This is a formal apology to anyone that is irritated by this post. Why? Well, in my recent experiences, there are two reactions to my obsessive compulsive tendency to wax philosophical about everything: a gigantic explosion of a fight and/or extreme boredom. Hence, if you don’t enjoy philosophical ramblings or questions about fiction and writing, you’d do yourself a great service by ignoring this post. Got it? Okay, I’ll wait for said party to leave the room…
Are they gone? Great. So as I’ve previously stated, reading is not my first choice when it comes to time “wasting.” Stephen King has written articles for EW repeatedly denying the death of the novel and claiming that novels remain the best entertainment option despite the plethora of alternatives. He argues that compared to movies, the experience costs less, lasts longer, doesn’t have any ads (Let’s see how long it takes for advertisers to pick up on this potential gold mine!), and has no age restrictions based on a rating system. He’s correct of course, and I don’t mean to suggest that gaming is in any way superior to reading.
But what I find somewhat interesting is that some of the positives that you can get from reading when compared to movies can also be said of certain games. Today, Call of Duty–probably the best-selling shooter series of the last decade–features a “short, focused” campaign compared to the longer campaigns of yesteryear, and yet each ame still lasts four times as long as a movie. And that, of course, is without factoring in the endless online multiplayer that continues to be a staple of the franchise. In fact, the average length for games nowadays is around eight hours before you add in multiplayer options. Move into the realm of Role-Playing Games and you’re looking at somewhere between 20 and 100 hours of gameplay, and MMORPGs are designed to keep the player hooked for years. And although one can’t argue that gaming is a physical activity, one can argue that having control of the main character develops hand-eye coordination and prevents players from being “vegetables” like they are watching TV or movies.
Of course, gaming comes with its own downsides: the consoles are expensive $200+ affairs and the cost of video games has steadily increased over time from $40 to $60, which is two or three times more expensive than a hardcover novel and miles more expensive than a movie ticket. Video games also tend to have many similar downsides to TV watching like a tendency to encourage laziness, and most games–the major exceptions being those that make people dance or perform physical motions on the Wii, Kinect, or Playstation Move–don’t encourage physical activity. And naturally, because someone did the art and gameplay design, gaming doesn’t exercise your imagination as much as old-fashioned storytelling does.
I’d like to pose a few questions. First, is there room in a serious writer’s life for video games? Second, is there any chance that gaming can yield greater personal benefits to one’s life than other forms of “time-wasting” like TV and movies? Third, is there any real harm to being a bookworm? You often hear about the dangers of watching too much TV or playing too many video games, but I’ve never personally heard anybody give a lecture on problems–psychological, physical, or otherwise–of reading too many novels. Is that because there aren’t any? Or is it just because society views it as a more worthwhile pursuit?
My personal answer to these questions is that I don’t know if it’s possible for a hardcore gamer to be a serious writer, though I believe with proper moderation, gaming can be beneficial to a writer. I believe that given a choice between film and video games, it is healthier to game, but that given a choice between games and novels, it is healthier to read. And finally, I believe that reading too often can cause problems the same way watching too much TV can, though I’m not personally familiar with any disorders or addictions associated with it. In short, I believe too much of anything is bad for us.
I’d love to hear what you guys think of this idea, and regardless, thank you for taking the time to read this. 🙂