Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Too Much Video Games?

Before I left home this morning, I flipped on the radio for the kids to listen to. There were two on-air personalities speaking, one male and one female. The man intimated that he had played six hours of video games the previous day. The woman responded that she thought that was "too much" and that she could see one or two hours, "every now and then."

I should pause for a moment to explain that I used to play video games quite a bit. I haven't had time in the last couple years except for when Xenosaga II came out.

What, exactly, is the a priori assumption of many people that video games are somehow bad? This personality simply said that it was "too much," without any explanation of why it is too much or what she perceived to be the harm or inferiority of video games. I suspect that it's largely because of the environment in which she grew up. Then, video games were something meant for children. But what she and many other people don't realize is that as my generation has grown up, so have video games.

I then wondered whether she would say the same about other things. If instead he had said that he watched TV for six hours, would she say that it's "too much"? Perhaps, but I don't think that she would have added her recommendations for watching it only an hour or two "every now and then." I'm sure she herself watches TV more often than that, as most Americans do. Personally I think video games are healthier than the vast majority of television programs.
And what of reading? If he had claimed that he read a book for six hours, then would she say that it was "too much"? Most certainly not. But I submit that many video games (especially RPGs such as the Xenosaga and Final Fantasy series) are actually healthier than reading, for example, a romance novel.

No, playing video games for six hours at a sitting is not evidence in itself of anything less healthy. It's different with many MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games, such as Everquest [Evercrack] and World of Warcraft [WoW]). These games, rather than being an escape for a few hours to a different life, tend to become the important life for some people. I have a friend who leaves work each day to go home, shut off his cell phone, and play World of Warcraft until he nearly collapses from sleep. Then he gets up in time to go to work and repeats the process. Why am I not afraid that he'll read this and be offended? Because he's either at work, asleep, or playing WoW. He'll never see this. There was a short time when he quit playing Final Fantasy XI (the franchise's foray into the MMORPG genre) and he was really fun to hang out with again. But then he got into WoW and that was all over.
To take it to the extreme, the South Koreans are perhaps the perfect example of when video games become too much. Some die from extended video game binges without food or sleep. Others form real-life gangs to exact revenge on people who have, in their minds, wronged them within the online environment.

But playing a game for six hours on a particular day? That's certainly not "too much." And neither would be two or three hours on a daily basis, as long as it doesn't interfere with the rest of your life and your happiness. TV and books are equally able to do that. Before video games, many people delved into books as their sole source of faux human interaction, to the detriment of their health and lives. But does that make books bad? Does that making reading for six hours on a particular day "too much"?

I think not.

1 comment:

  1. good points. it is when i read about kids (and adults lol) dying while playing video games because they forget to do NON video game things like..oh eat and sleep, that worry me hehe.