There is so many tangent arguments and whatnot, so I apologize if I'm cutting off anything, but I would wish to interject my opinion stemming from the OP:
Apologies for the rather awkward title, this is something that I've been thinking about for a while. I for one believe that games have just as much value as any other form of media and I'm sure I'm not alone in this, the thing is though, I couldn't really tell you coherently why I feel this way. So my question to all of you is: what's your opinion, and why do you feel that way?
As it was discussed, "Waste of Time" is incredibly subjective, and SecondTalon's post
describes it very well.
In regards to "video games", I think before we can consider whether it is a waste of time or not, we need to know what it is. Now obviously, we can give millions, if not billions of examples of "video games", however, that doesn't mean we know what a video game is.
(For example, a Number, a Vector, a Set; very commonly used ideas and we can give all the examples in the world, but not well-defined).
This is my take on this of the attribute that is common in EVERY video game:
A video game is an interaction between the player and an electronic device (the "video" in "video game"), which may or may not have input from other players, where the player is attempting to achieve a certain goal. This goal may or may not be defined by the electronic device (Thus including sandbox-games).
The definition of goal:
A goal may range from defeating all the levels, finding all the exploits in the game if they exist, progressing in some way, gaining bragging rights, relieving stress, real life competition to win for cash, etc.
Now, these goals can be ranked (thus how the phrases, "setting the bar high" and "setting the bar low" comes about). However they can only be ranked within reference to a game. A "high goal" in one game might not be a "high goal" in another game or even exist as a goal. Such as high APM (actions per minute) in a RTS (real time strategy) holds no value/very low goal in a game such as Final Fantasy X (where it is turn based). Ranking goals is obviously a subjective matter, but most of the time, people can agree upon whether two goals are at different levels, or about
Now, I am going to claim "higher goals" requires a "higher learning capability", for example:
If you're goal in a MMORPG like World of Warcraft is to simply hit max level in order to be able to enter the same areas as your friends; then the requirement for what you need to learn is not very high. You simply need to learn how to hit max level via questing, grinding, etc. Learning that if you defeat monsters too low level, they won't give you EXP, and learning that attacking extremely high level monsters will result in death, slowing you to achieving your goal.
Now if you're goal in the same game is to be the #1 player, you would have to begin learning many intricacies of the game, such as stat conversions, how latency affects your gameplay, what are the diminishing returns on spells and stats, etc. etc.
That is a self-setting goal.
Now in the case of a game like Mario or Zelda, if you were thrown into the hardest level (the highest ranked goal for that game), you would probably lose for a very long time, if ever, to complete it. Thus we have increasingly difficult levels that the game designer believes is the proper "stepping stones" to learn how to achieve the highest ranked goal (i.e. beating the game). This is analogous to teachers teaching students. Teachers/Game Designers have done their job correctly when the student/player has passed your tests/levels (Let's not get into an argument whether or not tests is a proper way to see if a student learned the material or not. It's just an analogy).
If you are able to achieve "high goals" in a particular game:
1) You teach yourself how to learn at a higher level in order to reach those goals. (in the case of self-setting goals)
2) Teach yourself how to learn from different teaching methods in order to reach those goals. (in the case of goals set by the game)
These can be both happening at the same time; they are not exclusive.
Quite long, but here I will bring it all together:
This is analogous to life. In life, you absorb new information/stimuli from what you see/hear/feel (like playing a brand new video game), set a goal (or one is given to you, like school), you either will learn how to achieve that goal, or not.
So to what degree do you want to be able to learn is up to you. Video games is a very safe way to "practice" learning at a high level with high goals; and also a good way to see your range of your learning ability (as we have different tolerances for different subjects).
TLDR: The more games you play, as long as you are playing the game and setting a goal higher than previously achieved, you are learning how to learn better.
This idea branched from a video I've seen, but unable to locate
, but it basically stated that: "Video games/Games are simply tests".
And finally to answer your question whether or not video games is a waste of time, with the definition of what a video game is and waste of time:
Video games are a waste of time once you stop setting higher goals and continue to play it.
If you set higher goals continuously, video games are not a waste of time, as you are learning how to learn at a higher level (an invaluable ability in my opinion).
IMPORTANT NOTE: if in order to achieve this higher goal, you are neglecting your other responsibilities, then you are causing harm to yourself, and most of the time it is isn't worth it. (This goes for anything really).
Just one more thought (since I didn't know where to put it above):
Music, Story, Artwork, etc. are the things that teachers WISH they can add in their lessons in order to keep their students interested