How to justify your gaming hobby

Years ago, when I was still subscribed to Entertainment Weekly, I read an interview with Ryan Reynolds. In the sidebar they had a quick Q and A about his favorite entertainment—books, movies, TV shows and video games. His answer for his favorite video game stuck with me, and also made me not like him:

“I don’t really play video games. Is there a way to waste more f—ing time? The Internet’s enough. The last videogame I played was Ms. Pacman.”

Burn. Forget about the fact that the dude that starred in turds like “Blade Trinity” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” called my hobby a waste of time. The speaker bothered me less than the words spoken. Video games are no more a waste of time than movies or books or any other form of entertainment. What’s more, they’ve had as much an influence (if not more) on me and my creativity as all of those other mediums.

Thankfully, as is the case with many hobbies considered geeky when I was a kid, gamers don’t have to justify their passion (as much) to others these days. The Internet has taught us that everyone is geeky about something, so if your special sauce of geekery happens to be video games, who cares?

Unfortunately some people still care—I usually call those people jerks. Some adults are shunned at work because they like World of Warcraft, and there are still kids punished by uninformed parents for playing those “murder simulators” all day. When I was a kid, games were still too new to have scientific studies. There wasn’t an Internet teeming with amazing articles and resources that could back up my claims that my hobby was more than a waste of time. Not anymore! Need to justify your hobby? Here are some resources:

Check out Jane McGonigal’s work: She’s built a career on trumpeting the merits of video games and the skills they can help refine.

Want something more varied? Read this Lifehacker article, it’s stuffed with helpful academic links and it makes some good points too.

Want to show your Fox News watching family member that they’ve got it all wrong about video games? Check out this excellent post by Rock Paper Shotgun

Want to quiet some sneering coworkers? Show them these statistics about how many people are playing Facebook games. Better yet, point out the similarities between fantasy football and role playing games like Magic the Gathering.

Of course there’s always the hands-on approach: Pull out your phone and have your friends and family play a few games, or if they’re anywhere near a console, show them how awesome games have become. After just one round of Fruit Ninja Kinect, my dad was ready to buy an Xbox. My son was digging Angry Birds when he was just two months old. Gaming is so broad these days, so rich with different experiences, that it’s easier than ever to share it with others.

I remember trying to get my parents to understand just how much I loved video games and why they weren’t a waste of time. I used my allowance to pay for subscriptions to EGM and Next Generation and read each issue cover to cover. It wasn’t just about pressing buttons and seeing a guy on screen punch something. It was about the experience—the story, the journey, the challenge. And it was about the technology—the artists that drew the characters, the developers that wrote the code that made those characters move. I was fascinated by it then, and I still am now, and I would have killed for those kinds of resources.

[To their credit, my parents did an amazing job at managing my time with games and making sure I had a healthy relationship with them. I totally deserved that time they took away my Gameboy on that family trip to St. Louis—turned out going up in the arch was way more memorable than A Link to the Past.]

Of course you could always just get paid to play video games, but that’s not always as easy as it sounds. And I’m sure those that do it full-time have to deal with the occasional condescending comment (or hidden jealousy) of random people. Still, I remember writing my first paid review for Gamespot. Sweet, sweet validation. Video games weren’t a waste of time; they were a source of income! Ha! In your face Ryan Reynolds!

But seriously, in the end, you don’t need to justify your hobby to anyone. If someone criticizes you for being into video games, show them the resources above, and then kindly ask them what they fill their free time with. Everyone is geeky about something.