Ever hear people say games are a complete waste of time? Today I heard two folks at a store talking about how better time could be spent doing better things. Yeah, like what? If people find it fun, why not let them? The quality of time spent is judged by the person. Some people enjoy reading a book, or seeing a play, or hanging out with friends at a bar – some people would prefer spending time playing World of Warcraft or a game of Half-Life 2. As long as you’re not addicted, it’s perfectly fine. You hanging out at a bar, reading a book, or seeing a play does nothing for society anyways – it only benefits you – so it doesn’t matter, now does it?
Having said that, are there benefits to just playing games? Of course! The more repetition you go through at something, the more fluent you become at it, and the more ways you think of doing it efficiently. That’s natural in video games. Let’s look at FPS (First Person Shooter) games for example. In these games, you must navigate through a 3D realm that’s usually fast paced while you have a million things shooting at you. You must solve puzzles and have a quick reaction time when someone attacks you and be able to predict enemy movement. Thus this increases visual reaction time and makes you predict movement just a little better. There has been several articles written about this. Here are some:
Improved visual perception has been the most discussed topic regarding video games. Video games do help though. As a programmer, I think it’s been able to help my eyes trace error in code faster and easier. I feel like I can parse characters and strings easily in my head by looking at text quickly. This comes, I think, from playing and beating pretty much every NES and SNES game out there. Also, with many of these games, you must use hotkeys very well. Thus, this has made me use hotkeys in Windows/Linux and has made me work faster with the keyboard – significantly that I often don’t use the mouse as others do – unless of course I have to use a graphics program like Photoshop. A combination of quick typing and quick movement of the eyes does wonders when working at the computer.
On the other side of the spectrum, besides FPS games like Counterstrike and Half-Life, come RPG games like World of Warcraft or Everquest. While not as fast paced as FPS, these games require a different form of mental ability. You need insight, logic, and strategy when going into battle. Unlike a game like Half-Life, where you must constantly be paranoid about getting a rocket up the ass out of nowhere – with an RPG game you must do quests that require you to fight with strategy. You must have the right weapons and armor. However, to get the weapon you want, you might have to budget your economy in the game in order to buy the item. You might even have to trade with another player, thus use clever communication to haggle with another player to get what you want. For armor, you might have to build your own. You might have to know some game alchemy to ultimately produce what you want. Also, to fight high level monsters, you might need the help of others, so you learn how to work in teams. All these principles (teamwork, managing your economy, logic and strategy) are actual principles that you can apply in your life – of course, in the game it’s all fantasy, but the reasoning, and the level of brain stimulation that goes on when you think about all this, is the same as in real life.
I know that because of RPG games, I got into classical music. RPG games have some great classical songs and have encouraged me to write some pieces myself. Also, not to mention complicated storylines in games- which I think make players think more creatively.
Of course, not everything is beneficial in gaming. The number one drawback is addiction. You’re addicted to anything when it starts impacting your life. If you, someone or something, is being affected in a negative way because of your gameplay, that is addiction. If you start arriving late at work. If you feel tired at work. If your brain is constantly thinking about the game when you’re not playing and that is affecting your current task – you’re addicted. The issue of addiction can be debated endlessly, but for the most part, if whatever you do (whether is playing a game, smoking, drinking, playing the slot machine) is affecting your health, or someone or something else in a negative way – that’s an addiction.
It’s all about priorities really. If you think having more fun in a day (regardless of what you consider to be fun) is more important than being productive, then mind you, go right at it. However, I think before having fun, it’s always more important to take care of your necessities first, like your family, friends, career and your health. Also, trying to do something good for society once in a while, doesn’t hurt. Those should be top priorities before having fun by playing a video game.
Here’s some other interesting articles: