The older I get, the more I wonder if I’m “supposed” to be doing certain things. Should I be embarrassed for excitedly putting together a LEGO set? Is it acceptable for me to be putting away an entire Jersey Giant Boss in one sitting? Will my wife be mad at me for dedicating this chunk of paycheck to a limited edition Majora’s Mask 3DS XL? I know, I know… she’d be crazy to be upset about that. I mean, it’s limited edition! That means Nintendo will only make a small number of them (repeatedly, until demand finally dies)! I even saw a guy on eBay selling one for $1000!
Not like I’m gonna do that, I’m just saying the thing is special. And I don’t think it’s the expenditure I ever feel guilty about, at least not the monetary one. What gives me pause from time to time is… well, time. Hours spent immersed in a virtual world instead of working to improve or enjoy the real one. I’ve got a wife to spend time with and a house to fix up, the list of things I need to do IRL is literally endless (really, you tick one item off and two more pop up – happens every time). Gutters won’t fix themselves, the garage door opener won’t install itself, the Christmas decorations won’t put themselves away, etc. It’s always something. If there’s always something to do, is it really okay for me to sit on the couch or at my desk for hours at a time playing video games?
Here’s the thing: if I waited until there was nothing on my list and nobody around to spend time with, I’d be waiting forever. If my feelings of guilt over playing video games are valid, then I should also feel guilty about every other moment not spent doing something productive or externally meaningful. I don’t think anybody should feel guilty about spending their time how they choose to so long as it’s not counter to the demands of their real, actual life. In reality, my gutters can wait until spring. My garage door isn’t going anywhere. I can afford to look tacky if my Christmas lights are on the front porch for another week or two. If we’re a year from now and all three of those things remain untouched, then yeah, I’ve got a problem. Moderation, I guess is what I’m getting at.
But okay, so you’ve got a moderate amount of leisure time to use up how you want to. Aren’t there better things than video games to use it on? Maybe. I could be learning a new skill or building something or feeding the homeless, I guess. I could also do what a lot of people do and read or watch TV. I think video games get a bad rap compared to those last two and I’m not sure why. Games are a fantastic medium for story-telling and unlike Celebrity Apprentice or the latest “novel” from EL James, they require you to solve logical puzzles or pass strenuous tests of manual dexterity to proceed further into the story. You work hard to complete a video game and are rewarded with knowing you, personally, made the story unfold.
Not all games tell a story, but neither does working on your tan. Sometimes the only requirement for a fun activity is for it to be fun for you, the person partaking. So I’m 28 years old and still enjoy staying up late and playing Halo with my friends. We aren’t all on the same couch like we used to be, the experience has evolved somewhat, but we’re using our moderated free time to do something we enjoy with people we love. I implore anybody out there to tell me that’s less valid for me at 28 years old than for their kid at eight. Video games are awesome, and I look forward to one day enjoying them with kids of my own. What kind of message does it send them if I can’t keep up?
Think of the children.