I wouldn’t describe myself as a gamer. When I was younger I did have a very strong relationship with my PS2 but it was a phase I grew out of. I spent many days collecting talismans on the Jackie Chan Adventures game and weeks swinging around New York City fighting crime in Spiderman 2. It was fun and helped fill the time on those indulgent six weeks’ holidays.
It’s not an uncommon use of time for young boys. Cartoon Network recently found that the modern boy aged 6-12 spends a total of 29 days and nine hours a year playing video games.
However, a lot of my friends never grew out of this and still spend many hours a week playing video games. Whilst I wouldn’t spend money on games councils now I have on occasion got in to games on my phone, I spent two years leveling up on Temple Run 2 and more recently I’ve turned Pokémon master on Pokémon Go.
I feel like I have a good balance though, I only play these games when I’m traveling. I never find myself being antisocial to play, yet so many people I know will stay in on a Saturday night because they are playing a game. Why bother with the hassle of getting ready, traveling and spending money for a dance with strangers when you could be ridding (the virtual) world of deadly assassins?
It got me to thinking, how much time are we spending in the virtual world? And more importantly, is it healthy?
One thing we must explore is that gaming has evolved in recent years. It’s not a 40-year-old man alone in his mother’s basement with his PS1 anymore. It’s friends on multi-player games, talking through headpieces and achieving missions together. It’s escapism but it’s no longer lonely escapism, its doing things with your friends and making friends through gaming.
The type of people who game has also changed, It’s not about reclusiveness it’s actually sociable people finding new technology to socialize and interact together – just on a digital platform. Think Facebook with zombies.
So many games also allow us to live out our fantasies, take Ben 10 which the kids love these days, its new series airs on Cartoon Network on Saturdays at 10am but the fun doesn’t end there. Kids can now play the game and put themselves in the driver’s seat. It mirrors all technology now which puts emphasis on interaction. As a generation we are no longer content just watching the action, we want to be part of it and gaming fulfils that need.
When it comes to the question of are we spending too much time on games I guess you could argue it’s just like any other hobby. Nowadays we are all too quick to overanalyse our relationship with and screen. Are we spending too much time looking at screens? Are kids spending too much time on screens? It’s endless. But replace the word games console with book and suddenly you have a very different reaction.
Spend as much time as you want with a book, cancel on your friends miss your wedding. Books have been around for centuries and we love them, they have no stigma of being unhealthy attached to them. It’s in our nature to be wary of the new, it’s how our species has survived so long but at the end of the day if you aren’t going to criticise someone for spending three hours reading a book you can’t get on your high horse when people spend three hours on a video game.
We all have different interests and we shouldn’t give people a hard time over their hobbies.