“Video Games are Bad For You”
Everyone likes their entertainment delivered in different ways. For some, tv, movies and books deliver their comfort. Others enjoy the outdoors, or working on a project. There are a million different ways people entertain themselves.
Recently, I caught a clip from Joe Rogan’s podcast. In said clip, Joe and his guest ruled video games were “a waste of time,” “get you no where,” and so on (link to the full discussion here). Naturally, this has caused various groups on the internet to respond in kind; some nicely and some not so nicely. Considering I write about, play and do some light voice acting in game related projects, I wanted to get my opinion out there to some degree. Granted, I’m sure my article will get buried, but so what? With this article, I want to have more of a discussion about video games; their benefits, hazards, and overall place in our modern world. I don’t want to focus on Joe so much; everyone is entitled to their opinion, and trashing someone because you don’t agree with them is the adult equivalent of screaming and stomping your feet.
“Video Games Are a Distraction and You Don’t Get Anywhere”
Starting with the first point made, there’s a interesting concept to address; what does it ultimately mean to “make it” in life? Reading this, take a moment and ask yourself that. Now that you have your definition of “making it,” ask someone else the same question. Call them in from the other room; shoot them a text, email or a message. What kind of response do you get? In almost every case, the other person will have a completely different definition of “making it” in life. Marriage is the ultimate goal for some, while others define it as getting the job they always wanted, the car they always wanted, having kids, and so on. For some, the ultimate pursuit in life is just happiness via their preferred means. Granted, most people have these goals anyway, but the conditions for people feeling like they have “made it” in life is subjective.
The argument with this statement seems to be that if you’re playing video games, you’re not pursuing interests, talking to people, getting out of the house and leading an otherwise “normal” life. Considering the things I mentioned at the beginning of this article, how does gaming compare to other, more “accepted hobbies?” Watching TV, listening to music (or podcasts), stamp collecting, and even playing cell phone games are somewhat more socially acceptable; so why do video games carry such a stigma?
Too Much of a Good Thing
Anything in life can be done in moderation or to excess, and video games are no exception to this rule. You can play casually, or you can abandon all rhyme and reason, tossing yourself into the abyss that is the MMORPG (or the Witcher 3 because hot damn, that’s a game you can get lost in). Video games are an excellent source of escapism, the caveats being the non-physical aspect them (barring VR games), and said escapism is highly addictive. That being said, you can do this with literally any other activity in life and will not catch even a quarter of the flak as you would with video games. If you’re experiencing problems in life, its completely acceptable to lose yourself in your job, ignoring all other responsibilities. “Hey, at least they are making money” some might say, and the world may revolve around those sweet greenbacks, but this stigma gaming faces is ultimately misplaced. The few that do get addicted and go off the deep end carry the image of the rest of the people who enjoy the hobby; its like seeing someone kick back a beer and immediately assuming they’re an alcoholic. Individuals are responsible for their own and their peers behaviors at the end of the day, and shouldn’t waste time blaming something that is perceived as addictive.
I’ve logged a lot of hours playing video games in my years on this Earth. At one point, I even considered a career in the industry; the ultimate dream being to write stories or characters for a CRPG style game. Getting older, I realized that the possibility of that happening was a slim one, but I kept playing not just for the sheer enjoyment, but to see how writers and developers brought their characters and worlds to life. For me, at least, there’s a lot of thought that goes into the hours I spend playing video games; some of this thought has translated into actual approaches I take when forming a story, creating a character or even writing blurbs on here. Those other forms of seemingly “useless” entertainment I listed also have skills or tools that translate into real life skills. Just because something doesn’t make you money doesn’t mean it’s not important.
Take a common situation; you’re stressed out about a project at work, and you can’t quite get over the hurdle. Naturally, you seek out some kind of entertainment to readjust and recharge yourself, and in the end it ultimately makes you more productive as a result of your happiness. This isn’t even mentioning the fact that you create a common ground through your preferred entertainment, and this common ground helps you find other people with the same interests, usually resulting in making friends with people. Years ago, when I was alone in a strange town (with the exception of my girlfriend), I met a guy at a factory and we bonded over our love for first-person shooters’ I’ve known this fella going on a decade now and we still remain great friends. I started playing DOTA 2 around 2013, in its early beta days. While still being a relatively new player, I met a pretty chilled out guy in a random match. Soon after that, we were playing regular matches together, along with some of his friends he knew in real life. Three years ago, both of the guys I mentioned and a handful of other people I’d only ever met online drove halfway across the country to watch me get married. It is, without a doubt, one of the best memories I have; not just because of my wife, but because these guys who many “normal” people would consider strangers carpooled and schlepped themselves to the wedding of a man they knew incredibly well but had never actually seen in person. The tightest friendships I have, and they were made so solid because of video games.
“A Waste of Time”
I’m only 32 right now, so I have plenty of time ahead of me (or so one can hope), and I really would like nice things. People in my life have harped this sentiment at me before, saying I should be doing something productive or that I should be working an extra job (whatever the hell that means). They often say things like “If you just worked harder, you could be rich!” However, as I have aged, I don’t have a pull to get a huge house, or a brand new Mercedes, or really even to be super rich; I’d love to make enough to make ends meet and then some, to put it bluntly. My wife and I are comfortable where we are right now, and everybody always wants more, but it’s not the priority. I think about my final days on occasion, and not in a depressed way, but more in a curious way. See, when I’m waiting for the Reaper to take me gingerly by the hand, I don’t think I’m going to be thinking about my car, my finances, my home or any of that. I will, hopefully, be surrounded by the ones I love, and I’ll be thinking of good, happy times. My idea of “making it” is having friends and family that I love dearly and create happy memories with. To get a little personal, I’m not a person that keeps many friends in the first place; I have a few that I truly value and I keep it at that. I have no ill will towards others; I just like to spend my time on the people that are worth it. Some of those friendships I hold very near and dear to my heart were only possible through video games, and while “internet friends” as some might mockingly say aren’t a substitute for the real thing, they are equally important in my eyes.
Rounding it Out
At the end of the day, Joe Rogan’s argument, at least to me, comes from not knowing a lot about the subject itself. Honestly, that’s OK; there’s nothing to indicate he was saying it out of malice or hatred for people that enjoy video games. However, what it does indicate is misunderstanding and creating assumptions about what it means to play video games as your primary source of entertainment. Honestly, if it makes you happy and it isn’t harming you or anyone else, do it. This isn’t just about video games, but anything really. Don’t let anyone, be it a podcaster or your own kin tell you something is “stupid” or “a waste of time,” because if you’re happy while doing it, that’s time well spent.