Are computer games a waste of time?

This week’s collaborative argument over at is a topic I would like to think I can join in the fun with:

“Are computer games a waste of time?”

Computer games can be labelled as a mentally active physically passive leisure activity, how does that differ from other similarly labelled activities such as watching TV or reading a novel?

There can be no comparison to a physically active leisure activity as there are widely accepted tangible benefits from Doing Exercise. A tangent then, team sports. How much satisfaction of participation is about playing >insert sport here< for >period of time< to acheive >competitive success< and how much is it about having a laugh with your friends in the pub afterwards? Bring it back to computer games. I suspect many of the arguments against stem from the assertion that time spent playing a computer game does not produce anything of value, they're not constructive. Neither does spending the evening down the boozer have a laugh with your mates, but few people would brand that a waste of time. This then gives us the social aspect, if you were surrounded by a population who all played computer games, would the consensus of opinion differ? Enough of trying to prove a negative, I'll make this personal, hold my hand up and say, "yep, I play computer games." Why? Arguments such as them being a cheap and harmless hobby would fall on deaf ears as so are Sudoku, Go and Knitting.

Why do I play? Specifically, why do I choose to spend upwards of 2 hours an evening controlling a character in the fictional world of Azeroth. For this justification, I’m going to assume a good imagination and a healthy sense of the boundary between fiction and reality.

For me, it’s mentally satisfying. There is the excitement of processing a large amount of information, issuing the appropriate commands to make my character take the necessary actions and thereby contribute towards a specific achievement. This applies to a certain extent when my character is adventuring alone but is magnified considerably when fighting as a team. You’ve got the increased difficulty of whatever problem you’re working on, there’s additional information coming in through your ears as well as your eyes and the coordination of working as a group of friends of anywhere from 5 to 40.

I would say that it exercises mental agility, albiet in a fictional context, which helps me during my day job to assimilate lots of information as quickly as possible. Not to mention cackle like a fool when you’ve solved a harder than average challenge and some of your friends haven’t.

So we’re back to the social perspective again, then. If your audience has no shared experience, then their opinion will most likely tilt towards the Waste Of Time camp. Most people who would be offering an opinion on some commonly listed leisure activities, TV, Pub, Books, Sports will likely have experienced them first hand and, presumably, derived some satisfaction from doing so. As computer games become appealing to a wider audience through novel ideas, presumably so will acceptance that they’re not a total waste of time.

The proscribed narcotic caveat:

Most people would agree that all things should be taken in moderation, and herein lies a currently perceived problem. In order to achieve maximum financial success for their company, the current batch of online games have to aim to persuade you as a player to spend as much time with their game as possible, which means removing an End. You don’t have the landlord ringing time, or the book running out of pages, or the TV programme ending, you have to draw your own lines. With a population of however many million people there are going to be those who make the headlines by choosing to spend so much time playing games that they neglect other socially mandanted uses of time, such as sleeping and working, which negatively impacts upon popular opinion.

My answer:

Assuming you’re still with me and haven’t died of boredom yet, computer games aren’t a waste of time, but only in moderation. Thank you and goodnight.