Video games have a pretty bad image when compared to other media. It’s more or less acceptable to watch television or read a novel for several hours for example, but if you spend longer than half an hour with a controller in hand you may find your family organising an intervention.
You’d be forgiven for thinking video games were illicit substances.
But they can be just as complex and nuanced as cinema and literature. However, because they’re largely perceived as toys, they’re not treated as an entertainment platform or art form.
But you can analyse and deconstruct them just like any other media, they don’t have to be a waste of time. Of course, not every game is an artistic powerhouse, but the same can be said for other media.
Trashy romance novels and daytime soaps definitely aren’t the pinnacle of literature and cinema.
Sure, if you’re untying virtual knots on your mobile, you’re probably wasting your time. And for the record, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, sometimes you need to waste some time. It’s just that it’s probably not gonna do much for you other than being slightly less bored.
If you’re playing something a bit more meaty though, something with a great narrative and a little background lore, It’s on par with reading.
People underestimate how much reading gamers actually do, even in games that a have voice acting, you’ll often need to read a lot, clues and notes, books and messages. And often these little snippets fit into the big picture of the narrative or contribute to a puzzle in some way. So you’re not just reading random crap, it’s mentally engaging as well.
Horizon Zero Dawn is a great example, despite being fully voiced, you’ll still have to read all the data logs you find scattered about to get a more complete picture of events. You can just ignore them I guess, but you’d be missing out on a large chunk of the backstory.
If you’re playing online with your friends, you’re also being very social, either talking directly through the game, or using an app like Zoom.
Is it the same as catching up at the bar?
Not quite, but it’s not like you’re not interacting with anyone. You’re still spending time with your friends.
And you know, you can still play games together, as in, same room, same game, it’s a thing. Local multiplayer is a great way to spend time with friends and family.
And actually, games can be a great way to keep up with t your social circle. This was how a lot of people kept in touch throughout the pandemic for example, but it’s also quite useful on a smaller scale like keeping in touch with friends that live too far away to meet up with regularly.
Or you can tap into an interest in video games to teach your children about sportsmanship, the value of teamwork, focusing under pressure and how to deal with a crisis. It has all the benefits of playing a team sport, just without the physical exercise.
Is it true that playing video games is a bad way to spend one’s free time and a waste of time?
A waste of time… yeah maybe if you treat it that way. But isn’t that what leisure time is for?
But a bad way to spend your free time?
No, it doesn’t have to be. Video games can be just as rewarding as other forms of entertainment.
Video games are a versatile medium and can incorporate the beneficial aspects of other activities, like reading, social sport or spending time with your friends. So the notion that video games are inherently inferior to other leisure pursuits is just straight-up false.