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Why Ever Stop Playing Video Games (vulture.com)
247 points by pmcpinto on Feb 24, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 255 comments

I've found learning and creating to be more fulfilling activities than videogames. That's not to advocate against gaming, or to generalize all games, but I've thought about how much time I spent playing games in the past and if I was happy with what I gained from it: I largely was not. I felt as if I was lacking in skills that I wished I had, and believe I could have learned in that time. I'm happier with myself after cutting down greatly on gaming, and I wonder if other people share the same joy of learning that I feel or if it's an unpopular perspective.

Add.: What I believe causes a game to feel unfulfilling is if after the game is finished the player, and the world, is (nearly) unchanged. If there's nothing to show for it. No new philosophy, no useful talent, no object created, nothing to share with others. Most games are equivalent in their impact to a bad reality TV show, a distraction from progress, a time sink, a void.

I find that videogames fill my "brain in neutral" space very nicely. If I'm just not in the mood to read, or get out, pick up some new skill or polish an old one, hang out with friends or do something productive (and sometimes you truly want to do nothing)... I find that videogames are a nice choice. I especially enjoy combining them with unabridged audiobooks that I might not otherwise bother reading/listening to otherwise.

The trick is to make sure that you resist the temptation to allow that empty time (like empty calories) to dominate your life. It's like ice cream... a little is great stuff, but don't make eating it the center of your lifestyle.

By basing your choices on feelings (i.e. "not in the mood") you are likely to go with the path of least resistance. If instead you choose to do what you prioritize by conscious mental effort you are likely to feel more rewarded in the end. For example, if you decide that learning photography is important and you spend hundreds of hours practicing you will be more satisfied than if you spent those hundreds of hours playing a game. At least you will feel that in retrospect. In the moment, perhaps the game will seem more satisfying. But most people find more fulfillment in practicing a skill or hobby.

This is a surefire way for people to burn out on something. If you never allow yourself mental downtime, then everything you do feels like work. If it's not meant to be work, then it's a hobby and if it's a hobby then it needs to actually allow you to unwind. Some people do surprisingly complex things for this, but the mistake we tend to make externally is view the accomplishment as "work" or something they really need to achieve - rather then something they devote idle brain-time to.

I agree with this.

It'll burn some people out. I can't just read/learn or create things and see it as some kind of stress relief.

You'll feel accomplish and all great things but that's ain't relaxing at all for me.

Playing magic the gathering, just turn off my brain and watching a good tv show either comedy or scifi is my way to blow off steam. Video games can make me angry sometime or frustrated. Mtg can be challenging in term of stress and require thinking skill but I've learned to not over think it and play with my gut. My buddy who I play against over thinks and stress out often in mtg, it's enjoyable for the guy but after several rounds at his cube his brain is mentally exhausted, this rarely happens to me. He often chastize me for not reading the card carefully... though, I just kinda remember them if I play often with the cube a lot. Hell I thought one card had flying cause the creature seems to be hovering in the art once. Bad play mistake. While our style are different I we're pretty much tie in term of deck building skill set and winning rate.

Decisions about priorities should be considered carefully. If the outcome isn't fulfilling, perhaps the choice was made on the basis of what others expect rather than what truly pleases. If a hobby is something you really enjoy it will not feel like work.

Games can be enjoyed in their own right as well. If we play for pure enjoyment and can otherwise balance our lives then they are certainly a means to unwind.

> If a hobby is something you really enjoy it will not feel like work.

Sorry, that's just not true. There are lots of interesting, rewarding hobbies that do feel like work, in the sense that they require a fresh mind capable of bearing a high cognitive load to engage in them. When my mind is fresh you're right, those hobbies are very satisfying to spend time on, but my "fresh" timeslots are mostly devoted to my actual job (phd) these days, which doesn't feel like work either much of the time.

Be careful, your attitude is a road straight to burnout.

> If you never allow yourself mental downtime, then everything you do feels like work.

What makes you believe that what reedlaw described is not to be considered mental downtime? I have made quite the opposite experience: when consciously reflecting and deciding about my mental downtime in advance, it turns out to be the most recreative. It's worth noting that I made bad experiences with: tomorrow from 7-730 I will be reading/running/cooking/medidate/watching an educational video for recreational purposes. The way to go for me is to predefine a set of activities which I support based on a principle. When in the situation for donwtime, I then choose from this set.

Edit: typo

How do you just pick up a project from a set like that? Typically if I put something on a list, it's not motivating enough for me to want to do when I have downtime unless I really want to work on something.

Many mentally challenging activities I'll start spontaneously, but it's typically small ones with direct, achievable goals, like write a little scraper in a new language or reverse engineer a single mechanism of an application.

I only have a few times a week when I have downtime that I feel like I can pick something off a list. The rest of my downtime I want something to do - and that's where games come in - and I'm quite glad for them, because without them I'd spend much more time watching TV, reading junk political threads on reddit, etc.

I guess the key here is that this list is based on principles and not just a list of activities I would consider advantageous to have done in some sense or another.

Those principles ought to be chosen as to align with my convictions and expectations from life. So you could say that I know that this list is the intersection of things I consider worthy doing (and immediately have a well-formed reason for their worthiness at the back of my mind) and recreation.

When a moment for recreation has come, there is nothing that makes me question whether I should do something from the list or not because I am reassured that I have thought of this sufficiently in advance to determine the best for me.

I believe the essence of what you're saying is true, but I dispute the overall reasonableness of what you describe.

The vast majority of video games are either built around the principles of addiction, or require a tremendous amount of time in muscle memory training.

What you're describing seems like describing how enjoyable it can be to smoke one cigarette a month. (assuming that actually felt good). Could be true- but the odds are certainly stacked against people attempting that behavior.

I don't think a tremendous amount of time in training is mutually exclusive with brain-in-neutral activities. It's a question of what your goal is with the activity, and how you approach it as a result of that.

My friends and I play Overwatch. It's a game with an incredibly high skill ceiling, and if we wanted to compete professionally, sure, we'd have to spend a ton of time in focused training.

But we don't. We just hop on voice chat, play in Gold/Platinum against people of similar skill level, and we have a good time with it. Sometimes we'll pick up new strategies, we learn different characters, our aim and game-sense probably improve, but that's all secondary to hanging out and enjoying the game.

None of us are ever going to be competing in Master / GM / Top 500 tiers, and the amount of time it'd take to train and get better is immaterial to us because none of us want to.

I smoke a cigarette or two about once a month on average, typically when attending a party.

Not only is it quite pleasant after I've had a beer or three, but they're the ultimate social hack for introverted nerds. Are you at a crowded bar/party where it's impossible to have a proper talk with someone? Step outside for a smoke, and you can instantly have a nice, low key conversation with the other smokers. Lulls in the conversation aren't awkward cause you can just go back to taking drags; and once you're done, you can keep talking if you like the person- or have the perfect excuse to head back in if you don't.

Highly recommended.

Damn, highly recommended to smoke.

As a non smoker, reading this just makes me feel depressed.

So you use smoking cigarettes as a crutch when making real conversations with the non-smokers inside gets hard? Then you fill in gaps in conversation with more smoking? Most people cope with those naturally occurring conversation gaps without breathing in smoke.

Serious question - Are you, as you stand out there with the party going on behind you, slightly repulsed by the fact that you connected with someone because you're both doing the same disgusting habit?

The whole scenario seems so absurdly sad, and certainly not something I'd "highly recommend" to anyone.

I've always tried and failed to keep my smoking habit to occasions where I could enjoy the smoking.

I wouldn't "highly recommend" trying it, because very few people can keep it at that level. I couldn't, and my way of quitting was to remember all the other ones I smoked. To this day, on the rare occasions where I crave smoking, I'll just remind myself of the nausea, the bad throat, the smell, the dizziness and whatever else the other ones, the ones I would smoke after the good one, would do to me.

Would you say the same about drinking? Because in the scenario we're discussing, they seem pretty analogous to me: potentially addicting habits that are (to varying degrees) socially accepted, and make having conversations easier.

Aw you sound sad man. If you want to grab a beer and a smoke some time, hit me up!

His ice cream analogy was on point. There are plenty of video games which dont match your criteria. The ones that do (albeit the majority of mainstream games) become popular for obvious reasons, but one can even enjoy those in moderation if they have the mental skills to do so (like the people who can smoke cigarettes ocassionally and not become addicted).

You can build the skills necessary to play games over time, and of course it greatly depends on the games you play. I would tend to stay away from pure time sinks like MMO's, and I've lost the taste for 2D fighters. That said, I've been playing FPS' since FPS', and those skills wake up whenever I play for more than ten or twenty minutes.

I don't see a correlation with cigarettes, which offer you nothing beneficial, are physically addictive on the level of heroin, and are one of the leading causes of human death.

> which offer you nothing beneficial

Nicotine can have some benefits; see for instance https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6457772

> are physically addictive on the level of heroin

False. They're a bit above alcohol; heroin is much higher. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rational_scale_to_as...

> and are one of the leading causes of human death.


> False. They're a bit above alcohol; heroin is much higher.

I realize this is anecdotal, but I feel the need to point out that my father, a veteran ER doctor of over thirty years, has said more than once that based on his experience of patients, he thinks it is easier to quit heroin than nicotine.

Check out this paper if you're interested in Nicotine:


Nicotine is quite often used as a form of self-medication - it's helpful for people with all kinds of issues, from depression to adhd, to weight control.

Even among doctors, there is very little knowledge on the subject of why people take up smoking, and usually it's assumed it's just a matter of bad habits.

So, if someone uses nicotine as an unwitting way of self-medication, it will indeed be extremely difficult to quit without fixing the core problem.

To some extent it's like calling SSRIs "hard to quit", because people who begin taking them often never quit, even when side affects are worse than those of nicotine.

Perhaps because people who are addicted to nicotine are likely to also have addictive personalities, whereas anyone can easily get addicted to heroin.

Kind of like how in WWII the British improved the survivability of their bombers by increasing the armor in the places returning aircraft weren't damaged, theorizing correctly that those were the places the planes that didn't return were hit.

If a person with an addictive personality gets on heroin, they're probably visiting the ER very few if any times before they hit the morgue.

Huh interesting. Thanks for the datapoint. Fwiw, nicotine has never been problematic for me. I dated a girl who smoked for 3 years, and she'd smoke around me all the time- and while i indulged in it every once in a while, i never felt like i HAD to smoke. Biological things at play, most certainly.

Fair enough... if you're schizophrenic and medicated, by all means vape or take nicotine in some form. There is still no real argument for smoking though... it's the worst way to handle something that is already mildly hazardous.

Edit: By the way, for an appreciation of "A bit above alcohol", check out an inpatient alcohol detox clinic sometime... it is no joke at all.

That's a pretty dark view of computer games. It's a popular media type like any other. You have all ends of the complexity spectrum, from undisputable art on one end to poorly-concealed skinner boxes on the other end.

People who appreciate computer games as a serious hobby will tend to enjoy games on the complex end of this spectrum. These games are no more built around the principles of addiction than a good book, or a physical activity like skiing.

> The vast majority of video games are either built around the principles of addiction, or require a tremendous amount of time in muscle memory training.

Well, define "vast majority of video games." Certainly that's true if we mean F2P phone games. For a lot of others I am not so sure.

To be fair, when it comes to those F2P phones games, I would start to agree with the cigarette analogy... those are just skinner boxes with coin slots.

Some of those can be pretty fun, but when you get to the point that paying for it seems at all tempting it's time to take a different approach - the way which involves a decompiler, a debugger and maybe Frida too.

When free to play becomes pay to win, writing your own cheats is the more fun and rewarding option.

And that is how you leverage your downtime into something at least tangentially related to productivity. I like it!

You're mistaking all games for competitive games :)


I went through that phase too, but deep down it was guilt- and anxiety-driven. Once I accepted that life is too short to learn everything or be the best at everything, and that I'm already really good at the things I care about and learn a lot at work anyway, I'm quite satisfied to spend free time playing games.

>>but deep down it was guilt- and anxiety-driven.

EXACTLY! There is value in realizing that one is wasting time, but viewing a leisure activity as a waste of time simply because it doesn't result in advancement is not healthy.

Personally speaking, the important thing has been learning to recognize when I'm in a productive mood vs in a gaming mood. These fluctuate all the time depending on various factors. But I no longer feel like I should be working when I play games or vice versa. It's quite refreshing.

I feel like a lot of people desire validation and achievement as short-term feedback. When we go through middle and high school, you can find achievement in short-term feedback on academic assignments, or in extracurricular activities where competitive matchups are rather frequent. (The American focus on short-term "A for Effort" grading is debatable, in this context.) Then you go to college or the real world, and suddenly the goalposts become much further away, all eggs in a nebulous basket: academic research that takes years to gain the next level of credentials, career progression, dating, financial stability. Learning requires you to subconsciously justify self-designed goalposts - you have to set your own goals for when you can be happy with what you've learned - and that's just as nebulous as the real world.

I think many gamers would envy, and aspire to, your ability to have confidence in self-set learning goalposts. But rather than despair at not being able to do so, if they can sit down on their couch and be spoon-fed goals, a process to get there, and Steam Trophies when they do... and they are truly legitimately happy (a local rather than global maximum, to be sure, but who ever achieves the global maximum of happiness anyways?)... who's to argue against that?

Efforts like Khan Academy and Duolingo understand this dynamic; they break things down into achievable interim goals, with flashy rewards as you progress. But it's hard for serious learning apps to reach the mental intensity and dopamine release of, say, a successful boss fight. A company that can figure that out would do a lot of good for humanity... but why wouldn't they just be a game studio instead?

See also Jane McGonigal, who has done some work specifically around those self-defined goal posts.

One reason why AI is being employed for some problems is based on what we know about human problem solving. For instance, a human could come up with a near-optimal solution to the Traveling Salesman problem in under a minute. Long before a computer could get even close. How is that happening? What are we doing that's so special?

Which makes me wonder if we could gamify NP-complete problems and use gamers to come up with better solutions. Like a game to lay out circuit traces, route delivery trucks, or organize a warehouse.

Random reinforcement (giving out not just merit based rewards but also random rewards) keeps people coming back but it's a higher goal than beating a raid boss in a game that 95% of the human population has never heard of.

>Which makes me wonder if we could gamify NP-complete problems and use gamers to come up with better solutions. Like a game to lay out circuit traces, route delivery trucks, or organize a warehouse.

see "How online gamers are solving science's biggest problems" - https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jan/25/online-ga...

previous discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8815917

I've struggled so much with video games over the years. I have probably spent a significant percentage of my life playing a huge variation of games. By far the most destructive was MMORPG (Dofus) because it meets so many desires at once and can be engaging for so many years (reaching max level on this game was a multi year journey). Others can be finished or played enough to satisfy and allow me to come up for air, like a good book or TV series they all eventually finish no matter how engaged you might be for a short period.

I've also found different games appeal at different times, I think they each answer different desires and I can often guess what I'm lacking by the kind of game I want to play - achievement, confidence, socialising, artistic outlet, aggressive outlet etc..

Perhaps in this way we can use games to realise things that we are lacking in our life so to find more constructive outlets or better life balance - or perhaps games are a beneficial occasional outlet for things like aggression.

Isn't improving at the game an enjoyable end in and of itself? Getting really good at chess has few extrinsic benefits but nobody's embarrassed about it. Why is getting really good at Street Fighter or whatever any different?

It is! When playing with other people. I find multiplayer (played locally with friends in the same room) games really fun. I used to also enjoy playing alone, or online, but nowadays the level of story telling doesn't grip me so all that's left is the challenge of the gameplay and as I got older, it feels like I am just figuring out the designer's underlying blueprint.

I think the difference is chess is more a mental planning game, Street Fighter is muscle memory.

(Disclaimer: I'm a huge gamer.)

My game is Daytona USA. My friends and I developed our skills over the course of years, dropping $40 on 40 races as often as we could afford to do it. We played against each other frequently, and against a larger group of maybe a dozen people who we met there. All of us shared the techniques we learned with each other.

Every once in awhile we would run into someone who would beat us. I remember one guy in particular. His driving was better than average, but to us it was basically garbage. Yet he was consistently beating us on the Advanced course. (It was infuriating, because the game would have the players select the course, but would always default to the easiest course selected. He couldn't touch us on Expert and new it, so always chose Advanced.) So I observed him for awhile, and I learned that he was absolutely killing the final curve of the course. I figured out how he was doing it, showed my friend, and we never lost to that guy again.

We were good. We handily beat a rather famous NASCAR driver one morning. His skills didn't translate. One friend left the state for awhile and came back bragging how he won a Daytona USA tournament. We destroyed him by a matter of about ten seconds (then showed him how we were doing it). Everyone who beat us had their techniques analyze and assimilated and never beat us again. And yes, I'm bragging, but my point is, our muscle memory and technique was basically perfect by the end. But we kept playing and it kept being fun.

The game was no longer about technique, or muscle memory. We all had that down. It was now a chess game. We had the same pieces, and we had to decide how and when to use them. The game was no longer trying to hit the turn perfectly. That was a given. The game was to figure out when to pass, whether to take a cheap shot, whether to slow down because someone is drafting and you want a third player who is more aggressive to come and take shots at him, etc. etc. Planning was basically the entire game at that point.

So, while Street Fighter is NOT my game, but I imagine for high level opponents, it's very much a mental game, too.

My game is Civ VI, I know what you're saying.

Fighting games have a large dexterity component, but actual game high level players are playing is very rock-paper-scissors-like. The important skills to win are having a strong understanding of what the payoffs of both players' options are in many situations, predicting your opponent's decisions based on their tendencies, and trying not to be predictable.

Fighting games, at a relatively high level anyway, are much more than muscle memory. Muscle memory would be the bare minimum to actually compete.

Analysis of Daigo Umehara vs Momochi, Stunfest 2015


That's not really true; execution is a factor but playing mind games with your opponent and deep knowledge of what they can do is important to high-level play. Saying Street Fighter is about muscle memory is like saying being a quarterback is about throwing a ball. But sub out Tetris or something if it makes you feel better about the analogy.

Sure but Street Fighter is a very specific type of game.

Take something like Civilization that requires tons of research, planning and critical thinking. Those types of skills are more applicable to other things outside of the game.

I do play Civ. Way, way too much Civ.

I think the difference is just in status: being an excellent chess player gets you respect from a more respectable-looking crowd than being excellent at Street Fighter. Neither gets you quite as much widespread adulation as being good at golf or Formula 1 car driving, while both get you more than being good at Candy Crush. But ultimately they're all just games.

I get anxious when I've played video games for too long instead of honing a skill or working.

I get anxious when I've been working or cramming info into my head for too long.

It balances out. Besides, it's important to allow yourself rest periods between bouts of learning to allow your brain to consolidate the new information and subconsciously draw inferences and review detail. Otherwise you reach a point when you've bitten off more new information than you can comfortably chew.

I also tend to play games that involve exploration of worlds I will never experience in my own life, mastery of skills that require cognitive precision and dexterity, or philosophical rumination. I find these experiences to be a positive addition to my world and my understanding of people around me.

Now that we are seeing real potential for VR, this is about to reach a whole new level. The line between games and educational tools blend more and more every day. Imagine a war game so visceral that it makes you cry, gives you PTSD, and completely makes you rethink the wars you support. Or full job or skill training courses. The potential for video games to positively impact our lives has never been greater.

I also tend to play games that involve exploration of worlds I will never experience in my own life, mastery of skills that require cognitive precision and dexterity, or philosophical rumination. I find these experiences to be a positive addition to my world and my understanding of people around me.

Care to share some of your favorites? I'd be curious to check them out.

For exploration/adventure, try Adventure[0].

For skill games, try Nidhog[1].

For a good recent psychologically engaging game, try Firewatch[2].

A spattering of other favorites: Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, the Jak and Daxter series, Antichamber, Dishonored, Skullgirls, all of the 2D Mario titles, Final Fantasy Tactics, Smash Bros, Minesweeper, Dwarf Fortress, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2

[0] http://www.2600online.com/adventure.html [1] http://store.steampowered.com/app/94400/ [2] http://store.steampowered.com/app/383870/

>>What I believe causes a game to feel unfulfilling is if after the game is finished the player, and the world, is (nearly) unchanged. If there's nothing to show for it.

Maybe in a tangible way nothing has changed, but for me, when I finish a good RPG or RTS, I feel like I have inhabited a different world for a short time. I come out of games like that with fond memories of how the combination of the story, game mechanics, music, characters, etc all made me feel. To me it's just as real and satisfying of a memory as going to the beach with my wife and son or completing a difficult programming project. Every game has a unique feel in my mind: Super Metroid feels different than Baldurs Gate which feels different than Mass Effect. I wouldn't trade the time spent on making those memories for anything.

I can relate to you. Ten years ago (with 20 yo) i was playing WOW and skipping college. Before that, i was playing competitive Counter Strike and doing bad on high school.

Today i look back and think: if i studied and worked more, i would be much far by now. Probably rich. I´m creating an online business where i have to learn and create every day. And yes, i'm very happy doing it and not playing anymore (one year now).

But, what if ... ten years ago, playing World of Warcraft would lead me to a rich life today? What if it paid well to be a Counter Strike player?

I suspect i would be even happier. But that's not the truth of the world. Yet.

>if i studied and worked more, i would be much far by now. Probably rich.

Or not. Maybe at the same place in life. Studies are not as important as a defining criteria for your life as sociocultural group, or class. I wouldn't get too hung up on it if I were you, what's done is done.

>What if it paid well to be a Counter Strike player?

If you're a pro player, sure, it does. There are regular tournaments with $1m prize pools, teams like Virtus Pro pay their players generously. There's money in it, if you can manage to be in a top 16 European team. Or top 4 North America because of level discrepancies. That's around 100 spots.

No, you wouldn't be rich.

Whenever I think that maybe I could have had a better life if only I had done X, it always falls apart on closer examination. It wouldn't have been better, it just would have been different. I still would have been me, and that person just isn't cut out to be independently wealthy, or famous, or influential, or even noticed. In this kind of civilization, I'm a nobody.

In the end, it hasn't mattered whether I was good or bad at my job. The world simply does not care whether I pursue sloth or aresteia. It would have kicked me in the teeth just as hard if I was a driven genius or just a lazy smartass. You leave a lot of opportunities on the table when one of your major life goals is to not be the same sort of exploitative asshole that you have always hated dealing with.

So I have played video games, still play them, and don't feel even an iota of guilt or regret about what else I could have been doing instead. And I read escapist fantasy/sci-fi novels. And I indulge prurient interests. And I eat too much candy, and don't exercise enough. For me, working hard has always paid off about the same as coasting. If ever I lift a finger to do better for myself, someone comes along and eats up my efforts, leaving me with a pile of tasty crumbs. They're nice, but probably not worth all the effort and sense of moral outrage.

If the world wanted me to do more with my life, it wouldn't have filled itself with parasitic and predatory humans.

> For me, working hard has always paid off about the same as coasting. If ever I lift a finger to do better for myself, someone comes along and eats up my efforts, leaving me with a pile of tasty crumbs.

How so? Let's say you try to kick ass at your job (let's assume for a second that you're a software developer), learn the newest/hot technologies, do some side projects and move to a hot tech hub. Unless you've already done that, you can easily double/triple your salary in a matter of a couple of years. That's not crumbs.

Another example - working out. It's amazing how much more women are interested in me now that I have modicum of physique (and I'm FAR from the Men's Health models). That's also not crumbs.

> ...and move to a hot tech hub.

The requirement that I move away from my home eats up an awful lot of my not-specifically-work-related efforts. Gain salary. Lose contact with existing friends and family. Pay extra salary in inflated housing costs, food prices, and taxes. Maybe also commute longer.

I have had annual performance reviews that say I kick ass, some that say I am just "meets expectations" in all categories. Either way, I only get a 2% salary increase. The jobs around here don't pay extra for superior competence.

The limiting factor on my nookie is spousal libido. My exercise and fitness levels have no observable effect on it. Nothing I have ever done seems to have an observable effect on it, actually.

I feel like a mime. No matter what direction I go, my nose smushes up against that invisible wall, and I can't find where it ends, so I can get past it.

It's probably not the world. It could be just me. The walls might be of my own creation, and now I just live in the invisible box I have built for myself.

But it could also be that I am surrounded by Homo economicus, and I am already standing at the local profit maximum. Nobody cares about who I am or what I do, so long as they can make the maximum amount of money from me. Nobody really wants the sprockets in their machine to grow extra teeth.

I think the "walls" could be your expectations. The world is just the world, but it's your job to define what's that you want from it.

And your actions play a very important role in the outcomes. Sometimes different are better.

It's your world bro, you can change it if you want.

I am not wealthy enough to buy change with money, not depraved enough to buy it with blood, not eloquent enough to buy it with words, and not clever enough to buy it with new technology.

So not without violating my own ethical code, I can't. And if I compromise my own ethics, the change I create will not be for the common good.

It is not my world, anyway. It still belongs to those acting under the precept "might makes right". The systems of control still rest easy upon the foundation that humans are easy to murder, and their corpses are easily forgotten. In video games, protagonists can slaughter their way across a whole state, and get little more than little red, white, and green numbers for it. In reality, if you change the world, it might not be for the better, and you and everyone else will have to live with the consequences.

I know I could change the world. I have even identified some means of doing so. But when I assess the likely effectiveness of those means, the only ones that even cause a momentary shimmy on the global change-o-meter involve horrific atrocities. And in many of those scenarios, I cannot escape angry retribution from somebody. Changing the world is a punishable offense.

So I'll just eat the bread and watch the circuses, and try not to attract too much attention from the sociopaths, thanks.

That was inspiring, thanks!

> if i studied and worked more, i would be much far by now. Probably rich.

It's sad that we measure our progress in life in terms of material wealth.

It is sad that we measure it terms of our material wealth. There is plenty positive to be said about creating material wealth over all. Not that it is the only possible objective either, of course.

Not really, because our ability to do anything in the world is largely determined by material wealth. Wealth is only as vain as what it's used for.

If only we were all lucky enough to be born with all our basic needs met like you.

This is why I like games with a beginning & end, and an actual story.

The first keeps you from sinking unbounded time with it, and the latter actually can be enlightening, informative (ie, bringing in mythologies or historical context), and ethically challenging. Stuff like endless PvP matches or MMO grinds never held much appeal to me.

PvP for some games can be like joining a sports team. Some people prefer it as a competitive outlet.

Sure, but these things aren't mutually exclusive: you can learn and create and play videogames too. Not every waking moment has to be productive. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, etc.

As with most things, the key is moderation: finding a balance where you're getting enough relaxation/leisure to keep yourself happy, while not dedicating so much time to it that it completely takes over your life.

Thanks for this. I was hoping someone would cover the obvious: games are fun! Why is that we feel the need to justify fun? Isn't fun (a form of happiness) what we are all striving to be able to have more of?

> Isn't fun (a form of happiness) what we are all striving to be able to have more of?

No, we are not all striving to have more happiness (although some people surely are). So long as you don't circularly define happiness as "that feeling you get when you accomplish your goals", then most people have at least some goals besides happiness, and some of us explicitly advocate that many or most goals should not be happiness related.

Fair enough. "All" was a poor choice of words. I would be the last (more hyperbole) person to tell anyone how to live their life.

Also, I failed to mention why I replied to the parent post: the mention of moderation. I think if you are listening to how you're feeling, you can (one can) tell when a life strategy isn't working. The important things in life will make their demands known.

Games are fun, until some dude in Path of Exile hands out free items because he'll delete his account after his wife divorced him for playing 24/7. And such.

Sometimes we feel the need to justify fun because it takes away from otherwise productive time we would have had.

In the past year, I've racked up more than 400 hours playing RimWorld, well over two weeks just playing that. I'm sure I could have found something more useful and interesting to do than that.

I think considering this as a zero sum exchange is pretty unhealthy. Different activities have very different trade offs. Why is lesuire time considered unproductive? Does everything need to obviously contribute to something you feel is productive? Can lesuire activities contribute to productivity?

Personally I think spending time playing games, reading, watching tv and other activities are essential to remaining productive. Not least because they are all interesting input to consider things in different ways. But also because they give me space.

I agree, I enjoy playing Civ, but realizing the absolutely astronomical amount of time I've sunk into it and all the things I could have done instead has really turned me off from it. Maybe it's an age thing; once you realize half your life is gone, wasting time like that seems less attractive than it once did.

I'm not sure we should beat ourselves up over what we did in our leisure time. Could we be "better people" by spending our leisure time better? Perhaps. Maybe we just need a break now and then.

At least until you retire. ;)

It's not even that I don't have time, I just have so many other things I want to do, explore and learn that it just doesn't seem attractive any more.

Some people like listening to music while doing productive things, some like watching TV.

I play slow online turn-based games when at home doing really boring work. I can context-switch, engage my creative mind for 15-30s, and jump back into page 57 of the design doc I'm reviewing.

As for intense gaming sessions, I have young kids = unless it's appropriate for them (more and more the case as they grow up) I don't have time for it.

OK, now I want to know what games you're playing. I do this too with Starcraft II Arcade offerings.

Nothing exceptional, mainly mobile CCGs or card-based games that exercise my math processing.

Games like Hearthstone, Ascension, Sword & Poker, Carcasonne along with a bit of SF4 Volt. Turns need to be done in at most 1m or games should be done in 2-3m max.

What I learned from activities related to being a gamer, decades ago:

- Built my own computer from parts, and squeezed more performance out of it through overclocking and tuning mostly everything that could be tuned

- Learned about networks, power grids and basic event planning setting up LAN parties

- Built a website for my team. Learned to program with PHP and to manipulate images

- Made many contacts, many of them software engineers, including the ones that got me my first jobs

- Lots of team related administrative tasks like screening and recruiting players for my team, creating strategies and tactics with fault tolerance in case of events such as missing players or reduced network connectivity

All this before I turned 18. All these skills and connections turned out to be incredibly valuable later on when I went through financial hardship during college, my former teammates showed up with job offers for programming jobs, which helped to sustain me and my family.

This is a feeling I've recently come across as well. While playing ARK: Survival Evolved, I came across the ARKServers.net server page, which shows the Steam name and play time of players on the server, to generate interest. I started scraping this into an Excel spreadsheet, and combined this with player ingame names, and also their tribe names. This gave me a basic report of tribe strength on the server, which I could share in my tribe's Skype chat.

After reading about tracking your Facebook friends on HN, I pressed F12 on ARKServers.net, waited for a request, then right clicked this and copied the cURL link. This returns a JSON payload of user names and play times. I used this as the foundation of a Powershell static site generator, with an HTML boilerplate generating a report every 60 seconds. I registered a domain cheaply with Google and host the site with IIS on my home internet.

I soon learned that any Steam server will return a list of players and play times when queried with the correct UDP packet. The ARKServers site was just running a PHP application called SteamQuery that performs the UDP call and turns it into the JSON payload. I'm still working to port this to Powershell.

After some time, I expanded the website. Now, the static site includes an HTML5 canvas that combines 3 JSON payloads (server, tribe, map) to show tribe base locations on a rotating map background, with player and tribe listed in menus.

The project is pre-3.0, needing bug fixes and a true dynamic map. But making the site has actually been more fun than playing ARK.

Code on Github: https://github.com/Gilgamech/ARKScrape

Demo site (Currently inactive): http://gilgamech.com/ARKData/_Wiped_2_4__NoobFriendly_8xT_3x...

I'm in the same boat and it applies to games overall. I do make an exception for when there is a social component to it, such as playing games with friends.

I'm also not advocating against gaming. A game with enough strategic depth can provide that feeling of learning and creativity when you can share and discuss strategy with other players.

I feel like the trend in online gaming overall has transformed the social aspect into a more robotic process---getting auto-matched against strangers who never talk. Part of this might be due to the challenge of managing trolls/griefers. But I don't like to feel like the game has served as a mechanical distraction and not something that made life more interesting for an hour.

> That's not to advocate against gaming, or to generalize all games, but I've thought about how much time I spent playing games in the past and if I was happy with what I gained from it: I largely was not.

I feel the same. I like games and still play them here and there (and enjoy them), but a couple points in the past I was clearly addicted to them. First it was DAoC that was like a second job, and then to a much lesser extent WoW.

I think if you treat games as entertainment/downtime things then they are fine. It's only when they start replacing TV, and then reading, and hanging out with friends, etc... that they really become an issue.

Overall life satisfaction of a middle-class that where people feel as wealthy as the upper-class also seems to be destroying our labor force among the young.

From: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/24/opinion/the-national-deat...

"Nationwide, there are now about 200,000 unfilled construction jobs, according to the National Association of Home Builders. If America were as simple as a lake, builders would just raise wages, incomes would rise and the problem would be over.

But that hasn’t happened. Builders have gone recruiting in high schools and elsewhere, looking for people willing to learn building skills, but they’re not having much luck."

Why would anyone go work on a farm or construction when they could play video games instead?

Yes I suppose it could have nothing to do with the fact that (1) those jobs aren't remotely respected, (2) the jobs pay terribly, (3) OH&S will be treated as a joke, and you can expect to be physically unable to do the work by your mid-30's at which point you're unemployed and unskilled and (4) the work is a wildly unstable source of income.

Every time someone talks about trades paying well, they miss the fact that the whole industry routinely goes bankrupt when there's a drop in demand and prices plummet once people start moving into it.

Short answer: unless you work one of these jobs already, you are really not qualified to be telling other people they should plan to take them.

Tangential to the point: also you'd generally find people who work in those industries play videogames anyway - because entertainment media has very little to do with America's employment situation.

Good point. People do not want to do things with their hands. That's not just games though. I would imaging many people on this site make their money just typing at a computer all day. We build abstract concepts instead of physical things.

Because I deal with abstract complexity all week, I build stuff around the house and do home improvements whenever I get a chance. It's great and rewarding feeling when building something and seeing it done.

> I've thought about how much time I spent playing games in the past and if I was happy with what I gained from it: I largely was not.

I totally identify, and yet somehow I feel that because gaming is such an important part of how I grew up that I would be very sad and never quite myself if I gave it up altogether. To me, a lot of important culture has its roots in video games - characters, storylines, social experiences with other friends, etc etc. It's a definitely time sink, but for me at least, a very important and defining one.

I always found myself unfilled with games. To me if anything it was 'work', to get to the next stage, fight the next boss or whatever. That's not to say I think it's a waste. I think for a lot of people it's a good activity. Personally though, a lot of my energy that would be put towards gaming is either put in my blacksmith hobby which is not at all close to professional, it's just a hobby. That and hunting birds that my labradors compete to retrieve.

>I felt as if I was lacking in skills that I wished I had, and believe I could have learned in that time

I play a fair amount of videogames, but what can I say? I have never felt that way. There are some deficiencies in my life, but the main reason they remain deficiencies is that I'm not even sure how to resolve them.

I suppose I don't care much about learning skills because I know I'll never learn everything there is to learn, so I'll always have to defer to experts in certain domains.

I create, and I also play a lot of games (nowadays more board games). I also now spend a lot of time with my puppy. I get enjoyment out of all of them.

Also, even though I like to think I can create some pretty cool things, I don't see how I could ever create anything as intricate, beautiful, or full of discovery as Jonathan Blow's The Witness. That was absolutely worth the 40+ hours I've spent on it so far.

> I've found learning and creating to be more fulfilling activities than videogames.

To each his/her own, but to me, video games lost nearly all appeal when I started learning how to program. The only game I still play with any kind of enthusiasm these days is Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup. But all in all, if I have the choice of spending a Friday night playing a video game or programming, I'll go for programming almost all the time. (And roughly 99.999% of the programming I do in my free time is mainly to learn about something, not to solve some urgent problem.)

I still think video games have a huge untapped potential as devices for storytelling or education or as an artform of their own. But we've only been creating video games seriously for ... what? 30, 40 years? Books and theater have been around for millennia, and it took people quite a bit of work before sublime works of art emerged.

(Although I'll admit I was quite happy to discover that there is an open source clone of Doom, and I spent a few happy hours with it. Great fun!)

Have you tried modding or mapping? In high school a large part of my life was spent around learning to map for various games because it felt like a way I could actually give back to the community I was a part of while exploring the creativity of it.

I enjoyed making the content and seeing reactions to it and trying to one up myself then I did actually playing the game. In fact it gets to a point where you've seen enough behind the curtain that it loses a lot of its charm.

A great junction of all of these things is creating games.

Damn skippy. That's what I do. I need to play games so I can playtest my creations (and research and get inspired!)

I feel lucky that in my high school days of excessive gaming, my game of choice was Garry's Mod, and I was really into modding it and creating new gamemodes for it. This meant that beyond the social connections that multiplayer gaming provides, I also had a "portfolio" of sorts, of all the things I learned and created. I definitely don't regret those hours.

I agree. But there is one difference between watching a crappy TV show and playing a crappy Video Game: You are actively engaged in playing the game. No matter how trivial it is.

Of course, if you pick a more challenging game, like an RPG/Puzzle, then the difference grows greater.

I also agree that it is more fulfilling to create something.

Which is the reason why I myself like to create ...


video games! :)

Win-win: you get to create it, and play it.

This is true. I love games. But after finishing there is definitely a feeling of being "unfulfilled." It is tough.

Absolutely, you basically get good at what you do, and conversely you don't get good and what you do not do.

There are games that make you learn a lot.

I never thought I'd ever know as much about 15th century ++ history as I do know thanks to Europa Universalis 4.

Often I find myself zapping through Wikipedia after a few hours of gaming.

And the game itself is very good.

I find the social interaction of clan and squad-based play in games like bf rewarding in its own right.

>I've found learning and creating to be more fulfilling activities than videogames.

>I wonder if other people share the same joy of learning that I feel

Yes, but... Most of my learning and creating has been inspired by games. I started with AD&D (pen and paper, not a video game), then historic tabletop miniature games. By middle school, I was reading 1000+ page college-level books about history because the games got me interested. School taught little or nothing about ancient civilizations, the napoleonic era, or the pike-and-shot era. There were also the WWII, Cold-War, and near-future games that led me to learn a lot about geography, geopolitics, and recent history.

By the time I got a PC (still before high school), I was playing some really complex detail-oriented games. There was a lot of paperwork to keep track of game state, tables to do lookups on, and rules details to remember. I learned how to program trying to make things that would ease the paperwork burden and let me focus on the strategy. (Coincidentally, that turned out to be a valuable career skill.) I also tried to make my own PC games, of course. As PCs got more powerful, PC games got better and more detailed (and better than I could make) and I mostly switched to them. Playing simulators like Silent Hunter and 688(I) led me to learn a lot about geometry and such. At the same time I started trying to make PBeM and PBW client software (again, useful career skills involving networking, client/server programming, and data processing/presentation).

As a fan of serious strategy games, I was interested in creating an AI player that could actually handle those types of games (which are exponentially more complex than chess-like games). I read a lot about AI and played around with different types of heuristics and other ideas. Nothing really came of that (yet) but it was very interesting learning about learning and thinking and planning.

Another genre that interested me were economic games like Wall $treet Raider and Capitalism Plus. That led me to many interesting books and movies to try to understand why companies did things like mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, spinoff subsidiaries, holding companies, etc., and how that related to the stock market.

Much enjoyable time was spent drawing illustrations and doing digital art, and learning a bit about 3-D modeling and CAD. That too was largely gaming-inspired, or trying to make art for games. While my skills have atrophied, I'd probably never have gotten as good as I did if I hadn't had inspiration.

Generally, my bookshelves are lined with books about topics that gaming got me interested in. My career is built upon foundations of things that I learned because of games. But I can't think of a single time when watching a new episode of _insert favorite TV show here_, or any other leisure/hobby, has led me to the bookstore to learn more, or led me to experiment with new creations, the way that a new game is likely to do. I'm happy with what I've gained from it.

I find it depends on the game. The Witness was truly challenging and interesting. It really made me think "how do I solve this". I want to play it more.

Things like TF2 and OW are really just re-enforcing muscle memory, and an exercise in "how long can I last all this chaotic audio/visual vomit" (both from the game and juvenile player base).

Pushing near 40, I can understand why people saw them as just noisy distractions when I was a kid: more often than not a video-game is a noisy distraction.

Re-hashes of CoD and other FPS shooters really aren't teaching anything new. It's exercising muscle memory built up 15 years ago playing the first one.

Guess I might go against the HN grain here. I played Counter-Strike competitively and professional from around 17-22 (I'd say on average 5-6 hours a day). I still play every now and then, but don't compete at tournaments or in leagues. I'm 30 now. Not only was my experience irreplaceable and positive (I made many life-long friends and met many cool people), but it also helped me with many other aspects of "grown-up" life:

- I learned to be goal-oriented and focused

- I learned how to lead and work with a team to succeed at a common goal

- I learned how to weed out shitty people that poison the environment

- I learned what it truly takes and how hard it is to be the top 1% at anything (even at a stupid video game)

- I learned how to negotiate contracts and balance budgets

I think being in the top-tier at anything gives a very specific outlook on things. Playing casually or "just for fun" never really appealed to me as I have a very competitive personality.

I want to echo this.

Leading raids in WoW was a great experience for me. Getting "server-first" took not only ability to play the game, but the ability to recruit and manage talent, practice clear and confident communication, and give constrictive criticism and praise (which is very important when you can't pay people).

Getting good at a video game is a form of learning, it's entertaining but challenging to master all the ins and outs (every patch, no less) in order to stay elite. Few other things give you the sort of near-instant reward for your efforts that video games offer. The ability to flaunt your talents in front of others, in a situation where it's socially acceptable to do so... it's a nice outlet for some drives that you just can't do in the work place.

That said... I generally can't play games "for fun" like some people can. When I play a game that doesn't have a level of competition to it... I get so bored. And when I play a game with competition and I don't have time to be good at it... I also get bored. Suffice to say I haven't been able to really enjoy a video game in years.

(XCOM is maybe the exception. It's good "mindless" fun, and I feel like I have to work hard for every kill. I'm about 1/2 way through the new Long War DLC... I can't place why I like it so much, sure the nostalgia from the original in the 90s, and the challenge, but for the last few weeks I do a mission or two a night and it's amazingly fun. Playing the game my hands get all sweaty, pulse elevated... the terror and frustration of watching one of my favorite troops get blown away because I moved him 1 square too far... They did such a great job with this game.)

I paid for a year of college textbooks with Brood War. Won some decent hardware, too. Small beer compared to the competitions of today, but at the time it felt awesome. I can honestly say I learned just as much from the dedication required to be competitive at the time as any of my other classes, too. It was fun.

Hi there,

We may've ran into each other online (I'm 29). I've played CS:S and CS:GO competitively and minor professionally, mostly under the team MM3 (Message Mode 3). I can't stress the importance of video games (especially on my industry skills). Typing skills, debugging, communication, economics, strategy, critical thinking, most of this on-the-fly decision making. It's been an immense help.

I now play RocketLeague Competitively at the higher ranks and always wonder if I'm wasting time trying to reach that final high tier. (already made GE in CS:GO/15 LANS). But I'm seeing it start to affect my personal life. I can't stop, and I don't want to stop.

Just some anecdotal experience, figure it may be interesting.


I am finding it very hard to get out of Silver because when I solo queue i frequently get matched with teammates who treat the competitive match like a casual game. Most people either don't use mics at all or they only use them for racial slurs, and many others just play like they don't really care about getting a win. It's difficult to lead the team when I get matched with three other kids who queue up together and dick around the whole match, and it's very demotivating to realize I'll have to endure at least 16 rounds of obnoxious chatter and getting owned. I really do want to get better, but I'm not yet at the point where I can carry an uncooperative team (especially when there are also smurfs on the other team).

I feel like a good approach would be to find some consistent players and stop solo queueing, but I'd love to hear if you have any other advice. Also, what has been a good strategy for you to in weeding out toxic players? Definitely seems like an applicable skill in all aspects of life.

You aren't focusing on the right skills. Until you get good at aiming, know how to move around the map, know how to read the minimap, know how to round a corner, know how to prefire, know how to place your aim ahead of time, know how to buy, etc you shouldn't think for a second about coordinating with your teammates or calling strats.

Your best bet is to stop playing competitive for awhile. Just play aim/duel maps on the community servers and demolition to practice your aiming. Once you go back to competitive with some actual aiming skills and spray control you will easily blow past to MG on technical skill alone.

Again, I highly recommend the aim maps or even a deathmatch server. Spectate whoever is at the top of leaderboard and try and compare to how you play. Silvers are so bad at the game playing with them is a waste of time. You have to play against people who are much better than you to get better.

I like this advice. I never played CS:GO. But I did get to platinum in StarCraft 2 building nothing but stalkers. All I focused on was my economy and A-moving when it seemed like I had an advantage. Focusing on the right skills is important. Many players who were in gold and below were worried about strats and builds and micro. Totally putting the cart before the horse.

I'm in my mid thirties, and only play a few games a week. But I manage to stay at around MGE rank, and usually have good experiences.

The best advice I can give you is never solo-queue. Add people to your friends list as soon as you sense that they are a good communicator and are giving a modicum of consideration to the experiences of the other players. Once you've built up 40-50 such people, you should be able to always start a game by joining a lobby, even if it might mean a bit more of a wait.

The thing is that in a group of five people, having even two or three people being on the same page and taking the game seriously will tend to dictate the tone of communication. That alone will give your team a reliable advantage over others, particularly in silver and nova levels, so you should be able to rank up reasonably fast to at least nova 2 or 3 without needing to worry to much about your individual skill.

Playing starcraft 2 totally consumed my life from about 18-22. It was very similar to a drug addiction except I convinced myself it was positive because I would eventually be a professional. My addiction prevented my from working on the underlying issues that caused my to seek refuge in the game. It also left me with a host of physical RSI problems that have been a huge negative to my life + career. Although if I hadn't developed them I suspect I'd still be consumed by games.

In order to spend vast amounts of time playing video games you have to be at a certain level of privilege. I feel as if video games have cheated myself out of potential as well as those that my privilege obligates to help.

As with other addictions there are people who won't be consumed by it like I was, and prohibition isn't the solution, not sure what is tbh.

Very similar story to me: I played Starcraft 2 throughout college in a competitive fashion and made me feel worse. There was a period of time after that where after quitting I wouldn't touch a video game.

I've since picked up a Nintendo 3DS as an experiment now that I take long train rides to work, and it's been an amazing, relaxing experience.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, there are many different ways to enjoy video games without being addicted or even playing a lot. Starcraft 2 ladder play may be one of the more stressful ways of going about it from experience.

I feel like both of your stories could easily be rewritten and replace videogames with sports. Many people spend their high school and college lives completely dedicated to football, basketball, baseball, or hockey with the idea that they'll go pro eventually.

These folks can come away with wasted college time, physical injuries, and hideous aversion to the sport they once loved. I guess what I am saying is that I feel like this is an athlete/esports thing, not necesarily a videogame thing. Without the lure of a career behind it, it wouldn't be quite so dangerous a thing. But as with all fun careers, the demands are super high and the number of people who make it is super small. Acting is like this too, without the physical injuries.

I agree. Also, both with video games and with sports, it is possible to use the challenge as an opportunity for self development. At the very least, learning to play the games without getting repetitive stress injuries would be a mild physical accomplishment for GGPP.

I know people who replaced drug addiction with video game addiction. It's impossible to know how things would have gone if they didn't get involved with one or the other, but I wonder if some people are vulnerable to addiction through a combination of biology and life experiences, and it's just a matter of which thing they become addicted to.

If that's the case, video games are probably one of the most benign things that a person can get attached to. Not harmless overall, just less harmful than some other options like certain drugs. A little more harmful with micro transactions. But a lot of games offer a social network as well, which might help in development of self-awareness.

Yes people really can be prone to be addicted. Look it up.

I just don't want to say that people are inevitably going to be addicted to justify monetizing addiction, but the fact that relatively harmless addictive products are available might serve a purpose.

Player Vs Player games are unique. They're designed around making players constantly navigate a shifting metagame, fighting each other to generate content out of the existing field.

It's sort of a recipe for unhappiness, as the entire system devolves into, "Who can find the most abusively unfair strategy first, and then exploit it." Since most of these games simply cannot have the time devoted to them to make them "balanced" at the breakneck pace the market demands, they never really achieve equilibrium and reward only the most heavily invested.

> "Who can find the most abusively unfair strategy first, and then exploit it."

I'm not sure I agree with this. "Finding" the best strategy rewards you for a week at most, until the community absorbs the strategy. Then you're no farther than the people you were beating last week.

Most games have co-opted the word "metagame" to describe this phenomenon. Someone discovers an effective strategy, it becomes the metagame, and competitive play revolves around polishing understanding and execution as it pertains to the metagame.

Imbalanced games tend to self-balance at higher levels - all the crap that doesn't work just disappears from high-level players' playbooks (except occasionally as surprise gimmicks).

> I'm not sure I agree with this. "Finding" the best strategy rewards you for a week at most, until the community absorbs the strategy. Then you're no farther than the people you were beating last week.

In most cases I experienced, exploitative strategies are only slightly improved, and require a fair amount of skill (usually games hotpatch outrageous exploits quickly). The people who find it worse train to use it first, and keep their advantage.

I mean... You said it yourself:

> Most games have co-opted the word "metagame" to describe this phenomenon. Someone discovers an effective strategy, it becomes the metagame, and competitive play revolves around polishing understanding and execution as it pertains to the metagame.

The "shifting meta" is exactly what game designers of big competitive games want, because it requires ongoing engagement to maintain mastery. A chess player may be rusty after a year off, but the game doesn't fundamentally change. Someone playing League or Overwatch cannot say the same as balance has substantially changed.

> Imbalanced games tend to self-balance at higher levels - all the crap that doesn't work just disappears from high-level players' playbooks (except occasionally as surprise gimmicks).

I've been part of the "highest levels" of two competitive gaming communities now, and I can tell you they do NOT self-balance in my experience. And it was incredibly frustrating to watch the rules change deliberately to break up our strategies, even though what we were doing was simply a function of understanding and practice.

Very few pvp games ever "balance out." That's why they have "shifting metas." Indeed, many gamers claim prefer this because they claim it makes it easier for new players to enter into the higher brackets against more experienced players. But really what it does is create a treadmill you can reach the front or back of.

Maybe some people want that treadmill. I am not sure I do.

I played Action Quake 2 that way, for about a year. I was in a clan, all of that nonsense, and you're absolutely right. We literally spent hours training each other various tricks we'd found, virtually all of which exploited the geometry of a map, or strafe-running/jumping. We were at a level filled with young, skilled players... we wanted an edge.

It's exactly the same in sports... at least swimming and fencing, in my experience. In both cases (as with games) I realized that the fanaticism and total dedication required wasn't for me. I still enjoy games, I still enjoy swimming and fencing, but I'm done with the treadmill... it's only for the very young, or athletes of some description.

I'd argue this isn't unique to esports - Formula One has a similar thing happening - the teams develop new technology to make cars get round the track faster, and then the organisation decides if they fit within the rules. The rules change over time.

DOTA2 does this better than most - most strategies are accepted as a part of the game - in fact, a lot of things core to play now began life as those kind of exploits (pulling your lane creeps into neutral camps to deny enemies experience and allow you to farm the neutrals easily, for example). The game is balanced around those things, even if they were unintended.

Sure, the game is regularly patched, but the solution is very rarely to directly make something not viable any more - at most it will make it even by buffing other options or reducing it's viability (but not removing it).

The draft with bans also allows teams to deny the enemy team access to certain strategies, which means teams can't focus on one strategy, which is nice.

> I'd argue this isn't unique to esports - Formula One has a similar thing happening - the teams develop new technology to make cars get round the track faster, and then the organisation decides if they fit within the rules. The rules change over time.

The big difference is that the advances in F1 car design and even driving is that they can have some relevance in the outside world, in totally unrelated fields to race cars. It's very rare that experience in a video game leads to new engineering efficiency breakthroughs, materials science, etc. It sometimes happens that we see interesting models in economics emerge (EVE stands out here), but I'd say its rarer for sure.

Sure, but that isn't the reason people are Formula 1 drivers or why they watch it, it's just a reason so much money can go into the sport.

I was more talking about how I don't think that (shifting rules as strategies develop) is a dealbreaker when it comes to audience enjoyment or player investment.

Oh it's designed to maximize the need to invest and minimize the return. I'm not sure that's a deal I like.

A perfectly balanced game would be impossible to create, given strategy X compared to strategy Y, X will always seem abusive, but then strategy Z might seem abusive to X, to which Y seems abusive, etc.

It's a bit like rock-paper-scissors, if someone starts using paper, stop using your rock and replace it with a scissor.

Constantly changing balance patches from the game developers also become a treadmill and can feel even worse than trying to keep up with shifting strategies from opponents. Consider character X has your favorite ability Y which you know how to use very well. You take a 2 month break and come back to the game which has been patched in the meantime. In the middle of a critical fight you try to use ability Y only to discover it only does half the damage you are used to. That is not very rewarding for all the time you invested in practicing Y.

At the time it's kindof fun when the developers throw in a bone to cause some disruption in the strategies, as long as it doesn't happen all the time.

> A perfectly balanced game would be impossible to create, given strategy X compared to strategy Y, X will always seem abusive, but then strategy Z might seem abusive to X, to which Y seems abusive, etc.

I'm sorry, but within a reasonable margin of fairness you're just not right.

> It's a bit like rock-paper-scissors, if someone starts using paper, stop using your rock and replace it with a scissor.

Usually what happens is a grenade is revealed into the RPS dynamic and everyone has to concentrate on the grenade or very specific strategies to counter the grenade. The entire game ends up revolving around a combination that has an elevated winrate unless specifically countered.

This has happened in the international a year or two ago, it happened in League, it happened even in little spaces like Fractured Space, it happened during the overwatch beta (haven't been keeping up since launch). It happened in smash wii (oh god pre-patch Luigis were everywhere and you had to have specific options ready just for them).

And it's worth noting it's a negative feedback loop: games struggle to keep engagement (because the market is flooded), so the game companies flood their games with new content. This content can almost never be brought into perfect balance with the game dynamics as is, so they redefine it. This is viewed as "an active game" and gamers are taught they should prefer "active" games.

For PvE games, this is usually fine (inasmuch as the only people affected are the diehard super-optimizers). For PvP, this redefines the game and invalidates the meta everyone has to play.

Kids or other all-time-consuming life-changing events. It's why the core of the "idle hands are devil's work" moral - excessive gaming could be considered a vice.

How did you manage to extricate yourself, btw?

When I played DAoC at a crazy level, I left just by quitting one day (it ruined a great long term relationship which prompted me to quit). I gave my account to someone and that was it. I had weird feelings about what to do at home for awhile, so I started power lifting. Then I went back to grad school. My problem is that I don't do idle well at all, so I need productive things to do.

Hey man, live and learn. You came away from your experience with valuable lessons.

I used to play games a lot, and I don't now. It's not that I don't want to or that I wouldn't enjoy it, I just want to do too many other things more. I have a wife and a kid who demand a lot of my time, I lift weights, I try to play board games with friends, I work on hobby projects, I read books, I do chores, I go on trips. As much as getting immersed into the new Witcher game would be enjoyable to me, I just can't fit it in. All those other things are more important and make me happier.

Similar situation here. With the time constraints imposed by kids you have to drop entire categories of activities, not just moderate them, because the baseline time commitment ("oh god, last time I played this was 2 weeks ago and I only played an hour then—I have no idea WTF was going on or how the controls work") and money (PC upgrades every couple of years, new consoles) required just can't be sustained at the incredibly low levels they'd have to to fit in with kids plus a bunch of other things.

You kinda have to pick 3-4 things to focus on and drop the rest entirely, not just cut back. If one of those is "stay sort-of in shape" then you're really limited. Most gaming just doesn't fit in any more. :-/

Kids triggered an impulse to take my career to the next level, so between work, family, maintaining a bare minimum level of fitness, and professional development, I've got nothing left to give games. TV has taken a major hit, too.

Something in my brain clicked after the first one was born... an ok-you're-an-adult-stop-fucking-around mode was triggered. The result is that the lack of free time doesn't bother me that much. Too busy and tired to care, maybe.

Everyone makes their own priorities. I have many friends with kids that somehow manage to find time to play video games. I don't find the time anymore and I don't have kids so I have no clue how they do it but I see them posting about them all the time. One has 2 kids, and other has 2 kids, one has three kids, another has 2. They guy who has three also manages to play guitar and do photography and raise 3 kids. I don't know how he does it

One addictive aspect of gaming that the author doesn't mention is how immersive and perhaps addicting a good gaming scene can be. There are people that live and breathe competitive sports, with most people following a few teams, and it strikes me that videogames have way more addictive potential. First of all, the barriers to entry don't include winning a genetic lottery and/or having high level coaching from a young age, so there's a democratized element. More importantly, with e-sports, you can watch insanely high level play (often with engaging/entertaining personalities) 24/7 for free on your phone, without any of the annoying content protection and walls of most sports. I suspect I would have given up on Street Fighter a while ago without the burgeoning streaming scene keeping me hooked and Reddit offering a lively venue for discussion/learning.

So in a sense, it's not "just a game" like grinding away at an RPG or whatever in the 90's in my parent's basement was - at times it can feel just as social as experiences I've had in music scenes.

See: Killer Queen Arcade. The underground competitive arcade scene you (probably) don't know about.

Don't think addicting is a word yet.

>155 million Americans play video games, more than the number who voted in November’s presidential election. And they play them a lot: According to a variety of recent studies, more than 40 percent of Americans play at least three hours a week

I'm among them. I play a few hours a week, after my wife and child go to bed.

I barely talk about games with any of my fellow adult friends, because for some reason it is still too needing a world where discussing programming, star trek movies or settlers of Cataan is commonplace!

I'm curious about how those numbers break down by type of game. 3 hours of casual phone gaming, e.g. playing Candy Crush while waiting in line, feels different from 3 hours of sitting in front of dedicated console/computer.

It's analogous to saying X% of adults read 3 hours per week, outside of work. Reading hacker news for 3 hours is different from reading US Weekly is different from reading a novel, etc.

I'm not passing judgement on any of those activities or saying any aren't worthwhile or whatevs. I'm just saying the broad category of "video games" or "reading" is so vague as to be almost useless. The consumers have different motivations and desires.

Sorry if this is addressed in TFA; I only skimmed it.

Edit: Also, an opinion question: I play the NY Times crossword puzzle on my phone; would that be considered playing a video game? I wouldn't categorize it that way, but I don't have a logical reason when I really think about it.

I'm jealous. Every time I try a game, I totally suck at it. Even the easy difficulty is not easy enough anymore. Nowadays, I only enjoy puzzle games if anything at all.

Totally sucking at something is the first step on the road to being pretty okay at something.

That's strange. Gamers have been complaining that games have been getting easier over time, to the point that 'normal' difficulty on many games (especially heavily marketed ones) is too easy.

There's the key: Gamers have been complaining, not normal people. When I used to be a gamer (meaning I didn't have anything else to do with my life than get better at games), I could literally spend hundreds of hours mastering a single game. When you're at that level, games seem easy. Now, I casually will pick up a game once every three months or so and play, and for some games unless it's the easiest difficulty level, I get my ass kicked. Online (vs. "gamers")? Forget it. I totally get the "difficulty inflation" that's happening.

I'm finding that games seem more like work than they used to. Hard isn't the right word; grinding, is more like it.

On the topic of puzzle games, you might enjoy The Witness: http://the-witness.net

The Witness is possibly my favourite game of last year. A truly wonderful experience. Hugely recommended to anyone who likes puzzle games. (Also in that category: Portal, Portal 2 and Antichamber)

I have enjoyed it and can recommend it everyone else. It was an epic journey.

The first time you tried anything, you probably were pretty bad at it, but with perseverance and engagement, I assume you've gotten pretty good at a lot of things. I used to be very bad at a lot of genres of game and have gotten much better through conscious effort.

Maybe you haven't found the right game. Seems some people are just more talented at gaming - like others are at, e.g. dancing, and honestly I wish I was better at the latter than the former.

Same here, a few hours a week at most. It's nice to drop into an immersive, interactive world now and then and it feels more engaging than most movies.

Currently trying to avoid a "High Chaos" rating in Dishonored 2...

Ack, I really need to pick that one up. Been too busy, but the original was a classic.

It's more of the same really except you have a choice of characters. I loved the original as well and I'm enjoying this one a lot.

I've been playing a single video game for more than half of my life (I'm 30 now). I've dabbled with other games, but this game and the community around it contributed a lot in making me the person I am today. I don't plan on stopping any time soon. In fact, for the past few years I've shifted most of my free time from playing that game to helping a friend develop cool shit[0] for it, so we can hopefully prolong its lifetime. Programming and gaming go so well together that I'm pretty sure I'll continue hacking on some old games when I'm 60.

[0] - https://shieldbattery.net

From your first sentence, I knew it was BW. We're the same age. I remember very clearly all those nights fighting away on WGT and later, the PGT ladder. I remember when the patch hit that allowed everyone to save replays. I remember BWChart and how revolutionary it was at the time. The anti-hack programs you needed to run in the background. Traveling to play in the world cyber games once a year. Fighting for a spot on the national team to be involved in nation wars. Although it was virtual, team 88) and team [LighT] made those years for me.

The game is the medium, the people are the message. Other people say the same about an online forums, some people might even say it about war. I'm not being snarky, but I thought about it for myself, and the genuinely great memories in gaming I have involve other people, and are equal to other memories involving people. So it's not the games, it's the people, at least for me. Maybe sometimes that can just be the mind of the author who wrote the game, like it can be with a book. But there's always someone, somewhere, in some form.

Hey 2Pac. While not nearly as focused on BW as you are, it and a handful of other competitive gaming scenes I feel were pretty key during my formative years as well. I loved the attitude to improvement: break down an issue you're having into simpler pieces and figure them out to paraphrase a Spooky adage of yore[0]. Considering that's the essense of what we do in math and CS, it's hard to not see a connection. Sounds cheesy but learning how to play 3rd Strike as a young teen made me see I could help myself much more than I previously believed.

Unlike some SC2 posters in this article, being a part of long-established communities as opposed to one explosively (and unsustainably) growing one, I didn't have ambitions of grandeur and was just able to enjoy it all at my pace, too. I think my only regret is forgoing single-player games with that time. Trails in the Sky FC put on hold to ladder on Fish while the iron's hot, heh. Everytime I had thought my video game interests shelved, all it took was a friend to bring their console over where before long we're talking about best approaches to X, a trip to a Japanese arcade or for TBLS to all qualify for the largest BW offline tournament in recent history before I developed a hunger for it all again. So yeah, I don't see myself abstaining in the long, long run even if it's just to develop a little something. Best of luck with SB, didn't know you were part of the team!

[0] https://www.twitch.tv/teamsp00ky

> Brood War has a life of lively to live to life of full life thanks to ShieldBattery.


Hello brother, this game almost broke me and then, I guess, made me in many ways. I can't play without getting too into it, though to be fair, I haven't tried in a while.

I played a lot of video games when younger.

I regret the amount of time I spent. It deeply harmed my health, harmed my social relationships, harmed my school, and limited my world. It was empty success.

My total `/played` in WoW wound up well over 2 years at this point over a 5 year period, I believe. And WoW was not the only game I've played. I've not logged on in years, and I don't care to reactivate and do the math.

On the other hand... they were inexpensive entertainment that worked out well for my living situations. Some of them provided great relationships and wonderful bonding experiences with other humans from all over the world. Games motivated me to get into software development.

Yet, had I limited myself in time and taken the time saved from games to doing more programming, more art, and more reading (all perfectly doable and feasible for the life situations I was in when I was spending time gaming that much), I'd be a better human today. Period. Video games are fine in responsible amounts, and I consumed in vast and irresponsible amounts.

These days I pull out Dwarf Fortress every couple months and spend the evenings on a weekend Striking the Earth, and that's appropriate and responsible in my life at present. I encourage my colleagues who have freshly graduated from college to limit their gaming and to use that time to improve themselves in other ways more engaged in the totality and diversity of human life.

I used to play video games a lot, especially 'builder' type games like Harvest Moon 64 or SimCity.

These days however, I feel guilty whenever I fire up a game, even one I really enjoy. I feel like I should be doing something more 'real', like playing guitar or building something, even if it's trivial.

It's strange, because in the end enjoying my time gaming with my friends or playing guitar with them or building things for them add up to be the same.

> more than 40 percent of Americans play at least three hours a week

Watching a single football game per week takes up more time. Honestly, 3-hours / week for an entertainment venue you enjoy is kinda small.

The average football game is 3-hours 12 minutes. The average baseball game is 2-hours 54 minutes.

I find it strange that in our culture, its fine to spend hours upon hours of watching Football, Basketball, Hockey, Baseball (and then play fantasy football and otherwise participate in social norms for even more hours throughout the week).

But a paltry 3-hours of video games spread out in a few sessions per day? That's outrageous!


Lets compare apples to apples here. If you spend 3-hours gaming per week, its equivalent to watching a single game of football or baseball per week. Its honestly nothing to be ashamed of.

Now I played "Maple Story" (an awful MMORPG) for 4-hours a day at my peak. THAT is shameful and a waste. But 3-hours a week is more than reasonable, and just as healthy as any other entertainment venue. Hell, its arguably better to actually have your mind active in a video game than other, more passive, forms of entertainment.

Real hobbies (music, art, creation, programming, engineering...) probably are the best for your brain though. And you get useful skills to boot.

Honestly I don't see the thirty something generation ever giving up video games. They've been a part of our entire lives at this point. Once we're old, it will be a case where no generation has ever been without video games in some capacity.

Am 43. Grew up playing games. Not planning on stopping any time soon. Went through the 'I should be doing something better with my time' phase briefly, about ten years ago. Realized it was anxiety driven, not rational. Having fun is an intrinsic part of being human, and cannot be skipped without genuine mental health consequences.

I've sort of been fighting with this myself - a few years ago I started working full time and spending more time with friends.

When I get downtime it's pretty much just turned in to playing games or watching TV - I barely have time when I feel motivated enough to start learning something new anymore. I taught myself almost everything I know about programming in downtime during my teenage and college years, but that sort of highly motivated downtime hasn't carried over so well now that so much of my time is occupied automatically.

I think you're right and having actual downtime when you're doing something relaxing is a very good thing, but I can't shake the feeling I should be accomplishing more.

I guess I'm just sort of disappointed that all my most motivated times seem to have sunk into other activities and now I don't get them to learn on my own. I don't know what to do about it.

EDIT: You know, I don't know anyone else who feels obliged to spend their free time in some sort of "productive" way except developers.

Maybe I should just ignore this whole thing and accept that development has for the most part went from a hobby to a job for me and that's okay. Spending time with friends and gaming in my free time are probably more relaxing and improve my overall happiness more than forced productivity would. Optimizing happiness is probably a better idea than optimizing productivity.

Eugh, I don't know, I keep bouncing back and forth on this one in my head.

Some of my best ideas have come to me after hours of twaddling away with no particular goal in mind in SimCity.

We as devs tend to seek optimal solutions as if they were a simple numeric quantity, where more/higher=better. We know this is not how things are, but the mental model is seductive in in its simplicity.

What I have learned over the years is that it is the constant change between different forms of attention and focus that drive me to be my best. Which means time, real time, away from what I do for work. And when I return to work after doing so, I appreciate it all the more.

You might be interested in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book, Flow, if you have not yet read it. Although it has nothing to do with game playing per se, it helped clarify many aspects of my thinking when it came to why I felt I was 'wasting' time while gaming, and why I was wrong in that assessment.


Additional reply because I'm out of the edit window. I wanted to address this one line:

>I guess I'm just sort of disappointed that all my most motivated times seem to have sunk into other activities and now I don't get them to learn on my own. I don't know what to do about it.

What you do is realize that you need to cut back on some of the other activities, even if the are what you are 'supposed' to be doing, and give yourself the time and space you need.

This may mean spending less time with friends. That is OK. Everyone needs alone time to some degree. I personally need a lot of it, and I love my family and friends. Getting my alone time is what allows me to be at my best for when I am with them, and there is nothing wrong with that.

There's also probably going to be a huge market in making games that older people can play when this generation hits retirement age.

I'm bumping up against retirement age, and I'll still kick your ass at Titanfall (well, maybe; the odds are good, but not assured). Call of Duty, meh, not so much.

I foresee a time where playing some twitch games aren't going to work for me anymore. But anything with the slightest hint of tactical gameplay and this oldster-in-the-making will be fine, I think. Especially the Tom Clancy games where "run and gun" just gets you killed more quickly. I look forward to Rainbow Six: Palm Springs with the Naples DLC expansion pack.

My dad just turned 65 and he still has no interest in video games except for solitaire. But I really think that he'd enjoy video games, especially as a way to keep an active mental life in retirement. I tried to explain the "it's almost-real physics!" angle of Kerbal Space Program, but that wasn't persuasive. Any tips?

Also, have you played Overwatch or TF2? I found both of those more interesting than Titanfall-- and a wise player can really help a team by jumping into the role that isn't present on a team.

"Hero" type games don't interest me much, and though Team Fortress interests me, just never made time for it. But, yeah, I've always been the one to sit on the flag with a rocket launcher, throw my warm body at a territory when no one else will (K/D, phfffftt). Don't see why that won't still serve me well in my old age.

Overwatch is an EXTREMELY polished version of TF2. There is really nothing at its level at this point. I play both Titanfall 2 and Overwatch now. Titanfall 2 is a great, super fast team action shooter. Overwatch is completely focused on balanced team combat, each player has a unique character, with unique abilities to counter other character abilities. No two players can have the same character on one team, and the "scoring" is quite unique. KD is really not taken into account, and in fact, you can't even see that ratio at any point during the game, except for your own number of kills, and deaths. Points are awarded at the end for a wide variety of things, and ALL players vote the top 4 players, based on these types of achievements. It's pretty awesome.

Thanks, all. It's obvious I've confused Overwatch with something else. Given the backlog I've currently got, I'll wait until the "Game of the Year" discount and give it a whirl.

It was just $20 on the korean battlenet(global key) :) That's where I picked it up while I was on the fence!

Overwatch may interest you because it's tuned pretty hard to reward team gameplay instead of just "who gets the most kills" and K/D isn't even something reported in the game stats. One of the characters (Reinhardt) is even designed around essentially being a damage sponge for teammates, with killing enemies being a distant third priority after shielding allies and keeping enemies out of short range with his big hammer.

It's also got a lot more variety in characters than most similar games, with the cast covering a variety of ethnicities, cultural origins, and ages ranging from 18 or 19 to 60+.

Agreed at ignoring K/D :D

Hmmm. So I don't think of Overwatch as a "Hero" type game (although I'm not sure what you mean by that). I think Overwatch classes map to TF2 classes pretty straightforwardly. And there's no leveling or grinding for functional items, so it is maybe even a better than TF2 in that regard?

Oh, perhaps I misread about Overwatch. Or getting confused in my old age. :-) Not that I'd have time to play it, what with Titanfall still being entertaining, have barely played Battlefield 1, and a new Ghost Recon comes out on the 7th. I look forward to retirement so I can have more time to play!

EDIT: And I missed the part earlier where you asked for tips with your father. Ya know, I gave it some thought, and I don't know that I have any. Your dad is about ten years older than I am, which means he was just a tad past the proper age when the Atari 2600 came out. Me, I grew up with the Sears pong console, then came the day when we got a 2600. I was ten or twelve, just the right age to get hooked. So to me it's "umm, sure, I'm in my fifties and spend way too time playing video games. Your point?" whereas your father might have been just old enough to complain about those "kids and their video games", I don't know. So both he and I have had about fifty years to fall on one side or the other, and neither one of us has probably changed all that much since.

You and I both wonder, "why wouldn't you think Kerbal is cool? Hell, if I were retired, it's all I'd do if I didn't have any discipline." because we're already over the hump of playing to begin with, whereas he hasn't gotten past the barrier of "video games==the devil's tool". Dunno, just spitballing, and unfortunately don't have any potential pearls of wisdom. IOW, I don't get it any more than you do.

The Civ games sound perfect for him!

The aging of the gaming populace is I think a large part of why online CCGs (like Hearthstone, Shadowverse, Eternal) have been getting so popular - while there are obviously a lot of kids who play, many of the players are older.

As I've gotten older I've lost the wherewithal to focus on mechanically difficult games like SC2.

Starcraft in particular always felt like work to me; the insane level of management required to simultaneously macro/micro...

I never enjoyed it.

Currently enjoying the apocalyptic wasteland / occasionally broken mess that is H1Z1: King of the Kill

I don't see any reason why retirement-age me won't be able to play Super Mario 2060. Adjustable difficulty, whether through mechanical tweaks or competitive multiplayer matchmaking should be good enough?

Mario already offers invincibility and constant flying items you can take if you die a lot in the recent games, so you should be all set to play Mario 2060 :).

I play World of Tanks with my friends, and we're all in our 40's. It's basically an FPS for people with slower reaction times.

Simulators seem to be popular for this. Someone to be buying all those expensive train sim addons..

I am so excited for my retirement. I am going to make ceramics and play Go, two hobbies I wish I could spend more time on.

But I'm also going to dump a fuckton of time into videogames. I remember visiting my grandparents in their homes (and later, their retirement and/or nursing homes), and it felt... boring. I'm looking forward to having an active gaming life, and an active social videochat/groupchat life with any of my friends who are still alive.

I thought this, but I've moved on to board games. I don't like being tied to the television and it feels like it puts the focus back on my friends instead of the game.

I've been semi-hooked on counter-strike for the past few years. I started getting into it again after I got sick, and now some of my long distance high school and college friends jumped on the bandwagon again and we play regularly. Its a great way to stay in touch and socialize, as well as just have fun playing the game. Its also SUPER competitive which has its upsides and downsides. It makes the game dynamic, you constantly need to stay on top of the 'meta' to be good, but at the same time its tiresome, so its not a casual game at higher levels. As with anything, it does come at a real life expense - I have 700 hours on the game, and I need to remind myself when to cut the cord or to take a week off. I usually play 0-2 hrs a day now. Overall, spending a nice weekend outside with friends and family is a lot better than spending it playing video games.

Balance. It's a theme that runs through absolutely everything in life, and video games are no exception.

If you like CS, then you should check out Rainbow Six Siege. Very similar play style (one life rounds with an objective). Everyone chooses a unique operator (each operator has their own weapon set/special ability). It's a lot of fun and reminds me of the days I used to play CS in college 10 years ago.

I'm also at around 700 hours of CS:GO. I find it to be the most enjoyable and probably my best playing after a very long day of work, usually with a cup of coffee or a beer. It's just not as satisfying to play on my days off. Totally agree on spending a weekend outside with friends instead.

I don't really think meta knowledge/research is needed to play competitive though. I used to be really into learning nade throws and watching pro pushes and retakes, and now that I barely have time to play at all I'm still around the same rank.

> What did the game offer that the rest of the world could not? To begin with, games make sense, unlike life: As with all sports, digital or analog, there are ground rules that determine success (rules that, unlike those in society, are clear to all). The purpose of a game, within it, unlike in society, is directly recognized and never discounted.

I think this is really the underappreciated factor in why people prefer video games to jobs. For some people, it's not that they're lazy and games are an excuse to avoid work, it's that the games are actually a far better work experience than the average job. You don't have to go to any meetings where an HR manager breathlessly explains how the new performance assessment web app is going to make everything better, even though it just looks like a reskin of the one you used last year. You don't have to spend a single nanosecond thinking about whether you're going to be edged out for a promotion by someone who has a better rapport with the boss. There are no especially demanding customers or government budget cuts eating away at the revenue you're paid from. You get to just do the goddamn work.

There is a lot to be said for this.

I recently wrote the guide for teamplay with the US Forces army of Company of Heroes 2. USF is widely considered underpowered in team games, because those games often devolve into tank slugfests, and USF lacks heavy tanks. Players who are considered "good" at USF in team games generally play "worse Soviets" --- that is, their playstyle (mass artillery) would be better executed by a different army.

I quixotically refused to accept this, and played a ton of games as USF, trying to find a style that played to their strengths and was viable in large team games. It was my top idea in mind for a while, to use pg's concept---the thing I thought about in the shower.

Eventually I came up with a style that emphasized flanking, range, kiting, and prioritized taking and using ground. The most important thing was that it was non-gimmicky---that is, it is not an easily counterable one-track pony. I wrote a guide detailing it and the underlying concepts over the course of a couple days, then posted it to the subreddit.

I compare this to a React app I recently wrote for a client. We had to work with a kludgy financial API, we had to compromise on certain features to be ready in time for a stakeholder inspection, and some bits of the code are not so great.

It's strange, but I almost wish I lived in a universe where I could put the CoH 2 guide on my resume, and not the client work. It's a better product, it represents (relatively) pioneering intellectual work, and I can take full credit for all of it with clear conscience.

Of course, no one will make any money off of it; it will not feed any hungry mouths, and an overweening preference for solo projects can signify difficulty working with others. But: the experience of working on it was great, and I can look back and say, "I did a good job, at a hard thing, that conventional wisdom believed was impossible."

Flow is intoxicating. Simple as that, really.

Yes, playing games is fun. In no small part because they're carefully engineered to engage you, provide a path to success, and otherwise resemble a theme park experience. Even games like EVE Online that pride themselves on being massive PvP arenas are carefully tuned to make constant conflict a reality.

Not many people here know this but I have a youtube channel where I have done an absolute ton of gaming content (mostly minecraft, but perhaps most famously a Dwarf Fortress tutorial series), as a way to practice my speech and work through a very difficult stutter.

And while I still respect and root for my full time youtuber friends, for me it felt like such an emply lifestyle. Ultimately you're just walking along in other people's stories, experiencing other people's visions, and working within other people's limits was increasingly galling. And short of becoming unpaid labor for those games via their modding scenes, you are a passenger in someone else's car on someone else's map.

Like television (and probably better than television, from a cognitive perspective), gaming is a great escape. But making it more and more of your life as some of this article suggests is a recipe for gradually detaching yourself from real life, real problems and real accomplishments. It's an addictive escapism, and ever year the authors of said escapism refine their techniques in a ruthless competition to keep you captivated.

And the best minecraft fort or cleverest warframe trick I've pulled off pales in accomplishment to selling a company I built, teaching a new developer a new skill, or anything similar. The minute that gaming becomes an end until itself, you end up sliding down a slippery slope to irrelevance.

Great article, but I disagree with this section:

Fourth: economics. Since every game is reliant on this addictive incentive system, every gamer harbors a game theorist, a situational logician blindly valorizing the optimization of quantified indices of “growth” — in other words, an economist. Resource management is to video games what ­African-American English is to rap music or what the visible sex act is to pornography — the element without which all else is unimaginable. In games as in the market, numbers come first. They have to go up. Our job is to keep up with them, and all else can wait or go to hell.

Numbers and economic incentive systems show up in many games, but they're not fundamental. Take a look at games like Journey, Portal, Gone Home, Yume Nikki, or many others which work just fine without numbers. The creator of Undertale, Toby Fox, had this to say in an interview (http://existentialgamer.com/interview-toby-fox-undertale):

TEG: I really loved the fact that many of the branches in UNDERTALE‘s story seemed to lead to miniature “voids” where I was forced to contemplate what I’d just experienced without being “improved” in any quantitative way. Do you think that as gamers and people we have become addicted to numbers / money / experience in general?

TF: The addictive quality of “numbers increasing” is what drives a lot of games. But some of the most important things in life can’t be accurately represented by numbers. As for people’s lives, I have no comment.

Playing games is rad and cool, and there are many studies demonstrating various cognitive benefits. One of my favorite was on the elderly playing Rise of Nations, a critically-acclaimed RTS that's a sort of blend between Civilization and Age of Empires: https://news.illinois.edu/blog/view/6367/206094

> The researchers found that training on the video game did improve the participants' performance on a number of these tests. As a group, the gamers became significantly better - and faster - at switching between tasks compared with the comparison group. Their working memory, as reflected in the tests, also was significantly improved. Their reasoning ability was enhanced. To a lesser extent, their short-term memory of visual cues was better than that of their peers, as was their ability to identify rotated objects.

They really need to make a proper sequel to Rise of Nations. That game was great. Also loved its single-player metagame mode.

Well, at least they released an HD version on Steam.

Every 6 months or so I find a game that swoops in and eats up all my time. Usually it is a valuable and rewarding experience and its missed once I complete the game. Then I spend 6 months trying games from my steam library until I find another one that has that special something.

It's not the best method but I try to set a timer for 30 minutes 3 times a week and try a new game I've never played. It's obviously not a perfect method but often that's enough time to decide if I want to dedicate more time to that game.

Last year for me it was The Witness, Life is Strange, and to a lesser extent Monument Valley. Those were all excellent.

This year the first one is Civilization VI, but I fully expected that.

Hey! I just played Inside. It's made by the same creators of Limbo which was a hit a couple years back. The whole game took me about 3 hours but it was great. Puzzle focused but they were just difficult enough that I never got frustrated and blended into the game enough that they almost didnt feel like puzzles. Check it out!

I believe I own all of those! I'll check them out. Thanks!

I recently just started playing a videogame again. The last time I played was World of Warcraft in 2005. I stopped to fulfill my career goals, get a masters degree and strike it rich working on my own startup. Well, as the years went by I kept telling myself, any day now my startup will take off and I can go back to enjoying my life and do things like play video games. Uh uh. The only thing I have to show for my years of programming and working endlessly on my startup outside of work is horrible anxiety (I hope but it could be much worse). So, here I am, 12 years older and back playing World of Warcraft where I started. I should have been enjoying my life the whole time. Live and Learn.

If I would play games for 90% of the time I currently spend on Reddit, Hacker News, Twitter, Facebook, etc, I'd be a better man. Happier and more effective.

I think I'll start doing exactly that.


Games, especially Japanese video games are why I got into programming, got into the games industry, why I'm on this site.

I limit my time playing them now due to work, my entreprenuerial engagements, wife and two children but I just got finished with Final Fantasty XV two days ago and it was the most magical time. Ignis is my new favorite game character. I'm convinced games are a better story telling medium than books, movies and TV. I never remember the details of anything I've watched but with a game I always remember because i actively participate in caring for the characters, healing them, making them grow.

There is a negative side, they can be too engaging, too much fun and too rewarding in an instant gratification sense. Sales at your startup not going well? A game can make you feel good, getting bullied at school? A game will help, but really we should deal with the real problem and then make time for games. If you do that they are great and I'm convinced they will get better and we have not seen anywhere near the full potential yet.

I would love to play games still. I certainly enjoyed it in my teens and in periods in my 20s where I had more free time than I do now. They can be a real time sink though, so I don't allow myself to buy a console. I barely find time for the pursuits I want to enjoy as it is.

"..so I don't allow myself to buy a console." this is common with so many other people I know (and try to convince to game with me as Adults).

I think its all too common to watch Nextflix & HBO for 20 hours in a week, but video games are taboo, despite being more social and cognitively enhancing.

The difference is there's no length to most video games. If you sit down to watch a movie you've blocked out ninety minutes (or whatever), and when the movie is over you're not going to tell yourself "I'll just watch for five more minutes."

If you're the kind of person who can't ignore that voice you'll end up spending a lot more time gaming than you intended, particularly if your game of choice has some sort of level treadmill.

You also don't suffer for spending 2-3hrs watching a movie then waiting indefinitely before watching another. Even if you're watching a series of movies they were originally released months to years apart, so you'll be fine when you pick it back up—a glance at the Wikipedia summary for the previous entry will do if you feel it's necessary.

With video games, take weeks off and you'll have forgotten the story (if any/relevant) and how to play effectively. At least that's my experience with single-player games—if I take too much time off I just have to start over, because I'll be too bad at it to handle the later stages I'm in on my last save, won't remember enough of the story, and will have lost my connection to the characters.

to say Netflix and HBO is fine but gaming is too much of a time drain makes no sense. I've banned myself from both during the work week. The amount of reclaimed time is insane and I feel a lot more productive.

I can watch TV shows when I'm so tired that all can I do is veg out on a sofa. Games require more engagement and energy - which I could be spending on other things.

I used to say I don't play videogames for the same reason I don't shoot drugs into my eyeballs.

Then I got a medical condition that required injecting drugs into my eyeball once a month.

I still don't play videogames, but take that, Keith Richards!

I've replaced watching movies and TV with videogames. It's more engaging and a single video game can give me 30 to 60 hours of entertainment compared to a TV series that gives me 6 to 12.

Somewhere between TV and video games, I started watching "Let's Play" game walkthrough videos of favorite Sierra Online adventure games from my childhood that I never completed. You get to discover the stories' secrets without the frustration, plus many of people recording the walkthroughs are pretty funny.


It's funny you should mention that. I replaced my TV watching with video games, but over the last year have spent a lot of time watching other people play on twitch. Kind of going full circle.

If anyone loves video games, but wants to able to pace the habit somehow, thought I will mention this thing: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00UY0TS9A/

It's a pre-commitment device and works great for many things, including gaming. And way better than fighting with and depleting your will power, while not giving up your hobby altogether if it's taking up an undesirable portion of your time.

I spent my college years pretty invested in computer games, mostly dota.

I stopped when I got a job that I actually wanted to have. For a while I tried to do both, and did. But I was exhausted all the time. Computer games are not passive entertainment (for me anyway), they require a lot of energy.

If I could invest 2 hours a day into a computer game, I'd like that. But I can't. Even aside from the energy requirement, I have trouble playing games casually. Performing poorly at something bothers me and the only way to improve is to invest more time (than 2 hours).

Anyway, I think this is an uncommonly good article. Computer games taught me that value is totally subjective. You have to pick your own goals, and you'd be making a mistake to adopt the goals of the people around you just because they outvote you.

I found value somewhere else, but there's a large segment of the population working boring, low paying jobs that they hate. For some of these people, games will provide far more value than what they're getting out of work. And that's totally fine. It's life and life only.

I have gone through several periods in my life where I have obsessively played video games, usually followed by me selling the console in disgust with myself and buying a new one ~1.5 years later.

What has changed for me lately is building a gaming PC. I have found that this beast new PC, and the things I can do with it, are more interesting to me than most games.

My single favorite game that has drawn me in the most is Metal Gear Solid V. It's very slow paced and tactical but still an action game. You have to make a lot of intelligent decisions and formulate your own strategy to infiltrate the buildings. Plus there is a whole Civilization-esque aspect where you build your own paramilitary organization and deal with things like personnel and budgets. Add on top of that the insane supernatural geopolitics of the story and it is a very engrossing experience.

Could you give some examples as to the benefits of building a killer PC?

What interesting things can you do with it, that you previously couldn't? Or is it simply the speed and the ease of use?

I'm also thinking of building a desktop PC, but I'm afraid that I won't be needing it. I don't game, I mostly write programs and browse the web. Does it really change things in terms of latency and if it does, does that have an impact on the relationship with your computer?

For me it is doing big data processing that your average laptop cannot handle well. I have the top Core i7 and I see it as a challenge using it to the fullest. You can run the heaviest clunkiest IDE with ease. Also the flexibility and resiliency of having multiple hard drives (a sacrosanct SSD for the system, and a HDD for messing around). Plus I can run VMs with ease when I get tired of Windows.

Easily extendable RAM, tons of usb ports, the list goes on... Plus it was fun to build and I learned a lot.

For all you know, real life could be a video game played by some higher dimensional beings.

For all you know, that higher dimensional beings' real life could be a video game played by an even higher dimensional beings. It's turtles all they way down.

Plot twist, your consciousness is actually a property of those higher dimensional beings, and our reality is like a hive-mind group dream.

This guy is taking Roy off the grid.

I tried quitting video games cold turkey shortly before starting university. At the time, I was a huge Diablo II and Broodwar player. It was probably all that I ever did or thought about on a day to day basis during highschool. At lunch, my friends and I would hang out on Battle.net in the computer lab and then again, after school, probably from 5pm to 11:30pm every day (with 11:30pm to 1am dedicated to school work). I was pretty much obsessively playing these games to the point that my schoolwork started to suffer as well as relationships with parents and siblings. I'd get into daily fights with my parents about how much time I was spending online.... luckily I was somehow able to keep my grades pretty decent and got accepted into a good university.

During university it was League of Legends every day. After graduating, I racked up almost 4000 hours of Team Fortress 2 in a two year period in addition to a few thousand hours of World of Tanks.

I can honestly say that I regret all of it and I now look at my 'hours spent playing X' Steam statistic in shame. The thing with all of these games is that time spent playing them is a sunk cost, not an investment. You will never get it back. You will never acquire any returns for your time except for the immediate gratification you receive while playing it. And your real life problems won't just go away but will probably just get worse for lack of attentiveness.

If you are consciously aware of these facts and that is what you are after, then great! But I think many people get sucked into the addictive side of video games unwittingly. It's just a fact that most of these games have been psychologically designed to keep you playing for as long as possible -as long as you keep playing it, you can retain that sense of fake fulfillment and defer whatever reality you were trying to escape from in the first place. Day after day passes by in the blink of an eye because your brain gets put on auto-pilot, and those hard realities never get any easier. "Achievements", ladder ranking, collecting digital pixels... it's all just so meaningless in real life. These things turn people who might otherwise have followed their natural curiosities or be great producers of things (be it code, reading, writing, art, music, etc) into mindless consumers craving that next fake reward. And to me that is a pity.

I wish I could have spent all those hours developing my real life interests instead. All told, I'm probably behind by 5-6 years in terms of technical proficiency and just maturity-wise compared to the peers I look up to the most. I have nothing to make up for those deficiencies except perhaps an overactive adrenal gland and some mild social anxiety.

Video game experiences are, by their very nature, virtual and transient. Would you not rather spend your time honing a skill or producing something of real value (that doesn't end when the servers shut down), something to look back fondly upon when you're older? The only game worth playing is the game of life.

Time. Or lack of it.

I can enjoy video games only when I can get really good at them. And I simply can't get really good at something if I'm doing it only for a few hours on the weekend.

I love games. I make games. I don't have the time to play games. This is my problem. If anyone has advice on how to play more, i'd love to hear it.

Because beekeeping and ping pong are more fun!

That said, I'm interested in farm integrated gaming. I think there are ways to make automation adventurous. Properly this will be different than what we call gaming today, however I think the answer to your question is that when tech assisted activities are diversion from reality they tend to go out if style. When they amend it and make it cooler they tend to become it!

Because a modern video card "Good enough" to play those awesome modern games costs more than my whole damn computer? That's why I quit.

I used to play video games a lot. CS, Sim games, Strategy Games were my thing. Now I find them boring. I found other activities that are more fulfilling like crossfit and yoga. I also spend most of my freed up time improving my self professionally -- tech moves fast. Overall, I regret playing video games, considering how much time I spent doing it but I don't regret doing it with friends.

This is a cool article, don't get me wrong. But is there a name for the fallacy of just categorizing things instead doing actual analysis? You really have to stretch to fit some games into the "levels" of graphics, narrative, objectives and economy.

i absolutely hate and detest the way that he talks about his associate dropping out of college. he says something like "he dropped out of college but he was ok, just graduated late." he says this as if not graduating from college is like getting some kind of terrible disease. i was having a family dinner with a bunch of extended family one time and i jokingly told them i was going to drop out and go into the trades. they all recoiled in horror, literally making that gasping sound you hear in movies. "certainly not!" there should be absolutely no shame or indignity in not being able to or wanting to finish a college degree. it shouldnt be a status symbol.

For me I just realized I wasn't very fulfilled by playing video games all of the time. Nowadays I still like to play games but in smaller amounts. Instead of building things in games I now find myself wanting to build software projects :p.

I don't really like when computer games are called video games. It kind of lessens their value.

Computers allow implementing a lot of different features in gaming, and not all of them are visual.

They were called "video games" before people started using computers to play them.

What did they use then if not computers?

Have a look at the PONG original circuit diagram which uses discrete logic. It's hard to call that a computer.



I don't think this was the first such game. There were computer games which predate it.

Either way, even if electronic games existed that didn't use computers, computers clearly took that role being more versatile.

Consoles and arcade game machines, to name two. Yes, they're arguably computers at heart, but they're not what are generally understood to be computers in the same way PCs are.

Those are still computers. Form factor doesn't change that.

They weren't called computers or computer games. I understood your initial comment as asking why PC games are sometimes called (improperly in your opinion) video games. If I've misunderstood your intention, please correct me.

If this explanation doesn't satisfy you, that's fine. Having lived through that period of time, that's my recollection.

Edit to add: I remember getting an early console at a garage sale. I think it was likely a Magnavox Odyssey 200 or 400[0]. I also remember friends with early Atari and Intellivision[1] consoles long before home PCs were common. These were called video games, TV games or by their brand names, as I recall.

[0]: http://www.slipperybrick.com/2009/03/atari-vcs-2600/

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellivision

I'm talking about all computer games, so not PC only. I understand where the term "video game" comes from, I was just saying I prefer "computer game", as highlighting that computing plays a role in it, and not limiting it to visual aspects only.

Thank you for clarifying. That wasn't apparent from your earlier comments. I know for me personally, when someone refers to "computer games", I think specifically of PC games, not other form factors.

Playing most video games feels like doing unpaid work with nothing to show for it in the end.

some video games are just additive and mindless. others are works of art and thought provoking. you should only play the former in limited amounts. spending lots of time in the latter can be justified if you are thinking about and appreciating the game while you play it because it will spur productive activities afterwards -- you will develop questions and passions based on the game that will linger long after playing and those will lead to building and creating things of your own. half life 2 is a good example of that in my opinion.

I have been a huge gamer but I stopped to play 5 years ago. I started to play on the master system and all the video games on DOS I could find. I started with Wolfeinshtein 3D, Prince of Persia, Another World since then I never stopped to play video games. It was a great way to "reset my brain to neutral" and to have fun while using my intellect and imagination. Me and my twin spent all our money on it, it was our passion and one of the biggest reasons I wanted to be a developer. We had a PS1 and a PC, friends had a N64 and so on. I was able to play on a lot of platforms to a lot of video games. I loved series that everybody knows like the Zelda, or Tekken knowing all the background stories of each character. I played and loved also less known or banned video games (because being violent it was a thing at that time) like Carmageddon, Die Hard, Road Rush, or Dead Ball Zone... Just thinking about doing a list right make me remember all the games I played and loved. I even remember sharewares that I loved that only a few people know like Chaos Overlords or experimental video games like Black and White. I loved that time and these games teached me a lot. But I also sunk a lot of time playing them.

I remember here on HN someone posted an amazing article to explain reverse engineering from the first level to the end boss. And that was really interesting to learn about it from an expert Point of view. You had specifications about different electronic components, he explained different tools he was using... Someone impressed on HN commented about how this was amazing and even more about how he could do all that when him had no time. He came home after a day of coding and plays video games to rest and then sleeps. The author responded that it wasn't as insane as it seemed to have his level (he even did some crazy things in Haskell just for fun for his RE) and he said that all he did was to poke around when he came back home and learn more and more about reverse engineering.

Back in the days video games felt to be made with a lot of love from the developers. Now it's really hard for me to find a game I can really dive down. The world is so much wealthier and the games so limited. Even as a pure gamer we can quickly find the limits of a game. I can only find my happiness in indie video games but they are still limited. The rest is all about graphics, additive designs, marketing, or just meh. (The only games that are relevant to me now are Distant World Universe, Assetto Corsa, and Wargame).

When You cut yourself of video games, other distractions, and open your mind to see the possibility offer by this world, it's like the impression you have when you play Shenzhen IO. You realize that the real world is complex and hard but that make it makes it so much more interesting and rewarding. I took the real course at Stanford in ML and intent to do the one about convex optimization, I learn a lot about law in general, pattens, finance, investment... (In fact my MacBook right now is sitting Chartered Financial Analyst books) and this month I am learning Kubernetes and techs like that even thought I am not a devops. This wouldn't have been possible by being focused on video games.

My dad was a genius.

I learned how to code c++ in middle school because my dad had a great rule: you can only play video games you create, except for 1 hour on Saturday.

It was a brilliant rule, and I had a blast learning to code. I didn't end up playing my pong game too much. But I learned an amazing life skill which now pays my bills. And the feeling of creating my own installable program was way better than any video game

I had a higher base quota, but my parents did something very similar, where working on creating and playing my own games didn't count against it.

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