In my last Sunday Soapbox, I discussed the merits of the title “Gamer”, and the qualifications required to carry it. Reader responses were varied, but a running theme defined the title by means of duration – the amount of time devoted to the hobby determined one’s eligibility. Like some perverse, sedentary flight school, we’re requiring a number of hours behind the joystick before a gamer earns their wings – this begs the question: With all these hours invested, what do we have to show for them? Or perhaps more importantly, what do we sacrifice in favor of games?
Certainly most of us have had a gaming session interrupted by a parent or significant other, suggesting we stop wasting so much time on video games, and instead do something productive. In my experience, these voices are often seated on a couch amidst the glow of some mindless sitcom or police drama. Hypocrisy aside, gaming’s emergence into the mainstream hasn’t weakened the stigma associated with the amount of time we “waste” playing – but is that time really wasted?
There’s an old joke that gaming is productive in the sense that it teaches eye-hand coordination – I can’t speak to the validity of that argument, but I agree that gaming can be more than just mindless entertainment. Anyone who’s experienced the chilling atmosphere of Bioshock, the impromptu teamwork in Left 4 Dead, or the gripping narrative of a Final Fantasy can attest that games often provide artistic, social, or competitive value. Games like Spore, or LittleBigPlanet open the doors to user generated content, providing a Lego-like creative platform for players to build upon.
Furthermore, many games help develop skills that are useful in everyday life. During the summers of my youth, I spent a significant portion of my time playing Counter Strike. To clarify, by “significant portion” I mean every waking hour. Many would argue that this time was wasted, but I would disagree. Success in Counter Strike required teamwork, communication, and a steady aim – all of which are necessary skills for success in the real world (the latter of which is especially helpful in the event of a zombie apocalypse).
The fact of the matter is – many of the skills and experiences we garner from games are similar or identical to those we’d extract from the activities our oppressors would have us do instead. However, their concerns are not baseless. The real issue arises when we lose balance, and start inventing World of Warcraft Huts, or die after mainlining Starcraft for fifty hours. Many of us may have experienced detraction from work, school, or family, in favor of gaming. One can have too much of a good thing, and gamers have a history of taking this to an extreme.
Which leads me to a question for you, reader. Have you ever sacrificed anything for a game? Ever ended a relationship for, or because of World of Warcraft? Ever skipped dinner in favor of a match of Call of Duty? Also, as a bonus question – what is your justification for the time you invest in video games? Is it simply a stress releiver, escapism, or is there some greater purpose?