I've been a keen gamer for years. The hours I've racked up playing videogames are beyond countless, and yet my brain remains suitably un-rotted and my eyes un-squared. In fact, I've consistently achieved top grades throughout my education, and I am the only member of my family not requiring glasses. I'm no more of a social recluse than any other self-proclaimed workaholic, and I am still able to verbally communicate with others.
For me, games are a form of escapism. I enjoy immersing myself in someone else’s creation. It’s a way of experiencing tough decisions (without real-world consequences), and exploring worlds that could never exist. Games are not compulsory. If my career ever suffers as a result of excessive gaming, then I will only have myself to blame.
Arguments against games are often ill-conceived, with little to no consideration of the opposing side. In fact, studies of the effects of playing videogames have reported many benefits, from pain relief to improvements in attention. (Daphne Bavelier, from the University of Rochester, gave an excellent talk on her research of the latter at the 2012 TED conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FktsFcooIG8). Although this research supports my stance, it would be hypocritical of me to claim that games are purely beneficial. The media tends to focus on the cons, and I feel it is important to consider the pros too.
The remarkable feat of modern technology allows game graphics to become increasingly realistic. As a game designer, I feel I have a greater appreciation of my everyday environment through the hours I spend trying to replicate it. Just as one might marvel at the extravagance of ancient architecture or natural wonders, I notice the fine details in mundane objects (like bricks, trees, or even bins) with a similar level of fascination. It’s not because they’re unique or beautiful, but because everything I see provides vital source material for creating immersive game environments.
My game design experience has also improved my appreciation of other professions. I have developed an admiration for architects to hairdressers through constructing modular buildings and styling characters’ hair. Emulating their work allows me to fully recognise their ability, and, as a result, I feel more open-minded and grateful of those who possess skills that I do not.
Playing videogames has undoubtedly helped my social life. When I finished school, my peers and I left for university, and friendships of more than seven years were limited to instant messaging and social networking. Of course I've met many new people at university, but I have also remained friends with my closest classmates, regardless of the considerable distance – largely due to games. The ability to interact with a virtual representation of my friends allows me to engage in more meaningful contact. As well as updating each other on our daily lives, we embark on adventures; team up against strangers; or find creative ways to wind each other up. Either way, the interaction that videogames provide enables us to form new memorable experiences with each other. We remain a part of each other’s lives, rather than fading into memories.
Like everything, videogames have their pros and cons. Claims of resultant bad behaviours should always be carefully considered; but games aren't all bad. They may or may not possess health benefits, but their use certainly requires moderation. Regardless of the alleged downsides, there are a plethora of advantages to playing games that can only be discovered through experience. As a designer, games are both my hobby and career. My health has not suffered; I have a close group of friends; and best of all, I love my work. As far as I'm concerned, that’s a firm basis for a satisfying life.