As a Gamer for over 30 years, I have often heard critics of video games dismiss the hobby as a waste of time.
Wait, more like a “HUGE waste of time.”
This became even more obvious once I graduated college and started working in a professional role. I felt like I had to keep the fact that I enjoyed video games a secret. I thought to myself, “Sure it’s okay to play golf all day Saturday or spend your entire Sunday watching a football game. But mention that you play video games, and everyone at work sees you as a kid.”
So for awhile, I stopped playing.
I thought it was a part of “growing up,” that somehow I would be more likely to get a promotion or be taken seriously as a professional.
Are video games a waste of time, or was I just worrying too much about what others thought?
Moderation in all things, even moderation
Anything can be a waste of time if there is no purpose. If you play video games as a form of entertainment, then is the quantity of entertainment right? Others may surf the web, go fishing, watch sports games, sew, play checkers, gossip, or any other number of activities.
If you are doing anything (aside from sleep) more than 3 hours a day, it will make an impact on your life. Are you happy with how you feel about spending the amount of time on games that you do? That is a big clue as to whether or not it is a waste of time. If you feel regret, go find something else to do instead.
As the case with almost anything, the medium is not the problem, as much as how individuals use it.
TV, music, eating, reading, playing video games, board games, jigsaw puzzles, even drinking water can all be great things when done in moderation. Any of these taken to the extreme can be unhealthy or even dangerous.
Studies from university researchers and U.S. Army Mental Health Assessment Team show that playing games up to 21 hours a week , or about 3 hours a day, can have positive impacts on health & happiness (Video Games: An Hour a Day is the Key to Success in Life).
Balance and Cost
The key is balance, and realizing that any time you spend has a cost. Video games can help develop important skills, but those skills are only useful if you put them into action. The best way to keep game time in check, is to schedule it (How to Balance Video Games with Real Life).
I know that sounds a bit extreme, but time is just like money – if you don’t have a specific plan for every dollar, it’s easy to waste. If you don’t have a plan for every 30 minutes/1 hour block, it is easy to spend it in ways that you will regret.
Here’s a great resource: The Gamer’s Guide to Achieving Work/Life Balance
I’m a father, husband, full time employee, entrepreneur, and speaker. I also find time to play video games. Once your schedule begins to fill up with work, etc, play time does become more limited. However, like any hobby, you can schedule time to play.
As others have mentioned, there is an opportunity cost. When you choose to play video games, you are choosing NOT to do something else.
Let’s say you can either a) play video games 3 hours a day, or b) work a part time job for $10/hr for the same amount of time.
By the time a year has passed, the job will earn a bit over $10,000 (before taxes). So in this example, playing video games is costing $10,000 a year.
I don’t say this to discourage you from playing video games, but only to make the point that we all need to be aware that we can’t do everything we want to do, but we should think about what is most important to us and what is best for our long term goals and purpose in life.
So are video games a waste of time? Ultimately, negative impact from video games is less about the medium and content, and more about overuse. Engaging in 3 hours or less a day should not result in negative impact – unless you are ignoring other life responsibilities – but also consider the opportunity cost (what you are missing out on).
Also, try to look for ways that video games are not a waste of time. “Level Up Your Life” by Steve Kamb, and “Mastering the Game” are examples of books that show how the skills you learn in video games can help you succeed in the real world! (Wall Street Journal Video on Why Video Games May Be Good for You)
Take time to get really clear on what you want out of life and how you want others to remember you when you are gone.
Then work every day to make that a reality!