As a kid growing up playing video games you constantly get bombarded from parents, teachers and even your classmates telling you how video games are a waste of time/how they’re bad for you. Of course, you’d ignore them and continue playing on Battle.Net or Xbox Live for hours on end.
However when you’re adult with a job and/or kids, you really start questioning if video games are a waste of time. Could you be spending your time more productively?
It’s been a question that everyone keeps asking to themselves. Playing video games practically my whole life, it’s hard to go past my ego and say “yes.” But I have to partially agree.
When people say video games are a waste of time/bad for you, here are the arguments I do AGREE with:
When it negatively affects other areas of your life
Let’s get this obvious one out of the way. This argument is used by anti-video gaming people all the time; when video games become addictive to the point where you’re compromising other areas in your life, then it’s not a good thing. I’m pretty sure I skipped a few morning classes in high school because I stayed up a bit too late playing StarCraft the night before. But the more serious stuff is when you neglect your job or family life. So if video games are negatively impacting your life where you’re missing out at school or work, then you definitely need to put the controller down. It’s wasting time that you should be doing to keep up with your adult life.
A form of escapism
I feel video games are a great way to temporarily relieve stress, but not as a form of permanent escapism. If you’re spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on video games to escape the pain, then it is serving a negative purpose. To me, it’s a band-aid solution. The time you’re spending on video games can be better spent on relieving the issue itself.
You get nothing out of playing video games?
To me, the most valid argument for saying video games are a waste of time = the time you spend on video games does not improve you as a person.
When you take part in a physical hobby (e.g. martial arts, weight lifting), you’re improving your physical looks and health. When you take a course, you’re growing your wealth of knowledge and ultimately making yourself more employable. When you go out to a club or bar, you’re giving yourself more opportunity to socialize and meet a partner. When you learn how to cook, you’re making your meals taste better and even making it healthier for your body by experimenting with food and ingredients.
But with video games, after you play you have nothing to show for it. Being a good support caster in League of Legends won’t mean anything in the real world (unless you’re competing in eSports). Levelling up your character to 100 doesn’t mean you’ll be level 100 in real life. Being good at Mario Kart won’t make you a good driver behind the wheel.
The time you invest in video games could be spent doing another hobby that gives you more real-life applicable skills. Playing a video game gives you very little to no real useful skills outside of virtual reality. And I think that’s why many argue that video games are a waste of time. It’s easy to say that from an outsider point of view. They compare video games to other value-increasing hobbies such as cooking, photography and fishing.
But that’s just me playing Devil’s Advocate for why video games are a waste of time. Now it’s time to look at it from a different point of view; how video games are a waste of time…NOT!
Video games can be GREAT for you!
Since I’ve been a gamer my whole life, I can see things from both. And I can say that not all video games are bad. In fact, some can be GREAT for you. One of my favourite games is Pokémon GO, because the game requires you to go outside and walk in order to collect Pokémon and items. And to defeat raid bosses, you have to socialize and coordinate an attack with either your friends or “strangers” playing Pokémon GO on the street. It’s one of the most unique video games out there. For all the stereotypes that video games bring (i.e. makes people sedentary and anti-social), Pokémon GO is the poster game to break those stereotypes. Don’t believe me? Check out these articles on how Pokémon GO has caused people to lose weight and help deal with depression.
Video games molded my real-life hobbies
Speaking of exploring, I myself LOVE exploring and traveling. And I’d have to say that video games are partially why I have such a curiosity for exploration. Playing games like Grand Theft Auto San Andreas and IV made me interested in visiting real-life places like California and New York. Playing a bunch of open-world Nintendo games like Mario, Zelda and Metroid Prime made me interested in doing stuff like that.
And no, I’m not a Nintendo fanboy; Nintendo has a made a bunch of mistakes throughout their history. But I’m glad I got to play awesome Nintendo games as a kid. So you could argue that ironically, without being a gamer I’d be less inclined to go out and walk every day and explore. I wouldn’t have had the desire or curiosity to explore new places, like I do in video games.
Most of you know that there’s a huge variety of video games. And honestly, all the video games made me interested in a variety of topics. Playing NBA 2K got me into basketball again. I love the SSX series and that got me into snowboarding when I was younger.
And let’s not get into music; not only do I love video game music, but playing a bunch of games got me interested into a variety of music genres (thanks Guitar Hero!). So in a sense, video games allow you to see a bunch of different aspects of life without diving too deep into it. For example, I would hate golf because I can see how frustrating that sport is.
Video games can be a useless hobby, but so are many others
Now I want to talk about the double standard when people judge that video games are a waste of time. What about other hobbies, like watching movies? When I was younger, I had a lot of people tell me the Same Old Story that Video Games Are Bad For You™, or how Video Games Make You Lazy And Fat™. They’re telling me this while they’re watching movies on a TV or theatre screen for 3 hours doing the exact same thing!
At least with video games, you can save and continue when it’s convenient for you. But at a theatre, you’ll waste 2-3 hours of your day watching something that you’ll probably forget in a few months. You’ll also probably drink shitty pop and eat shitty unhealthy popcorn that’s incredibly overpriced (I’m not a big fan of watching movies. I think the last movie I watched was Dragonball Resurrection in 2015). Not hating on you movie lovers, but if you’re going to lecture me about how video games are bad…watching movies are just as bad, if not worse!
Another hobby that’s arguably useless is learning to play an instrument. Unless you’re playing professionally or intend on becoming a rockstar, learning an instrument is INSANELY time-consuming with little or nothing to show for. What use will learning an instrument serve? Other than showing off to your friends for a few minutes that you can play Fur Elise on the piano or Stairway to Heaven on the guitar?
What about reading fiction books? Does reading Harry Potter or Stephen King books give you magical skills in real life? Absolutely not!
My point is, if video gaming is going to be judged by how useful it is in real life, we should also judge other hobbies by the same standard. Just because it’s cool to watch movies like a Normie and nerdy to play video games, doesn’t mean watching movies is a useful hobby.
Anyways, to the next point…
You can learn a lot of cool shit from video games
I can say throughout my life, I learned a lot of cool shit from video games!
In elementary school, we had this really awesome game called Math Circus on the computer. It was so much fun to play, and it actually taught me some advanced math skills when I was young! One mini-game you had to calculate how many gallons of water you need to put in the tank so that the sea lion doesn’t tip over the seesaw. In another mini-game, you’re trying to get across a field while avoiding projectiles thrown by a witch on the other side. You did that by precisely calculating the steps you needed to take and by timing your moves to dodge the witch’s attack.
Math Circus was a fun video game at school, and it made learning math a lot more fun during those days.
A more recent example for me is Cities Skylines, an urban planning game where you design your own city, with the game responding with whatever decisions you make with your city. I’m really into urban issues and transportation so this game was a perfect fit for me.
By watching my city grow and dealing with various problems in my city, I not only had a ton of fun but I also learned a LOT of things about city planning in general. For example, I always hated trucks but I see how vital they are to a city (how else are you going to get your supplies to your commercial districts)? I learned that pollution (noise, air and ground) is something that’s not easy to deal with or solve.
I even learned economics from this game. Tax too low and your city won’t make enough revenue to survive. Tax too high and your higher income residents will leave and you’ll lose your tax base to fund the city budget. I even learned about unemployment, and having it too high or low is a bad thing. So many cool things I learned from Cities Skylines, while having fun doing so.
Ironically enough, playing RPGs is how I adopted the concept of “levelling up” in life. Just like how you want your virtual character to increase in every stat as possible (e.g. strength, magic, dexterity), you want to level up in various areas of your life such as physical ability, intelligence and social competence. It’s definitely fun in RPGs, but even better when you try it in real life!
It’s easy to picture someone in a basement playing World of Warcraft for hours on end and assume video games are a waste of time and encourage anti-social activity. But a lot of video games actually make for great social activities. I know a bunch of friends who spend many evenings playing League of Legends together and chatting on Discord at the same time.
Going back to Pokémon GO, this game has strengthened communities and built many friendships for a lot of people. There are tons of Discord and WhatsApp channels just for Pokémon in almost every major town and city. Even during special events for Pokémon GO, there’s a sense of community surrounding the game, where everyone is helping each other and enjoying the fun. Even with dating, I can tell you that games like Mario Kart 64 make for a fun activity with a partner!
If you were to ask me if video games are a waste of time with friends, I would say absolutely not! They’re a great activity with your buddies. And definitely a lot cheaper than doing other stuff like going to a pub or watching a sports game live.
Overall, video games are a waste of time if you utilize them the wrong way. At the same time, they can add value to your life in the ways I described above. Like many hobbies and sulbcultures, you can’t stereotype them as good or bad, as they can be both.
Do you think video games are a waste of time? Or a hobby that’s truly misunderstood, and can be used for good things in this world? Let me know in the comments below!
My name is Roger Senpai. I’m a cosplayer that’s been in the community for well over a decade now. I’ve traveled all over the world to Anime and Comic conventions and hosted my own cosplay events. Now I’m writing articles for new and experienced cosplayers like you to help inspire, save you money and improve your cosplays!