We spend 3 billion hours a week as a planet playing videogames. Is it worth it?
Currently there are more than half a billion people worldwide playing computer and videogames at least an hour a day -- and 183 million in the U.S. alone. The younger you are, the more likely you are to be a gamer -- 99% of boys under 18 and 94% of girls under 18 report playing videogames regularly. The average young person racks up 10,000 hours of gaming by the age of 21 -- or 24 hours less than they spend in a classroom for all of middle and high school if they have perfect attendance. It's a remarkable amount of time we're investing in games. 5 million gamers in the U.S., in fact, are spending more than 40 hours a week playing games -- the equivalent of a full time job!
What accounts for the lure of games – and are we getting as much from our games as we’re giving them?
I explore these questions in my new book Reality is Broken – and I believe that, for most gamers, playing games is, surprisingly not a waste of time -- but rather quite productive. Gameplay may not contribute to the Gross Domestic Product… but scientific research shows that gameplay does contribute to our quality of life, by producing positive emotions (such as optimism, curiosity and determination) and stronger social relationships (when we play with real-life friends and family – especially if the game is co-operative). And for gamers who prefer tough, challenging games, they can build up our problem-solving resilience -- so we learn faster from our mistakes, and become resilient in the face of failure.
However... not all games power-up our real lives. Some games, at the end of the day, make us feel stupid for having wasted so much time on them.
So: How do we know when we're playing a good game -- and when would we be better off doing something "real"?
GAMERS: What's one thing you wish non-gamers would understand about your favorite games, and what you get out of playing them?
NON-GAMERS: What's one thing you wish a gamer would explain about games today, and why they play?
Yes it's "worth it". For some it is entertainment and for some it is work.
Totally worth it
It's definitely worth it. Like you said about helping with problem solving, video games also improve hand eye coordination, and how quickly our brains react to different scenarios. They're great for stress relief and a distraction from whatever else is bothering someone at any given point. They're just as good a medium to tell a story as a book or movies and television shows, and nobody thinks they aren't worth the time put into them. Video games are also a huge industry, providing a lot of revenue and jobs for many people. For a lot of people involved in the industry, that forty hours a week spent playing games is their full time job. People go to college to learn how to make games. So why would anyone consider them not worth it?