Should you play Video Games during quarantine?

TL;DR: Yes, if you are looking for a way to connect with your friends, relax and destress. Else, no.

As COVID-19 has forced us to stay at home to respect social distancing, boredom and loneliness have become daily struggles that we face as human beings. During this time, are video games something worthwhile picking up in order to keep ourselves entertained and stimulated?

About myself

I have been an avid gamer since my early childhood. My first console was a Game Boy that my dad picked up in China while I was around the age of 6. I remember the first game I ever played on it: Naruto: Ninja Council 2. Ever since, I’ve been playing on my PSP (PlayStation Portable), my iPod 4, my Nintendo 3DS, my Xbox One, and moved over to PC Gaming about four years ago. I played everything ranging from family-friendly series such as Mario Kart to first-person shooters and R-rated titles such as GTA 5. As you can tell, I have a long history with video games.

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What it looked like playing Naruto on the Game Boy.

However, after a decade of playing video games, during the year of 2019, I decided to stop gaming entirely. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to play it anymore, but I realized that video games were becoming addictive and it was doing more harm than good on me. After playing long games of Fortnite with my friends, I could feel nothing but regret, wasting precious hours that I could have spent on more important and productive things.

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Fortnite, a game that I have spent a few hundred hours on.

Fast forward last month, March 2020, when I wanted to pick back up video games again. I was missing the rush of adrenaline from completing objectives and winning games. I was missing my connection with my friends online. And I was missing the laughter and fun memories we made together. I wanted to come back to these things that I grew up with during my entire childhood.

On the other hand, I was getting myself back into this thing that I tried so hard to quit. I didn’t want to become an addicted gamer. After all, there are dozens of studies warning the addictive and harmful effects of video games. Heck, even Prince Harry wanted to ban the popular video game Fortnite because of its addictive implications.

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10 Most popular games on PC as of March 2020. Source: https://newzoo.com/insights/rankings/top-20-core-pc-games/

Before I tell you what I finally did and my conclusions for this past month, let’s first further examine the multi-faceted motives and implications of playing video games.

Why People play video games

Video games bring you a sense of reward and satisfaction. As I saw myself improve every day at the first-person shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, I felt good. I felt powerful. I could escape to a world where I was the hero. Adventure games such as Assassins Creed give you the experience of watching an intense movie, except you are at the center of the plot. You can spend hours on the game and not realize how fast time has flown. They are excellent tools for killing time.

Video games create communities. In today’s world, the most popular video games are all multiplayer and team-based. This means that they become amazing opportunities for you to hang out with your friends. During this time of uncertainty where physical connections are impossible, staying in touch with your buddies through gaming can be very therapeutic. You can also meet people and make new friends online. Large online communities exist around games, and it’s an interesting feeling to be part of one.

On the other side of the coin, video games are, understandably, in many people’s eyes, “useless”. Unless you are a professional Esports player, video games provide no true value to your life. The skills you gain in these games are not transferable; maybe things like improved reaction time, teamwork, creativity, but even that is a stretch for most modern games. Unless you call Sudoku a video game, there’s not much tangible practical value to gaming. They are escapist, and merely distractions from the real world that we live in.

My Conclusion

Two and a half weeks ago, I finally decided to take the risk and pick back up video games. Though, I was extremely cautious about getting addicted. Today, I don’t regret my decision. Why?

Video games are fundamentally unproductive, but that’s what was so great about them that I didn’t realize. I always thought to myself, instead of playing video games, I could take the time and opportunity to learn new skills that would be actually useful. Instead of spending hours and hours in front of a computer screen, I could do other things that are more important to me. And that’s precisely what I did.

But as COVID-19 hit and my ability to pursue some of my passions such as badminton and Air Cadets was impeded, the problem with time was no longer its scarcity but its abundance. In my first week of quarantine, I tried to prevent myself from playing video games by keeping myself distracted with projects, but I realized something: I was too focused on staying productive, too little focused on doing things that I enjoy and making me happy.

Society tells you that certain things are better than others. Society tells you that video games are bad and reading books is good. Society tells you that time is precious and not to waste it on meaningless things. But what is meaningful? In the end, you’ll be dead in a few decades, probably forgotten in a century, and definitely forgotten in a millenium.

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So I picked back up video games because I wanted to live a life where I was able to play video games. I wanted to play video games, because, in some ways, it was one of my passions. I wanted to play video games to stay connected with my friends. I wanted to play video games because they made me happy.

However, what I am NOT implying is that you should spend your days playing video games simply because that is what you enjoy. Life is about balance and moderation. Make sure to find your balance by understanding your priorities in life.

I think we can all agree that any form of addiction is bad. Moderation is the key.

To moderate myself, I don’t play video games every day. I know that I have more important things in my life. I have lifelong goals that I want to pursue. But it doesn’t mean that I cannot reward myself and pursue smaller things that make me happy. I don’t want to live miserably, and I think neither do you.

For me, playing video games is the sort of treat I give myself after long days of hard work, and I have additional time to kill. They are a big part of who I am as a person, and I will continue to do so as long as I don’t feel that they are doing more harm than good on me.

Final Recommendations

For Non-Gamers

Don’t get into video games if you don’t need video games in your life.

Get into video games if you are looking for a new way to keep yourself stimulated. I want to warn you again that you won’t reap any practical benefit from gaming. Video games are therapeutic. They help you relax, feel important, but nothing more tangible. If you are looking for something more useful practically, I would recommend learning to code, practice critical thinking, try to get better at public speaking, and so much more, depending on what you want to accomplish in your life. But none of these match the immediate adrenaline that video games provide. Personally, I do a combination of these things, combining short-term happiness from gaming with long-term fulfillment that comes from more ambitious goals. A healthy combination of both can help you live a more exciting life.

More importantly, I think video games are very useful during this time to stay connected with friends. Choose a game you and your friends would like, and play it together! It can be as simple as an online werewolf game, VRChat if you and your friends are fearless and ready for the ugly side of the Internet, or the recent Valorant if you are into first-person shooters.

For Gamers

If you are already an avid gamer, I want you to take a step back and think about your current situation. What is the reason you are playing? Is it to burn time, is it to connect with friends, or is it because you are addicted? I realized I was addicted when the reason I was playing video games was purely to win and I was no longer enjoying the process itself. And when I won the match, I couldn’t feel anything. Is playing video games decreasing your anxiety, or increasing your stress level? If it is the latter, you are playing video games for the wrong reasons.

Video games were created for our entertainment. Don’t forget that. I want you to think about whether it’s helping you stay focused and achieve these things? Or whether it’s getting in the way of you achieving your true ambitions? If it is the former, you are playing video games for the wrong reasons. Remember that video games are not the end goal unless you are trying to become a professional player.

Finally, don’t be scared to take a break. When I stopped playing video games, I felt liberated. I had more time to do things, to explore my other interests, such as working on coding projects. You can always come back fresh, with a new mentality.

Thank you for reading today’s fairly long opinion essay,

-Steven Gong

P.S.: I realize that a lot of the things I said in this article also apply to other things, especially social media. I find myself staying late up at night browsing YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. It’s unhealthy, and I am trying to use the same approach I take towards video games.