Monday, February 27, 2012

An Aside on Gaming, Guilt, and Productivity

And we're back. I didn't break anything on the ski trip (I know y'all were worried). I didn't log on to play anything (forgot my authenticators). I didn't blog (didn't have anything to say). But now I'm back. It seems like a per-requisite for me to write is to also read. I get a lot of my inspiration from simply lurking around the blogosphere.

In particular, I'm feeling intrigued by the whole Productivity and Gaming discussion over at the Pot. You see, I'm what you might call a Highly Motivated Individual. That is, I'm all about productivity and efficiency. And you know what I find un-productive? Television. Followed closely by movies.

Does anyone feel guilty for watching some TV? For going to the movies? For reading a book? Entertainment is entertainment.

I think if we're being honest, gaming is, at the very least, more productive than TV and movies. I mean, there's a lot more interaction going on in any game than in consuming a TV show or a cinematic adventure... if only due to pressing buttons and a built-in chat client. So, it's only third worst. Yet, TV and movies are generally acceptable where gaming sometimes isn't. What gives?

Perhaps its simply the amount of time we spend on leisure. It is very easy to only spend an hour on TV, or a couple hours on a movie... they have sort of built-in time limits. Gaming is, perhaps, not so simple. One hour easily turns into four and then eight and OMG it's dawn.

I work 40+ hours a week at a Real Job. I am (currently) in charge of three blogs. I run my own side business on the side where I write novels. I do my own oil changes, basic maintenance (both house and car), and typically keep the lawn mowed and the snow cleared. I work out 3 times a week on average. This is to say, I think I do all the normal things people do, plus some (not everyone writes novels in their spare time, and a lot of people "can't" squeeze in the work out thing). I think its fair to say that I'm a Pretty Productive Guy.

I get the question a lot: How do you find time to write? There are a lot of people out there that hear the 100k words and nearly have a panic attack. But, really, its quite simple: I devote time to the endeavor. I spend at least an hour each and every day writing. That's one TV show less that I don't get to watch.

I think, if you were to really lay out my time, I give up a lot of TV. I don't follow a lot of shows, and those that I do, I DVR. I don't watch commercials, or if I'm forced to (I like watching sports live), I have something I'm doing every time they come on. I probably don't watch as many movies as most people either, but I still do. A lot of that time is replaced with gaming, but only insomuch as is healthy.

Even a Pretty Productive Guy like myself isn't productive all the time. Like most creative people, I suffer from "bursts of energy." That is, maybe I'll write furiously for an hour or two, but after that, Brain is done. Everyone needs some "off" time. If that is gaming for you, then you should not feel guilty. We just have to be careful that we don't do TV, then gaming, then a movie, then back to TV and then its time to raid and...

Not every day is productive. Sometimes a "binge" can be healthy. Other times, you may need to kick yourself out of the chair and get your shit done. Such is life, right?

I guess my whole point is that it is my belief that if TV and movies are acceptable activities, then there is no reason gaming shouldn't be, so long as you're substituting one for the other. Furthermore, gaming has a lot of redeeming qualities that the other two currently lack. Case in point: I've made a lot more friends through gaming than I have through TV/Movies. Also, as a writer, all three have value to me, as I can learn more about effective story telling through each. And I'm not even touching books here (of which I read a lot).

I think the guilt mostly stems from a social stigma that is, in my belief, completely unfounded. Real life family and friends often don't understand gaming. If I told my "drinking buddies" that I was going home to raid, they'd laugh me out of the bar. If I told them I wanted to catch a game (that, for whatever reason I couldn't see at my hypothetical bar), they probably cover my tab and toss me my keys. Sports are acceptable. Gaming is not. It's purely a social thing. I didn't make the rules.

This isn't saying I agree with them, either. In fact, I make a conscious effort to try and treat all my hobbies the same (Sports, Gaming, Writing). In interacting with others, though, it may require a bit of obfuscation. I'm not above that. I've taken to telling people that I simply have a "previous commitment." It's generic, personal, and important to me. That's all that matters.

I'll let my freak flag fly in the right company, but I see no need to slap others in the face with it either. Furthermore, I'm not going to feel guilty just because I don't form to your societal viewpoint. I am who I am. And this person is productive despite - and perhaps also "because of" - gaming.

(A key side note, perhaps, is that my wife also games and we don't have kids... yet. Those are both completely valid complicating factors here. Having no experience on that side of the fence, I will make no comment on the color of the grass except to say that there are certainly added challenges. Still, even in those cases, I don't believe anyone should live in guilt... and I'm Catholic! Isn't that what we do? Nope... just another life-like replica from Chuck Testa.)


  1. I think the whole argument is bogus. I play WoW for the fun of it, not because I think it is productive. I have a friend who asked, "How can you play that for hours on end?" I told him it is the same thing as him watching football or NASCAR for hours on end. He likes it. I prefer WoW. It is not that one is better than the other. It is just a matter of what you like. There is no reason to feel guilty over it short of it consuming your life.

  2. Couldn't agree more. Gaming is a hobby, nothing more or less. It sometimes takes over a little more than it should, just like any other hobby because we tend to choose hobbies we're dedicated to. As for being more or less "productive" than others... gaming *is* more interactive than watching a movie; after all, in a movie you have no control over what happens next. I like a bit of both, although I only watch movies on DVDs (I don't own or want a TV).

    I tend to be very open about my gaming hobby. I enjoy the shocked looks I get while people ask what "someone like" me (a professional woman of 42 years) sees in a computer game, and then I explain a little and watch the lightbulbs flash up over their heads :-)

  3. Rock on with your professional self! :-)

    Sometimes I don't have enough energy for even the interaction that games provide... that's when the couch gets consulted for a television selection.