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Friday
Jul262013

Guilty secret

There's something that I feel I should really get off my chest. You see, although I am researching games, I don't really play many. 

It's not that I don't enjoy them when I do - I liked Glitch a lot (in fact, I still look for the icon for hug over the little trees on campus, and miss my avatar in it's little rain hat). I played Waking Mars solidly, right up until I'd finished it. My partner and I play Boggle all the time (we're evenly matched, the loser tends to be the person who's more tired). And I played Drop7 so much I had to take it off my iPad or I wouldn't have got anything done. 

And that's kind of the thing. I feel like playing video games is a waste of time. I am cross with myself when I spend ages playing them, and rarely clear my schedule enough to give them the time they deserve. Glitch, for example, would have benefitted from me hanging around more. I would have met people, increased the enjoyment by participating in the social side of the game. But I just didn't find the time. I wanted to use that time to spend with my partner, not sitting next to her whilst actually being in a totally different place. 

Which is fair enough. But I spend (currently) around 3 hours a week running, and probably the same again geeking out over the stats I generate off that. Yet that doesn't feel like a waste of time. I spent long hours of my life playing cricket - a game which frequently involved (for me) long periods of sitting on the side watching (I wasn't a great bat). That didn't feel like a waste of time either. (Mostly.) I've recently taken up golf. I cannot wait to get back to the driving range to pointlessly pummel another 100 balls out into the distance (with a fairly relaxed attitude to direction, it must be said). 

It's not even the repetition of computer games that gets me. Yes, I find the grind in games like World of Warcraft to be extremely tedious (sorry), but see previous comment about hitting golf balls. Or running. Or cycling - I can cycle the same route day in, day out, and enjoy it most of the time. I don't really crave "success" - my cricket was never of the highest quality, and my golf certainly won't be either. I'm never going to set the world alight with my running. 

So I am slightly at a loss. I can't explain:

  • why I like running, or cycling, or any of the (many other) sports I've played.
  • what is so different about physical sports to computer games for me. 
  • why sports don't feel like a waste of time, when computer games do.

And that's before we even touch on the time I really waste watching TV (although I tend to knit through that, so don't consider it truly wasted).

I think the difference between sports, games and videogames is an interesting area to explore, although I feel that with some of the developments I've seen at conferences it looks like the differences will be becoming increasingly blurred. It does feel like a lot of the difference may be cultural - sports are "good for you" (although the injury count might suggest otherwise). Also, sports are hard. I've not found a computer game that taxes me in the same way. I feel like I could hit a lot of golf balls and still not get it right, but I feel like if I practice enough I'll improve, and when one goes right the satisfaction is immense. I don't get that feeling with computer games (although it might explain my brief but deep fascination with Flight of the Hamsters). It's almost as though the return is too cheap. I don't like my fun that easy. 

Maybe this is an area for future research - what's the crossover? But for now, I just have to live with going to conferences and feeling like I'm missing out because I don't play.

Now, excuse me while I check my running stats again!

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