(Originally published June 18, 2014)
Here we are, nearly 40 years into their existence as a mainstream activity, and video games are still looked down upon by so many as a second-class and/or childish entertainment behind the other forms of popular media (television, movies, books). While it is assumed that almost everyone has at least a passing interest in movies, music, reading, and television, when it comes to video games you still have to specifically ask each person you meet if they play them rather than just feeling comfortable openly discussing them with anybody like you can with the other things I mentioned – can you imagine having to go out of your way to make sure someone watches movies before you can even begin talking about them? The people who don’t play video games at all often treat it like some obscure niche hobby, like building ships in a bottle or restoring old cuckoo clocks, not the common, mainstream form of media that it is; they don’t get it, they won’t do it and they can’t understand why anyone even would, all the while condescendingly shaking their heads at those that do.
What irritates me most are the people who spend large amounts of their day watching TV and somehow still feel more mature and intellectually superior to those who play video games instead. It’s fine if the bulk of your free time consists of climbing mountains, volunteering at homeless shelters, or creating art of some kind, and you just can’t see yourself staring at a television for hours on end. Good on you for leading such an active and socially responsible life that doesn’t leave time for frivolous entertainments. However, if the amount of hours I spend each week playing video games is comparable to the amount of hours you spend TV, you are in no place to take any sort of high ground that allows you to look down on me and my hobby. Why is it so much more “acceptable” to watch TV versus playing it?
I think that part of the problem lies in the perception of exactly how gamers (a term I have mixed feelings about to begin with, but that’s for another day) spend their free time. People who don’t play video games imagine their usual day, and all of things they would normally do within their 16 or so waking hours, and then try and squeeze video games in on top of all of that. This line of thinking is what leads so many people to make the proclamation that they simply don’t have time for video games – which, maybe I’m just sensitive about the subject, but I tend to take personally whenever I hear it, because it somehow implies that since I do “have time” for video games, I must have less important things to do than those who don’t. Most of us have our fair share of daily and ongoing responsibilities, be it our jobs, our household duties, our familial duties, and so on. How the remaining free hours are spent is up to the individual, and each person makes time for whatever they choose to make time for.
It isn’t that I have an extra abundance of responsibility-free time to spend on video games compared to the average person; rather, I choose to play video games instead of other things, like watching TV for example. I don’t spend the same amount of hours watching TV as someone else might, and then play video games on top of that time. It’s absurd to me that people can’t seem to understand this concept. Say you spend two hours a day watching TV, and I spend two hours a day playing video games. I’m not necessarily also watching 2 hours of TV in addition to that game time; more likely, it’s instead of it. If you spend several hours a day watching TV, and then claim that you don’t have time to play video games, you are lying. You have more than enough time to play video games, you just choose to spend that time doing something else. Which, of course, is your right. I’d be a hypocrite if I condemned someone else for how they used their free time when I take offense to others criticizing how I spend mine. Just don’t look down on me or judge me for a pastime that isn’t any less valid or grown-up or acceptable than yours, particularly if you spend several hours a day on your ass staring at a television for long stretches of time. It’s the same thing that people are doing when they are playing video games, they just have a game controller in their hands instead of a remote control. There is currently over 40 hours worth of Game of Thrones episodes, 50 hours of The Walking Dead, and Breaking Bad‘s final tally clocked in at 60+. I know there are plenty of people who have watched every single minute of at least one of those shows, if not all of them. That’s 150 hours of TV watching. But I manage to pour that into a couple of different games, and oh my god, how do I possibly find the time???
Technically, if I’m playing a game that uses the motion control features of the Wii/Wii U or the Kinect, I’m also being a lot more active than you are just watching TV, and with just about any game I’m also using a bit more brain power than you are, but hey, who am I to judge? I’m just a childish gamer with nothing better to do than to waste my day away playing mindless video games while other people are being so productive in their TV watching. Knowing which vapid fame-seeking skank got a rose this week or who was the latest victim of a zombie/vampire/dragon attack must be so much more valuable and fulfilling than anything I could possibly be experiencing in these silly games that I play. It’s a good thing I have so much extra free time to waste on them.