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wastedtime

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?

  1. Luckily, I play games with my wife, so I don’t suffer any major social consequences. We just played some online Left 4 Dead and Gears of War 2 yesterday after we got back from work.

    I played WoW casually a few years back, and she didn’t mind it as long as I didn’t go hardcore. While she was away for 2 months last year, I played copious amounts of WoW with my friends/raided hardcore, then quit when she came back. It’s all about managing your priorities.

    As for the question “have I skipped meals for games?” Oh yes…plenty! When I play games, I’m driven to beat them. For me, it’s a sense of accomplishment when I check another quality game off the “list”.

  2. The problem with beating games is the same problem with earning achievements… after all is said and done, you have honestly accomplished nothing. However, the same can be said about reading a book, or taking a college class. Gaming is a life experience, whether you do it by yourself or with friends. It’s not as productive a hobby, as, say, building houses with Habitat for Humanity, but we can’t spend our entire lives work work working. We don’t want to play so much that we die during a StarCraft session too… we have to strike a good balance.

    Sure, people that spend 40 hours a week at work and 50 hours a week on WoW may seem like they are wasting their lives, but they are networking, making virtual friends (who, believe it or not, are actually real people!), and having a social life.

    You can’t JUST play games all day. But that doesn’t mean you can’t play and enjoy games every day. They’re just another thread in the glorious self-made tapestry of life. (+3 points for metaphor!)

    And yes, of course I’ve skipped meals. Thankfully, though, I have a DS so I don’t have to skip bathroom breaks! Just have to move my gaming to another location.

  3. avatar Gantz

    Its easily said all forms of entertainment are a waste of time.

    However, that being said, not all entertainment is a mindless waste of time. We as humans have evolved the ability to think and, arguably, anything that makes us do just that even for a moment is not a waste of time.

    Everything about humans that has brought us to where we are today is from thinking. Be it inspired by a life or death situation or simply by seeing things from another perspective and I feel entertainment can do just that.

    Theres also instances of even learning things from games. I know I personally expanded my vocabulary substantially from the amount of RPGs and text heavy games.

    So no, I believe games can not only be useful for what I’ve stated but also for what you asked aswell. Stress relief, escapism, sometimes people just need something else to do be it constructive or not.

  4. avatar Gantz

    Also,
    1. I’m rescheduling my dentist appointment so I don’t miss any E3 news on June 2nd.

    2. I’ve shrugged off a few somewhat interesting events in favor of relaxing with a game.

  5. I think if you don’t get anything out of a game it is a waste of time. what I mean by that is something that helps you grow as a person, and if you don’t get that out of something there is no point in doing it.

  6. avatar GratefulGamer

    well .. yess but no , its a Pass the time behaviour not waste of it, with brain muscles work out envolved , damn lot of it, ;) and one more point, Gamers admire story, art, tricks, techniques, music , sounds, acting, etc.. the list is long .. Games meduim is Fantastic, who says its a waste , well do some homework . Peace from JerusaHell ..umm jerusalem ;)

  7. avatar strid3r

    i play a lot of games but im not a hardcore gamer i just play them as much as i watch movies its just a realy fun way to kill time when u dont have anything else to do at home.

  8. avatar strid3r

    i just wanted to add something games are realy not only GAMES they are art and one cant say that art is waste of time will ur dad tell u that ur wasting time watching Gone With Wind i think now games these days have storys that are even better than most hollywood movies and really are becoming a new form of interactive intertainment

  9. avatar Olly

    @ Chris Carter: Yeah, I totally agree with the whole ticking them off the ‘list’ thing. Playing all the different games out there is like expanding you horizons game-wise, and sometimes I find myself struggling through the last few hours of a game, determined to finish just so I can say I’ve seen all it has to offer now.
    As for a waste of time, not as much as my family thinks (both my parents assume all games are mindless, childish fun) – but as the article states, some games are more like an art form, film buffs and art critics, while nerdy, are heralded as people of taste not idiots. Gaming is merely seen as different because older generations generally have not sat down and tried anything other than Wii party games (if that) – and rather hypocritically are pre-judging games on the fact teenagers and kids are its main audience.

  10. The movie industry has only been around about 50 years longer than games… maybe in 50 years, games will have the same social status as a viable art form? Of course they are art, but society as a whole uses them almost exclusively for entertainment. A lot of art, be it arty movies, or music, or paintings, or sculptures… they weren’t not created with the goal of entertaining someone. They were meant to convey a message, a feeling. Games can convey messages, but without being pleasing to the player, gamers won’t stick around long enough to hear what the message is. This might be what is holding them back from entering the art world fully. Art isn’t supposed to be fun! But games are.

  11. avatar bob

    @The GameLlama

    I Don’t agree with your statement that the same can be said about reading a book or taking a college class; namely that gaming is a waste of time.
    By reading a book or taking a college class you DO gain something -> insight in the matter that’s discussed and information which makes you more erudite. Reading books can also answer many of lifes questions and give you knowledge to tackle some of lifes obstacles. None of this is acquired through video games.
    Don’t get me wrong, I play games as well, but I also read books and do a lot of other stuff and in my experience its not true that reading and playing video games is the ‘same’.

  12. @Bob
    “Reading books can also answer many of lifes questions and give you knowledge to tackle some of lifes obstacles. None of this is acquired through video games.”
    Why is a book more capable of this than a game? Does the ability to be immersed in your medium, the ability to interact suddenly strip you of all facets of intelligence and cognitive capabilities? Are you somehow unable to learn, because your hands have a controller in them?
    If I read the Twilight series would I be more adept at life, more erudite, or simply think that Jacob is dreamy?
    It feels as if you are saying all books are Shakespeare and all games are Daikatana. When viewed as a pastime, the two share alot of aspects, and to criticise one is incredibly hypocritical.

  13. avatar Junidris

    Its better to ask seellr to know which data card works with the model of hcl tablet.Tataphoton seem to work with most Chinese tablets. i have not tried any of them by the way.Don’t expect to use this more than few minutes because most cheap tablets have only 3-4 hours battery life.When you plug in an usb data card which also needs to be powered it will dies very quick. Even the laptop battery run out quickly when using data cards.So think about that, its better to go with a tablet which supports sim cards if you want to use internet on the go.They are not cheap by the way.

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