“What did you do last weekend?”
For far too long, I was in the habit of saying “nothing,” when I had really spent the weekend playing video games. The truth is, there are certain stereotypes attached to gamers that I always wanted to avoid because they didn’t ring true for me. I don’t neglect other areas of my life to play video games, nor is it the only hobby I enjoy. I’m a social gamer who enjoys making friends and chatting with people in-game. And I absolutely don’t let gaming consume my life, no matter how much I think, talk, or blog about it.
Still, I’ve found it’s really difficult to explain video games to someone who doesn’t play. When you’re in a pinch, it’s nice to have a few prepared explanations that non-gamers can understand. Here are four justifications that I commonly employ.
1) It’s a skill
In order to play most games successfully, you need a special combination of physical dexterity, mental acuity, and patience. Beating a particularly difficult level or game isn’t something you can do on your first try. Like baseball, playing video games is a skill you have to work at. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at timing tricky jumps, managing items, and taking down enemies.
The great thing about gaming is that the skills you hone while playing aren’t confined to this particular genre. Time and again, experts have shown that playing video games actually helps you work on other skills. Here at Civil Cyborg, we’ve talked about how gaming inspires you become more creative and helps improve your academic performance.
Although not everyone is open to hearing it, I’ve found it’s helpful to emphasize the skill-building element to friends who don’t play. It helps them see that video games aren’t just a “mindless” activity (although really, what’s wrong with that?). And by emphasizing the benefits of gaming, you’re more than likely to convince your friends to join in on the fun!
2) It’s what fits into your budget
When the recession hit a few years back, many experts predicted that the gaming sector would be one of the hardest hit. And while it’s true that console games have suffered a downturn, digitally-released titles on platforms like Steam have increased in popularity. Maybe it’s because they tend to be cheaper than console games, but digital games are consciously embraced by gamers on budgets. And while some hard-core gamers don’t consider mobile titles like Candy Crush a true “video game,” there’s no denying they’re easy on the wallet (many are actually free).
Compare the price of a video game to a night out at the bar or a day at the amusement park. These activities, while fun, lack one of the most important aspects of video games: replay value. A few drinks with friends is a one-time thing, but spending 50 bucks on a video game that you’ll play again and again will pay for itself very quickly. Of course, you’ve got to really like a game to make sure you’ll enjoy its full value. But that part is easy: just do your research on review sites before you buy.
The bottom line is, depending on your spending habits, playing video games can actually save you money. And it’s not just me who believes it. Here’s one mom looking into the cost of a Wii U versus other entertainment for her children, ages 10 and 13. And here’s another article about how multiplayer games saved a group of friends some money.
If you’re looking for new ways to save cash on video games, there are plenty of different options out there. You can trade or barter your games, shop yard sales, split the cost with friends, or buy bundled games. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to take advantage of sites like Cheap Ass Gamer and money-saving events like the Steam Summer sale.
3) It’s a form of escapism
In 2012, at least three quarters of Americans over the age of 16 read at least one book. There are many different blog posts on why people read, but one of the most popular is that it’s a form of escapism. Likewise, many of the 58% of Americans who play video games also do it because it allows them to escape, to explore new worlds, to interact with amazing characters, and to chase dreams that wouldn’t be possible in real life.
Although it’s not always acknowledged, gaming serves the same role in many people’s lives as does reading or writing (and sometimes, these three activities are even complementary, like in fan fiction). In the words of The Book Goddess, “A book takes away our time and space limitations. We can visit the past or the future, travel to an exotic locale, or imagine what it is to be an athlete or a soldier or a monk.” The next time you need to explain why you game, why not paraphrase these eloquent words? It’s a beautiful way to express one reason why video games are so addictive- they let you visit other worlds.
4) It’s what fits your personality type
According to the Myers-Briggs personality test, everyone fits into a specific personality type. I happen to be an INFJ, which means I’m introverted and enjoy quiet, independent, creative hobbies. Besides reading, writing, and doing the occasional painting, I can’t think of any other activity besides gaming that the bill so perfectly. Depending on the type of game I play, different aspects of my personality are explored. The part of me that likes to accomplish goals loves questing in World of Warcraft. My artistic side loves designing homes in The Sims.
If you have a few minutes, take a free personality test and see what the results say about you. While a test isn’t fool-proof, it might give you better insight into why you play and what you play, making it easier to explain to friends.
Justify your gaming addiction….or not
I’m of the opinion that unless you are seriously neglecting your health or social relationships, pursuing video games as a hobby is totally legitimate. It’s up to you whether you want to use one of the justifications above, but if you do, you should never feel ashamed about what you choose to do in your spare time. Happy gaming!