Gaming: My Love Hate Relationship

No this isn’t a post about playing the relationship game and picking up women, this is about video games! I still remember the first time I played video games like it was yesterday. I was 4 years old, my dad went to the Video Store and rented the Nintendo Entertainment System along with Super Mario Brothers 2 and Punch Out for my brothers and I to play. Little did we know at the time this was our parents way of testing to see if the Nintendo console was what they we’re going to get us as our Christmas present later that year. And that’s exactly what we got, and we loved it!

Most young people these days have some story similar to that, where they got to experience video games for the first time, and you’d be hard pressed to find some one in North America under 40 that isn’t a gamer on some level. These days video games come in so many different forms that it’s almost hard not to be a gamer. As our lives become more intertwined with technology and gadgets it gives us more and more opportunity to play. Whether a person who plays Angry Birds and Farmville would be classified as a “Gamer” by the gaming community is questionable, but when it comes down to it, they’re gamers too, just maybe not “Hardcore Gamers”.

My love hate relationship with gaming is something that I didn’t start to experience until more recent years. I’ve found that these days, more often than not, I want the things I do and the way I spend my time to add value to my life and have some form of return on investment. I don’t mean this strictly from a financial perspective but I want whatever I’m doing to be something that I am enjoying fully and am hopefully getting something out of beyond simply being entertained. I want to make good use of the time I spend doing things and feel like I have accomplished something in the end. It’s why I love being a creative person and it’s part of who I am.

This has been my difficulty with gaming as of late, and partially why I think I finish so few games. Obviously the reasons why people play games is pretty simple, they’re super fun and probably the best form of entertainment available on the planet; I just wish that once you have completed a game that say, you have invested 20 – 40 hours into, that you not only feel a sense of accomplishment for beating it, but that you have actually done something that was productive and has value beyond the experience of playing itself. Maybe that’s why people get into video game journalism, start writing reviews and making podcasts about games and the gaming industry – so they can take their experience and give it more value than that which appears inherent.

So that’s my love hate relationship. I love the experience, but hate being confronted with trying to rationalize whether playing a game is the best way to spend my time. I can’t be the only one either because people and companies are starting to create new types of games that actually have real world benefits! Where playing a game teaches a skill of serious value or helps some ones life in some way, and I’m not talking about childrens educational games. It’s this industry segment of gaming that I feel is just starting to blossom. Things like Health Month, which turns being healthy into a semi RPG that you play, or Codecademy, where you play a basic game that teaches you how to code in JavaScript! It’s like playing Number Munchers except for adults!

I will admit, most games I’ve seen thus far in the adult edutainment/self improvement world aren’t that great yet, but it’s a start, and I think learning and bettering ourselves through video games is going to be incredible once some one comes up with the right balance.

Feel free to leave your comments and thoughts on my post below, would love to hear from other gamers, especially those playing Skyrim or WoW!

– Shane Lamotte

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