online multiplayer games foster and maintain friendships. They teach players to work together for the common good, encourage each other and build social confidence. Lazy. Outcast. Loser. After all, gamers are just clicking buttons, staring at a screen alone for hours. They don’t do anything productive, don’t have any friends and will definitely never succeed. Wrong. With games that allow you to play with people around the world, the opportunity to meet new people from diverse backgrounds is more accessible than ever. I have connected with people from all over, some of whom I remain in contact with even though I no longer play the same game. Hearthstone, a turn-based card video game, has the “high-intelligence” elements of chess: thinking ahead, strategizing and minimizing damage. Sam Arslanian is a junior writing about esports. He is also a former sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Plug & Play,” runs every other Wednesday.