2. Why I Hate Video Games

SONG: Cee Lo Green – Forget You. “I guess he’s an Xbox, and I’m more Atari, but the way you play your games aint fair.

When I was little, I used to wish Spyro the Drago was real: FACT.

I played it all the time. I was incomparably rubbish, but I enjoyed the challenge, and all the whooshy jingly noises.

Nowadays, I don’t play video games. Not on my own – although I occasionally spend half an hour or so with my family madly waving the Wii remote around my head like I’m trying to swat an invisble giant hornet, all in the name of tennis.

To tell you the truth – and I’m just going to put this out there – I think video games are the most pointless waste of precious lifetime hours ever. And I say this despite my acute awareness of the Twilight books, so this really is saying something.

The truth is, I just can’t reconcile myself with the fact that you don’t actually get anything out of it. Sure, if you’re leading an imaginary army to an imaginary battle, I haven’t really got much right to expect a real-life Victory parade or collection of horrific anecdotes with which to scare the shit ouf my future generations. Nor should I expect a real million quid for completing a quiz with the help of my imaginary phone-a-friend. Although, I’m told you don’t get actual vet bills on those pet games either. Bonus.

The fact remains that when I’ve played this video game for however many dozens of hours, and won whatever prize I was aiming for, I don’t feel I’ve achieved anything at all except shamelessly wasting the time it would take to read an actual book, learn an actual skill, or at least go to a real pub and get shitfaced with actual people. On a less fun but infinitely more productive scale, I could have genuinely spring-cleaned my cupboards or definitely cooked an actual dinner: not giving me quite the same level of fun, granted, but it does benefit me at some point, which is more than repeatedly clicking a button while screaming ‘Die! DIE!!’ at a screen for a few hours would.

My issue is I definitely don’t have time to do all the stuff I should be doing in a day anyway, without filling half of it with a load of imaginary tasks as well. As kids, this isn’t such an issue – they don’t need to search for car insurance or wax unsightly hairs – but surely we’ve all got better things to do? Aside from the chores, we could even do stuff that’s fun nonetheless but actually worth something at the end? Life is short, and we only get one go at it, so you might as well fill it with as much experience as possible. You get lots of extra ‘lives’ before it’s game over on these games: not true of real life, I’m afraid.

Kids love these games, and why shouldn’t they? They are fun. And for God’s sake us adults need them to enjoy them sometimes. After I walked my niece around the room for the hundredth time yesterday so she could indiscriminately point at everything, I would pretty much have paid her to be friends with Sonic for half an hour. And she’s not even one yet. (Yes, I’m a bad person.)
But when you give kids awesome theme tunes like the pokemon one:

…I can’t help feeling you’re just being a bit mean. Sure, the kids will probably feel inspired to ‘be the very best like no one ever was’ like the song tells them, but ohhh the irony: bad news, sprog, you probably won’t – because if you keep playing this game, you’ll just spend your childhood gradually moulding your hands into the shape of the controller instead of actually doing something real.

My other beef is people using these games as an excuse not to talk to actual people. I genuinely had a fight with a friend a couple of weeks ago because he admitted he was too busy playing Football Manager to talk to me properly. It ended with me hysterically suggesting he could take his entire team from Football Manager to the park, or ice skating, or to a restaurant where they can do that thing with spaghetti where they eat it until their lips meet in the middle, except WAIT, NO YOU CAN’T BECAUSE IT’S NOT REAL PEOPLE. It didn’t go down well. I still thought I was right.

Yes, I know, I know you can play these games together and then it’s hours of fun. I still get excited every time I whip my brother’s ass at rowing on the Sonic Olympics game because, quite frankly, in reality he’s a monster athlete and I can’t even run for the bus. But I still can’t help thinking it would be both more fun and more worthwhile if we actually went and played football, or actually learned how to play guitar instead of learning how to press the yellow, blue and red buttons in sequence four hundred times in an hour.

The only concession I will make is that some games are genuinely beneficial as well as fun. I really did lose weight on the Wii Fit and learned how to do yoga moves properly (if I didn’t then my trainer – who sounded an unnerving amount like Jimmy Carr – helpfully told me I was ‘wobbling a bit’ which didn’t make me feel all that smashing), and I know plenty of people who feel remarkably sharper and better at maths since they started brain training every day.

And yeah, maybe the whole Football Manager thing was just sour grapes when I realised I just wasn’t as mentally stimulating as a video game. But I still can’t help feeling that playing video games is, in terms of achievement, a lot like being that little action character who’s got stuck in the corner and is repeating walking into a wall.

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12 thoughts on “2. Why I Hate Video Games

  1. Great post! Interesting and well-argued. I disagree, but then I’m a massive nerd so I would, wouldn’t I? 🙂

    The reason I disagree is this: you say that video games are a massive waste of time that you get nothing out of by the end; but so too, then, are books, movies and TV shows. All of these things serve an important purpose: entertainment. Without entertainment, we spend all our days doing work, work, work.

    More passive forms of entertainment are important as they provide us with fun without having to make too much effort. That’s not being lazy, that’s just accepting the fact that sometimes you don’t have any energy, or sometimes you don’t want to hang out with people—sometimes you just want to do something selfish and fun for yourself.

    The trick, though, as with anything pleasant, is not to overindulge. Overindulgence, lack of self-control or, in the kids’ case, lack of parental control—that’s what leads to problems. The games aren’t problems in and of themselves. In fact, they stimulate the brain and body far more than flopping in front of a TV show.

    We’re also at a stage now where “video game” is such a broad-ranging term that it’s almost meaningless. When you lump experiences like Wii Fit, Call of Duty, Amnesia: The Dark Descent and FarmVille under the same banner, it’s clear that differentiation is needed. All of them offer very different experiences for different kinds of people. And not all games are for everyone.

    That’s fine; but it doesn’t mean they’re a waste of time 🙂

  2. Hey, angryjedi! 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

    I agree that to some extent everything under the entertainment umbrella could be classed a waste of time. But I find myself profoundly moved by books, films and TV – in a way that sometimes helps me re-evaluate my life (the very title of this blog is taken from a song in the movie ‘Rent’ – so that’s written word, music and film all acting as more than a waste of time there!) – I would find it hard to find any kind of inspiration whatsoever from a video game.

    I’ve also never wanted to write my own video game. It’s literature and films that made me want to write my own novel/play, and I’ve done both of those.

    Things that don’t require effort are fine – as you say – in small doses. I agree with you entirely. I just find myself inexpressibly frustrated every time I’ve played a game. I can’t help but want to be doing something more productive all the time. Maybe I should learn to chill out a little more. 😉

  3. First let me start by saying this was a great blog and was very well written. Yet I do have to disagree. One of my main reasons for disagreeing has to be your respknee to angryjedi. I know for me that when I finished final fantasy 8 I felt like I had just finished the greatest story ever and that’s what got me into writing fiction. If you look at games like grand theft auto, yes your not going to find a strong story, just bitches and guns, but if you look at a game with a strong story like a final fantasy it can be even better than a book because the point of the game is the strong story, the deep characters, the situation they are in. Then by the end of the game you feel an even greater connection with the characters because not only did you hear their story you lived it with them.
    I do have to agree with both you and angryjedi that games can destroy and waste away your life, but just as Jedi said, pretty much anything can If you don’t have moderation first and don’t set your priorities in a smart way.
    Also don’t worry I don’t at all want to talk you into gaming. It’s not for everyone. I just hope that you might be able to see the strong way that a game can tell a story. Also sorry for any errors in this post. I’m sending it from my phone lol.

  4. I suspect that views on gaming all very much depend on what tickles your fancy & what games you have played or seen played.

    I’ve always been a bit of a sci-fi geek and enjoy an array of related media – movies, TV shows, fanfiction & published books and novels so the games that I have gravitated towards have almost always been rather more ‘involved’ than Wii Sports or Tekken.

    Playing games has inspired me in more ways than I would probably care to admit, mainly because of the community that surrounds the games that I have played; there are bloggers, programmers, writers, podcasters, artists & analysers.

    Different games work for different people – Wii Sports feels like a waste of time to me; I agree, I’d much rather be playing some football out in a park than in my sitting room (plus I’m really clumsy and it would probably end in tears!). Strategy games also confuddle me more than I am comfortable with, so I leave them to friends who enjoy replaying historical battles to see if they could change the course of history.

    I think that Pete hit the nail on the head with saying ‘not all games are for all people’, I just consider myself lucky to have been ushered into the gaming world with a game that suits me so well – perhaps if I had been presented with something rather less interesting to me, such as Farmville or the WWF fighting game my gaming views would be vastly different!

  5. It must be pretty tiring for you.

    Trying to fill every waking moment with something meaningful, worthwhile, something that builds you as a person and lets you contemplate on the human condition. Something you can justify to yourself as a “good use of time”. Reading Kirkegaard while using a cross trainer and looking at Picassos.

    Or, you know, painting a massively complex and disparate and evolving creative medium with a gigantic, skyscraper-sized, broad brush. That’s gotta be exhausting.

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  8. Funnily enough, Mark – my personal blog is based on my own personal experience – I don’t speak for the entire gaming industry, nor do I consider myself an expert in this ‘evolving creative medium’ – I’m clearly not, as my gaming experience is limited, having given up on all the ones I’ve tried (and that is more various than you obviously think) because I’ve not enjoyed them.
    My article is not “Why I hate video gamers’, it is ‘Why I hate video games’ – my own personal view, see? So I don’t really see the need for your obvious anger at my stance.

    I’d love for you to drop the attitude and explain to me with a little more detail why my opinion is so very wrong – I am always trying to learn. Furthering myself, as you’ve rightly pointed out, is my daily aim, but I can’t really learn anything from what you’ve said as you’ve failed to back up your argument with any kind of fact.
    The issue is: whereas the other commenters have given me further educating insight into the gaming world, you’ve only succeeded in showing you’ve grasped basic sarcasm. Well done you.

  9. Hey larainbow. I went to a fantastic talk in London by game designer Jane McGonigal back in October. She introduced us to an alternative model of productivity to the traditional Protestant work ethic of produce, produce, produce.

    In a nutshell, the model was PERMA – Positive Emotion, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment. Accomplishment is still a big part of productivity but the focus is shifted towards generating happiness and connecting with people. Sure, Rock Band doesn’t translate to playing a real guitar (pro guitar notwithstanding) but it’s a hundred times more enjoyable than the early stages of guitar practice and a great way to bond with friends. Sitting alone in your room listening to the same 30 seconds of a solo over and over while picking away at strings? Not so much.

    Have a look at her video online at http://vimeo.com/16227360 There’s definitely some food for thought there.

  10. Very well written article. I heard it caused a stir and since I am somewhat into computer games I thought I would give it a read.

    Although I agree to an extent that maybe there are times in the day when one should be focusing on important issues in their life like bills, family, and eating, but I find video games to be just as enjoying as a good book or film at times. It all comes down to personal taste, and I cannot argue with yours as it is…well, yours.

    There are many great games out there, and I am not urging you to try them, but to understand that script writers for games often get it very right, and can be just as compelling and in-depth as any good book. I see someone has mentioned Final Fantasy 8, which I could not agree more on. The story leaves you wanting more, as though you are a part of that world, and cant that be said for a favourite book or film? As mentioned previously, they are all sources of entertainment, and for others a game can often be more interesting. Its not all mashing buttons, there is some technique, and often some reading included. Sure there are games out there that aren’t worth the time of day, but that can be said for other media also.

    In moderation games can be a valuable source of entertainment, knowledge, heightened well-being, and relaxation. There are those who abuse the privileges of game time, and abandon all reality, but the BBC’s version of this in ‘Panorama’ shows that all too well, right? You seem to have the assumption that everyone who plays computer games forgets to cook a good meal, do their housework, pay their insurance and go outside once in a while. I know you have said in a previous comment that your article was not about gamers and just about games, but you have touched on how you as an anti-gamer lives their life. You said you dont have enough time in the day to do all the things you want to do. I am not trying to sound at all rude but maybe that is down to your organisation. I manage to cook, clean, read, work, talk to friends and play computer games. I play games, but I still find time to go down the ‘pub and get shitfaced’, which is actually more harmful even in moderation, then the same amount of hours playing games. You seem to want to do so many things with your time that even your reading pattern sounds rushed and stressed.

    No you cant take these characters out for a picnic or a long walk, but you can’t do that with a book character either. Everyone needs a bit of time to themselves once in a while, a place to go to loose themselves from reality, and if games do that for some then that is great. It is not a waste of time for these people; they could say the same to you for looking up car insurance.

    As you have said some games can be very antisocial, but even the ones where you may (or may not) shout ‘die, DIE’ at the characters can be sociable. The majority of games on the market theses days have multiplayer and online modes, so you can interact with other people all the time if you wish. A book could even be classed as more antisocial…

    So yes, I value your opinion, you hate computer games, but some people use them in the same way you may use books; to better themselves, relax, escape etc. I have rambled way too much, and maybe it doesn’t all make sense, and I am not trying to win you over, but ask you to understand why these things are part of people’s lives.

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