Gaming: To play or not to play?

Gaming: To play or not to play?


If you like gaming and spend a portion of your spare time on it, you may have experienced some parental disapproval. And if your parents think you spend too much time gaming, you probably get pretty annoyed at their failure to understand how great games can be.

Let’s try to figure out who has a leg to stand on here, which games you can defend, and which might be a no-go.

First, let’s talk about different types of games. In many cases, the type of game can really help you and your parents decide further actions. A game’s educational value, violence, strategic elements, adult language, or other attributes can mean the difference between standing your ground or giving in.

Our method of classifying games is probably a bit different than you’re used to. We sort games not by genre or rating but rather by the way you interact with them.

Adventure games

Computer games that have a story arc are often perceived to be like movies, but we think that’s wrong. We see such games as more like books. When immersed in an adventure game, a gamer can feel like he or she is reading an interesting novel.

As with books, when you are so involved that you have to read “just one more page” or “just one more chapter,” in adventure games you may constantly set new goals levels to reach before stopping: the next save point, the next character level, new hero abilities.

The gaming industry produces thousands of games of wildly varying duration; to complete them, you might need anywhere from a couple of hours to several days of nonstop gaming. The games can be very different in terms of gameplay, time, level of violence, and more. But they all have one thing in common: gameplay based on a complete story line (or several story lines).

In terms of personal enrichment, such games could be as useful as some books and can become quite a fascinating hobby, but only if you stick to a couple of simple rules:

  • Mind the age-based rating;
  • Don’t play past bedtime;
  • Keep up with homework;
  • Don’t skip sleep, meals, or family time for gaming;
  • Stop playing immediately if your eyes get dry or any part of you starts feeling uncomfortable.

If you like games with long, complex story lines and stick to the rules above, and your parents are still unhappy with your choices, try explaining the merits of such games to them. Describe the story and compare it to similar books. Your parents might be worried that your hobby is meaningless and that you are just wasting your time, so help them see how your gaming engages you.

Time killers

Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, Cut the Rope, and other bestselling titles can certainly save you from boredom, but ultimately, all they do is kill time. And, as Lewis Carroll wrote, “Time does not like being killed.”  A time killer might be a pleasant distraction when you are on the bus or in the doctor’s waiting room, but don’t waste your precious time on them at home — and definitely keep them away from family dinner or your friend’s birthday party.

Another problem with time killers: Most of them offer in-app purchases, and those offers can be tempting. If you spend both time and money on such games, you’ll be kicking yourself when you get bored with the game (which you will!).

If you and your parents are fighting over time killers, we think you should listen to your folks.

Replayable games

The concept of replayability is an important one in the gaming industry. Adventure games tend to have low replayability because not too many players want to go through the same story line again and again. However, some games are developed to have high replayability. One such example is strategy games with scenarios that adapt to the player’s actions and make each journey unique. You might wish to return to that kind of game several months or even years after you last played it.

If you like this sort of game, stick to the same plan we outlined for adventure games. Don’t let the game interfere with school, chores, family, or health. If your gaming causes conflicts at home, talk to your parents, try to understand what exactly bothers them about it, and work with them to reach a compromise.

Multiplayer games

From parents’ point of view (and from ours as well, to be honest), multiplayer games of any genre are the most harmful in terms of money, addictiveness, and other associated troubles.

What makes multiplayer games so troubling? It’s their social nature. Sooner or later, any online community or world develops social features. You may need to join a guild or team, and those social bonds keep gamers involved for years.

Game teams set another trap — the spirit of competition, which makes you feel responsible for pulling your weight with the group. That means playing a lot to gain proficiency, and it often also involves purchasing in-game assets. You can’t let the team down — you need to play more!

Multiplayer games can also include a poisonous bonus: trolls. Trolls are unpleasant players who dislike noobs (newbies) and may insult or bully you and other players.

All in all, if you want to be a part of a bigger group, or your friends invite you to play with them, think twice. Even adults find themselves in trouble at work or with family when they get addicted to multiplayer games. And make no mistake, addiction is the goal of a multiplayer game developer; they rely on getting people hooked. If you let that happen to you, the best thing you can possibly do is let your parents pull you out of the game for good.