Do you know anyone who has never played a video game?
Recently I finished reading Nintendo Magic by Osamu Inoue, a business book that chronicles the success Nintendo had in the past decade, mostly through the DS and the Wii. It traces the development of those two devices, with some historical background on the company and the key figures that made it happen—mainly Satoru Iwata and Shigeru Miyamoto (though it does talk about the influence of Gunpei Yokoi a bit as well). The book focuses on, and attributes the company's success to two things: maintaining an essential "Nintendo-ness" to everything they do, and to making non-gamers into gamers.
This last point is exemplified in the development of games like Wii Sports, Wii Fit, Brain Age, and Nintendogs, all of which are covered by the book in some detail. And I can see their point—my mother, who I would have never called much of a gamer, definitely played all of these games a lot, and now I see her playing other games regularly.
It all reminded me of a quote from Reggie Fils-Aime from E3 2006, where he said:
"Do you know anyone who's never watched TV, never seen a movie, never read a book? Of course not. So let me ask you one more question. Do you know someone, maybe even in your own family, who's never played a video game? I bet you do. How can this be? If we want to consider ourselves a true mass medium, if we want to grow as an industry, this has to change."
And that made sense at the time, and it was apparent in Nintendo's strategy for the next few years. But now, over 5 years later, does it still hold true?
Since that E3, since the release of the DS and Wii, the gaming space has changed significantly. Millions of people own iOS and Android devices that can access thousands of games on the cheap (or even for free). And plenty of people play Facebook games on a daily basis. Either because they were introduced to gaming by Nintendo products, or because they have these games available right in front of them in a product they use regularly, more people are playing video games. Sure, they might not be the kinds of games we play, but they are still essentially video games.
So, how many people do you know that have never played a video game? Truly have never touched any kind of game on any platform—console, PC, arcade, smartphone, tablet, cable box/PVR, even gamified casino machines. If games are everywhere, can anyone still escape them?
I always wonder what goes through their minds when I'm enjoying a game and they're just standing by just watching. I remember a time when we got this hand-me-down computer from my middle school (complete with MS-Dos and a few games I used to play with friends in middle school) and we had to lug it back home. I set it up on the kitchen table and started playing tank wars and this worms game (think worms armageddon but not turn based). My brother and got addicted to this worms and we'd play for hours. My father would observe us play, but never really ask us any questions about it or ask to join in. He'd just stand there observing, not unlike Metron. I'm not sure if my father was just happy to see my brother and I do something together without us arguing (I argued a lot with this one brother), but he seemed glad that it kept us from tearing each other apart. Eventually I figured out a way to hack the configuration files to allow me to easily win if I picked the right weapons, which slowly ended our fun times together since he'd lose most of the time, but it was fun while it lasted!
Without the Wii, games wouldn't be played by a majority of people. People harp on the Wii like it's nothing now and too "casual", but it really transformed the living room. Without it I don't think my nieces would ever be into video games and it'd be so much harder for me to relate to them.
I'm old enough to remember getting a 'Pong' game one year. My sister and brother went nuts with it after I figured out how to get it working (I was a teen geek), but I never got hooked on it. I lack the hand-eye coordination that is needed. The exception for pinball was probably because the various bells and buzzers had a spatial quality to them, so even if I could not easily see the ball, I could hear it. That true depth of sound is missing in video games.
I don't hate games- but there really isn't anything that really grabs me. In fact, they tend to drive me away- there's something about the combination of light, noise, and motion that overloads my senses. And while it is true that games are everywhere and are almost unavoidable, the sensory overload they create serves as a warning flag to keep me well away.
There are plenty of people who don't watch TV (or at least, claim not to) but that doesn't mean they've never watched it, even for a few minutes.
To me, it's simlar to bowling and horseshoes (both of which I played for a short while) -- the enjoyment only comes after long, tedious repetition.
On the TV front, my wife was raised with no TV, and we raised our kids that way, too. I stopped watching regular TV in 1969. I've watched only NCAA basketball in March (in bars or online) and, more recently (the last couple years) soccer via a PC connected to a 2009 37-in Samsung HD and the basketball (CBS) over the air via antenna. So sports only, not "TV", aka shows that are talked about.
I read all the time: books, magazines, newspapers, both paper and digital, and e-mail newsletters, Web sites, blogs, etc, etc. But I've probably been to only a handful of movies (5?) in the past couple decades.
So to the original point, Nintendo has not lured me in the least. As my kids used to taunt, I'm from "the age of the dinosaurs" (on some things: this is typed on my iPad and my new Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch from Sprint just beeped with another e-mail!).
And, like Sunfell, I do not have any game apps loaded on my iPhone either.
At this point, I am dead set against ever trying any at all. Just not interested.
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It's saved many individuals from hard times in their lives, myself being one of them:
People have learned science through the exploration of video games:
People have published equally scholarly research from the use of video games.
The benefits of playing videos game far outweight the "lost time" I get from video games. It's fine if you don't get any benefits from video games, just don't belittle it and call it a waste of time. Also, video games are fun.
All that to say that you have a point in that too much time is wasted by too many people in the world of today, especially when there are so many important problems to be solved. However, one must find ways to unwind, and these tasks can fill that role without being entirely wasteful for those who keep things in balance. As a concept, video games can even fulfill some useful tasks such as helping people to bond and form relationships they might not have otherwise had, have their perspective informed or changed on issues that affect humanity (assuming the game is telling a story with that in mind), and even just to relieve stress. I will admit that, within the realm of video games, there are certain types of game which really are irredeemable in terms of lasting value to be gained from them, but there are also games which are every bit as valid a form of entertainment or education as a good book or movie.
Again, the key is balance. I try not to give up more than a few, at most, hours per week to games, and I do not watch tv other than New Orleans Saints games or NBA playoffs, with the occasional random sporting event. I watch very few movies in comparison to the American average. In other words, I "waste" very little time in a week compared to most people, but I make up for that "wasted" time by sacrificing time spent doing something else that is a total waste... sleep. :)
Hopefully, we can all agree that perspectives on this topic will vary greatly and try to avoid getting a flame war started.