Line by Line

Why I Like Video Games

posted February 25, 2014

Tags: video games

It seems like I do a lot of negative writing. It's like I'm always complaining. So today I'm going to write about something I like:

Video games.

(What, you were expecting something profound? I just quoted from the Summa Theologica yesterday. That's got to filll my profundity quota for, like, a month.)

Video games are a big part of my life. I spend almost as much time playing them as I do complaining about things! But why do I like them so much?

What sets video games apart from other media, like books and TV, is that you play a video game. You aren't just taking in an experience; you're doing stuff! Frodo and Sam may have made it to Mount Doom without my help, but there's a real sense in which I explored the depths of Death Mountain. I didn't defeat Mr. Stay-Puft, but I did defeat King Boo. Beating a video game is an accomplishment in a way that reading a book or watching a movie isn't.

I think that might be part of the appeal, but I don't think it's the main reason. After all, I like TV, movies, books, and music, too.

I think the important part of video games is that they're games. I like being able to spend time just playing. The other media I mentioned are passive. (Except for music, that is, but it turns out I'm not so good at playing music.) There's nothing wrong with that, of course (and I did say I liked all those things), but sometimes I want the things I do for fun to be things I do for fun.

My other main hobbies, art and programming, fit that bill, but actually they go too far in the other direction: They're too much like work. (Heck, programming is my actual job.) They're plenty rewarding, but I don't find them very relaxing. Games strike the right balance.

I like to play games generally, not just video games. I'm absolutely terrible at sports, though (worse than music, even), and it's rare that I can get anyone to play a board game or party game with me. But I can occasionally get someone to join in a round of Super Smash Bros., cream me at Halo: Reach, or even have a Pokémon battle. (Turns out Pokémon is still cool after all. Who knew?) When I can't, there are plenty of single-player adventures I can have.

So there you have it: Video games offer me a certain kind of fun that I can't get from other media, and they're easier for me to arrange than other similarly enjoyable activities.