Fed Up With Gaming

There are three basic kinds of gamers, in my acquaintance.

The X-Box/Playstation gamers. They spend a few hundred bucks on a box with more computing power than all of my technology put together, and a TV the size of my subcompact. Then they get their buddies together and proceed to kill each other. These types may be able to wax eloquent on eight or fifty different guns or tanks (or…?) that they’ve never seen in real life, never mind operated. They may have scored more touchdowns on Madden than any hall of famer receiver. They may have amazing finger muscles.

I know there are very adept female gamers (my cousin is one) but when I think ‘PS4’ I think young guy between 14 and 34.

Then there are the iPhone gamers. I sometimes disguise myself as one of these, as I am in the stereotypical demographic for these games: the twenty-something young woman. I’m not sure what game are being played these days… Flappy Bird? Back in the day (when I had no phone) I’d solve my friend’s ‘Four Pictures One Word” problems whenever they got stumped. These are simple, addicting games that get played by hundreds of chicks like me on hundreds of coffee breaks and bus-stops around the world.

My last category is the Facebook gamer, which absorbs the demographic of young, stay at home moms and retirees–if my Facebook feed can be trusted.

These are the games that fill up your notifications with requests for random things and invitations to play Candy Crush. These notifications have been known to push me into uncontrollable fits of rage, in which I storm around and shout “I WILL. NOT. PLAY. YOUR. GAME.”

Nuff said.

Lest my tongue in cheek definitions make you think I hate gaming, allow me to list off what I like about gaming.

‘Cause I actually do like gaming.

It’s fun. Face it, isn’t that why we game? I’m not sure why, but I really enjoy running around with an AK-47 in my hands… when I’m not dying. I tend to slightly more tame games like Age of the Empires and Stronghold, where I can build my armies without worrying about constant respawning.

It connects people. It gives my brothers and their young cousins in common to do together. It gives me something to do with my brothers (who put up with my comical ineptitude). And I’ve managed to have intelligent conversations (short ones) with coworkers about video games.

It fires up the imagination
. I have travelled so many landscapes, experienced so many scenarios, and learned much from gaming. It gives me the opportunity (particularly in first-person games) to stand in anothers’ shoes. For a writer that is a valuable thing.

They are good educators. The first computer game I ever played was Reader Rabbit. I learned to type through Mavis Beacon software, which employs many different typing games. Educational software is common in schools, but not only that, is used in the military. In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink mentions a game called America’s Army, which was developed by the American military as a recruiting and training tool. It emphasizes teamowrk, values and responsibility as a means of achieving goals. How cool is that?

But despite the benefits and sheer entertainment value of gaming, I fear it has been taken too far.

Lemme ‘splain.

I love carbs. Grilled cheese, pasta, pizza, chips. Love ’em. And these are not bad things but I was eating waaaay to many. These would spike my blood sugar, overload my body, and go straight to belly fat. Now that I am learning about how to limit my carbs in favour of protein, veggies and good fats, I am experiencing increased energy, a better complexion, and weight loss.

Video games are like carbs. Tasty, and good to a point, but in large doses, detrimental to your life and health. They have the potential to waste your life. Dead serious.

It truly pains me to see the young men around me spending hours a day playing video games–and then marrying and having kids and still doing the same thing. I’m not saying don’t play–do. But what about priorities?

What about nurturing relationships with your family, girlfriend, wife, kids? What about pursuing a fulfilling career? What about educating yourself to make your life better? Heck, what about sleep? Why are so many of these men, who should be at the peak of their health and vitality, exhausted, sucking down sugar and energy drinks to make it through the work day?

I’m not saying don’t game. I’m saying that you could be so much more.

Why aren’t these young woman with iPhones on their kindle apps, reading about how to become better in relationships, in finances, in health? Why aren’t they stimulating their mind with imaginative novels? Why aren’t they sending an email to a friend or taking care of some small business item. Why are they wasting those small moments that their life is made of. Listen: those small moments make all the difference in the grand scheme of your life.

I won’t go into Facebook gaming.

I’m not saying don’t game. I’m not saying that I don’t have my own vices, like spending too much time on YouTube or Facebook. I’m not trying to make gaming the baddie here. Entertainment and media of most kinds could be inserted instead. Heck, almost anything could be substituted. People have the ability to ruin almost everything.

I look back and see how much I’ve wasted already and I cringe. And I look at the kind, intelligent, strong young people around me and it HURTS me to see them dissipating themselves while they are at the peak of their creative vitality. You’ll never get that back!

By all means, play video games. But make it just another weapon in your arsenal–to connect, to imagine, to educate, and to relax and have fun when you’ve earned it. Use it in tandem with the ‘protein’ of healthy relationships, the ‘vegetables’ of solid education and the ‘good fats’ of hard work.

And get some sleep, will you?

Disagree? See any benefits or detriments of video games that I missed? Let me know.


3 thoughts on “Fed Up With Gaming

  1. A person who has had a steady diet of junk/mediocre foods may not appreciate the value of wholesome food…and they might not realize why someone else has different results. It takes enough belief that it will be worthwhile for us to have the the discipline to change our ways. Same goes to trading our bad habits for good ones. You give us a good reminder for to check our results and correct our habits where necessary.

  2. Thanks for your stern essay. I would add that it pains me when people waste their precious time on games and then give excuses why it’s okay, or why they think they need it. (This also applies to TV, and really any bad habit including my own vices). I have had two different respectable middle-aged ladies tell me (about their Facebook games) “it’s just mindless games”. As though that somehow makes it all okay.

    It’s not okay.

    I look up to you, older ladies. Girls like me need mentors like you. But not so much if all we see is that you’re wasting your life.

    That being said, an excellent reading assignment is “Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper.

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