Monday, January 6, 2014

In-Between Discussion: Are Videogames a waste of time?

How Games have affected my life

I've been playing games for as long as I can remember, video, board, or card -- and for as long as I can remember they've been my favorite past time. I remember many times when I was a kid flipping boards of chess and scrabble because I was so invested in them. I remember learning some very hard life lessons about humility and the value of being an honest winner and loser, no matter what happens. 

Lots of people see games as a waste of time, sometimes even myself. I wonder often whether or not I'm whiling away valuable time that could be used learning a new skill, or honing ones I have to mastery. I wonder whether I could spend every waking moment pursuing valuable hobbies that enrich my life in other ways. 

That all sounds just so exhausting though doesn't it? 

Exhausted? Time to pick up a controller!
I play games to recharge myself and relax. They're just as cathartic, therapeutic, and fun to me as I'm sure other activities are to other people. I've tried painting, drawing, woodcarving (thank you boy scouts), cooking, baking, playing instruments (which I still thoroughly enjoy) and other various hobbies. Nothing quite gives me the exhilaration of starting up a new game and watching the levels fly by. 

I could say that it's justified by the fact that I work all day, work on any papers I need to write for school, take care of my son, and then play the loving husband. I could use this to justify my time playing games, but it goes deeper than that. 

Games act as a mental exercise in problem solving, critical thinking, twitch reflexes, and reasoning. Often the story lines in games act as a means to question the world around me in a philosophical way, and change my perspective on how I see the world. These are aptitudes that allow me to develop other skills faster. In turn allowing me to be better, faster at other engaging activities. 

I'm not saying that others reflect on this the same as I do. Often the only thing that people gain from games are a poor vernacular and penchant for swearing worse than any sailor I've heard while I was in the Marines. Hopefully in the future, as this new facet of the media industry ages, this devolved behavior will discontinue and people will see there are things to value about video games more than just entertainment value. 

This is precisely the attitude I'm not a fan of.
For me though, games helped me through hard times, acting as a type of therapy. They helped me gain confidence when I needed it most, and gave me focus to see paths that I needed to take to improve my life. Games helped me be a better leader, student, and employee. They help me solve puzzles and keep my cool when life throws me curve-balls. 

There are lots of people out there that write off video-games as a waste of time. Something to be shamed and chided. The lesson here is not to avoid anything at all, instead to treat games with the same amount of moderation that a person should apply to everything in their life. Games can be just as useful as any time consuming hobby, and treated as a mental exercise can enhance other facets of your life. 

One warning: Just like any hobby without moderation, there is a point at which it becomes counter-productive. I love reading articles about how much to play, and I temper my time carefully between all productive facets of my life. Thus the 3 days rule I've imposed on my blog, and the reason that I'll most likely not finish most games that I am currently playing. That's alright though, since I enjoy the challenge infinitely more than completion. 

(For more information I enjoy reading articles by Forbes on the subject.)


  1. I recently watched a TED talk on this subject and thought you might enjoy it.

    1. I love the way she explains this, and I completely agree that games can act as a more subtle enhancement to everyday life. She cites studies about things that people regret at the end of their lives, and how games can act as placebo replacements to prescription drugs.

      I think that eventually people will start to see games as a positive thing that can affect people in positive ways (and negative) just like literature, and that maybe we can use them to change the way people live their lives.