Are video games a waste of time? why or why not?

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SirMustapha
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Re: Are video games a waste of time? why or why not?

Postby SirMustapha » Fri Jul 16, 2010 2:32 pm UTC

kinigget wrote:If I may make a point SirMustapha, there is a grand difference between "any game can be improved by adding a story", and "games without stories SUCK".


Yeah, I know, but the line dividing those two is pretty thin. It's very easy to go from one to the other without noticing.

kinigget wrote:Also, the point you made about Bioshock, how the plot didn't break immersion, that's what game developers (hopefully) are trying to achieve, and it's what Portal was all about.


Yes, but that is not the problem I had with Portal. My beef is that Portal is, in all respects, a puzzle game, a completely uncompromised proof of concept, and hamfisting into it a completely unnecessary and stupid "plot" (and a closing song so awful that it doesn't even work as parody) sounds like the game designers were saying "NOOOOO, our game is not just a simple puzzle game -- it has a STORY!". It comes across as elitist. BioShock had a lot more elements which are pretty much intrinsic to an actial/shooter game, so putting a story in it feels much more natural. It is reasonable (but not mandatory!) to think we need a reason to shoot people and blow up things, but what other reason we need to create awesome physical impossibilities with a goddamn Potal Gun? That is already brilliant.

Magnanimous wrote:I think we're confusing the works "story" and "plot". There's an important difference between the background information the player gets before starting the game (setting, backstory, mood, starting characters) and what happens in the game itself... Even if you skip all of the cutscenes to just get to the gameplay, most games would be shit without any exposition at all.


I'm not so sure. I did say that we usually, but not always, need a reason to shoot things. But the first time I played Doom (when I was, what, 9 or something), I had absolutely no idea of the whole "portal to Hell in the moons of Mars" thing at all, and I still loved the game; yes, I was a child back then, but if I played it today it would be the same.

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Re: Are video games a waste of time? why or why not?

Postby infernovia » Fri Jul 16, 2010 6:40 pm UTC

Ok, but you knew that monsters looked horrible and they were coming after you. If they were just red triangles to symbolize their hitboxes, I wonder if you would like Doom as much as before? Do you like it when characters "gear up for attacks" or when the game stops for just that moment to get that crunchy feeling from your super awesome hit?

Who doesn't want their game to look as gorgeous as Street Fighter 3 or Viewtiful Joe? A story is just an extension of the aesthetic pleasure in a game, seems silly to bash it for that. Maybe you just don't like bad stories that doesn't do much for the game... maybe that is the problem? Its not the fact that the story exists, but the fact that the story is so horrible and isn't pleasing.

Magnaminous wrote: If I want to beat the game just for that feeling of accomplishment, then it's (probably) rubbish... But if I'm beating the level because I want to see what happens next, then it's worth playing.

What is beating a game if not seeing what happens next? I guess modern RPG sucks so much that the accomplishment you get for beating it feels worthless (because it is).

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Re: Are video games a waste of time? why or why not?

Postby SirMustapha » Fri Jul 16, 2010 7:23 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:Ok, but you knew that monsters looked horrible and they were coming after you. If they were just red triangles to symbolize their hitboxes, I wonder if you would like Doom as much as before?


Yes, of course the visuals and ambience help immersion a lot. In the case of Doom it was well done, but even visuals and ambience can become overkill if they're used badly. The thing is that it's REALLY hard to make visuals so awful that they don't integrate at all into the gameplay; gaming depends on some kind of visual, they're already there. A story isn't; it is optional, and it's very easy to make them superfluous and annoying.

infernovia wrote:Do you like it when characters "gear up for attacks" or when the game stops for just that moment to get that crunchy feeling from your super awesome hit?


I have no idea what you mean there. Do you mean in fighting games, when there's a little lag before a combo or something? In that case, I always found that particularly stupid.

infernovia wrote:Maybe you just don't like bad stories that doesn't do much for the game... maybe that is the problem? Its not the fact that the story exists, but the fact that the story is so horrible and isn't pleasing.


The story doesn't need to be "horrible"; a superfluous, pointless, unnecessary story already feels nagging to me.

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Re: Are video games a waste of time? why or why not?

Postby infernovia » Fri Jul 16, 2010 7:50 pm UTC

A story isn't; it is optional, and it's very easy to make them superfluous and annoying.

Ok let us forget about story, let us talk about immersion. Your point seems to be that you enjoyed the game despite you not knowing the story (which means the cultural connotations) or what it meant as a kid. But this is not an important point against stories. To see why, just imagine all the other forms of entertainment you enjoyed as a child. Now, do children love books or music or the cinema? Yeah. And do they know what they meant in their cultural connotation? No, a lot of the classic movies have become more of a classic protagonist and antagonist to us (such as Citizen Kane), because we miss the cultural connotation of it. What is Austin Powers to a kid?

But does that mean movies should not have cultural connotation to it just because we enjoyed those movies without understanding them as a kid (or even as an adult)? I certainly hope not! As adults we probably enjoy these movies exactly because of it.

So a video game has a distinct visual style, a distinct background, distinct characters, distinct actions, and your actions define the game (we will call this your narration). But is the plot not a great way to set up these ideas? Certainly, it allows you to be a lot more cohesive in design and implementation, increasing your pleasure within it when you do see it.

Again, what you are railing against is bad implementation of movies in games. Just as I prefer games to just be triangles/square/ASCII symbols if the graphics suck.

I have no idea what you mean there. Do you mean in fighting games, when there's a little lag before a combo or something? In that case, I always found that particularly stupid.

Actually combos are super fluid. No, what I am talking about is if you hit someone, it freezes for just one or two frame, kinda like if you dodge a bullet it goes into a matrixy effect. In almost all melee style game, this happens. It gives each hit a crunchy feeling and increases your pleasure in using the move. What I am point at is that these things do exist for aesthetic flavor.

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Re: Are video games a waste of time? why or why not?

Postby headprogrammingczar » Fri Jul 16, 2010 8:43 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:
A story isn't; it is optional, and it's very easy to make them superfluous and annoying.

Ok let us forget about story, let us talk about immersion. Your point seems to be that you enjoyed the game despite you not knowing the story (which means the cultural connotations) or what it meant as a kid. But this is not an important point against stories. To see why, just imagine all the other forms of entertainment you enjoyed as a child. Now, do children love books or music or the cinema? Yeah. And do they know what they meant in their cultural connotation? No, a lot of the classic movies have become more of a classic protagonist and antagonist to us (such as Citizen Kane), because we miss the cultural connotation of it. What is Austin Powers to a kid?

But does that mean movies should not have cultural connotation to it just because we enjoyed those movies without understanding them as a kid (or even as an adult)? I certainly hope not! As adults we probably enjoy these movies exactly because of it.

So a video game has a distinct visual style, a distinct background, distinct characters, distinct actions, and your actions define the game (we will call this your narration). But is the plot not a great way to set up these ideas? Certainly, it allows you to be a lot more cohesive in design and implementation, increasing your pleasure within it when you do see it.

Again, what you are railing against is bad implementation of movies in games. Just as I prefer games to just be triangles/square/ASCII symbols if the graphics suck.

I have no idea what you mean there. Do you mean in fighting games, when there's a little lag before a combo or something? In that case, I always found that particularly stupid.

Actually combos are super fluid. No, what I am talking about is if you hit someone, it freezes for just one or two frame, kinda like if you dodge a bullet it goes into a matrixy effect. In almost all melee style game, this happens. It gives each hit a crunchy feeling and increases your pleasure in using the move. What I am point at is that these things do exist for aesthetic flavor.

For a more clear idea of what 'crunch' is, as well as a great primer on the underlying concept, read this.
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Re: Are video games a waste of time? why or why not?

Postby kinigget » Fri Jul 16, 2010 8:50 pm UTC

SirMustapha wrote:The story doesn't need to be "horrible"; a superfluous, pointless, unnecessary story already feels nagging to me.

I'll grant you that, but what makes a story superflous? Sure Portal was "just a puzzle game", but is that all you want? just a series of challenge rooms? Just because portal is a puzzle game doesn't mean it has to limit itself to being nothing more than a series of obstacles. Sure the plot may have been unnecessary, but the plot is what made Portal such a cultural phenomenon, there's also the fact that the plot (and the ending song) tie Portal in with the Half-Life series proper, giving players something to speculate on and anticipate. Again, Portal's plot may have been unnecessary, but it was anything but superfluous, it took the game a step beyond "just another puzzle game with a different puzzle solving mechanic" and made it something people love and respect to this day.
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Re: Are video games a waste of time? why or why not?

Postby infernovia » Fri Jul 16, 2010 9:03 pm UTC

I'll grant you that, but what makes a story superflous?

A story is superfluous when you don't like it.

Edit: I would rather read something from this guy: http://lowfierce.blogspot.com/2007/03/w ... thers.html

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Re: Are video games a waste of time? why or why not?

Postby SirMustapha » Fri Jul 16, 2010 11:20 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:Ok let us forget about story, let us talk about immersion. Your point seems to be that you enjoyed the game despite you not knowing the story (which means the cultural connotations) or what it meant as a kid. But this is not an important point against stories. To see why, just imagine all the other forms of entertainment you enjoyed as a child. Now, do children love books or music or the cinema? Yeah. And do they know what they meant in their cultural connotation? No, a lot of the classic movies have become more of a classic protagonist and antagonist to us (such as Citizen Kane), because we miss the cultural connotation of it. What is Austin Powers to a kid?


I'm afraid I lost your point here, because I don't quite know what you mean with "cultural connotation". Or maybe I do; just let me restate my point about Doom. When I played it, it was not a matter of not knowing what those things represented or meant, no: I simply did not know who the main character was, where he was, what he was doing, why he was shooting things and where he was going. I did not know at all. All I knew was that it was fun to negotiate the labyrinths and fight my way out of danger. That's all there was; and today the knowledge that "ohh, so there is this portal to Hell thing" just does nothing to improve the game.

infernovia wrote:So a video game has a distinct visual style, a distinct background, distinct characters, distinct actions, and your actions define the game (we will call this your narration). But is the plot not a great way to set up these ideas?


I'll say it again: maybe. It depends. My point is: depending on the game (and perhaps depending on the style and skill of those making it), a game might actually be BETTER if there is no story at all. That is why I say that "every game is improved with a story" is bullshit. That, in my opinion, is NOT a rule.

kinigget wrote:I'll grant you that, but what makes a story superflous? Sure Portal was "just a puzzle game", but is that all you want? just a series of challenge rooms?


YES! Yes, that is exactly what I mean! What is wrong with having just a series of challenge rooms? What is the matter with that? That is precisely the idea that I'm criticising: if you're going to philosophise about every action you make in a game and ponder upon its implications upon the whole world and the whole society, well, perhaps you're pushing it too far. Sometimes it just doesn't matter. I'll give a cinema example, since films have been mentioned: Cube. In the film you're given no clue of where the cube is, why it's there, who built it, why the characters are there, how they ended up there and what is outside. And IT DOESN'T MATTER! Why will you want to focus on what is not happening, instead of focusing on what IS happening? And yes, a lot of people complain about the lack of explanations in the film. But just wonder how it would be if the ENTIRE film were previously and painstakingly explained to you: its most interesting elements would be lost. The whole film would be pointless. I think that applies to games, too: if you're inside a maze with a gun that can create cool and entertaining physical impossibilities, do you REALLY need to know what's going on outside? Does it have to be always like that?

infernovia wrote:A story is superfluous when you don't like it.


I don't think so. I consider a story "superfluous" if it adds nothing, especially if it's there just because it "has to" be there, if it's just a half-arsed effort at making a story just because the designers were obliged to do so, or if they followed the "rule" of "any game is better if it has a story". It's independent of being good or bad.

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Re: Are video games a waste of time? why or why not?

Postby WarDaft » Fri Jul 16, 2010 11:59 pm UTC

That is precisely the idea that I'm criticising: if you're going to philosophise about every action you make in a game and ponder upon its implications upon the whole world and the whole society, well, perhaps you're pushing it too far.
And you're playing a pretty slow game!

if it's just a half-arsed effort at making a story just because the designers were obliged to do so, or if they followed the "rule" of "any game is better if it has a story". It's independent of being good or bad.
Personally, I think I found the story more touching in Shatter than in say, Crysis, yet I'm sure they put much more work on it in Crysis. The story in Shatter is almost completely implied, yet I think felt more empathy for the poor little bats than I did for any supposed team mates that bought it on the mission.

That is to say, that any amount of effort on the ploty stuff can still leave you with a story that players don't connect with.
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Re: Are video games a waste of time? why or why not?

Postby uncivlengr » Sat Jul 17, 2010 1:00 am UTC

SirMustapha wrote:if you're inside a maze with a gun that can create cool and entertaining physical impossibilities, do you REALLY need to know what's going on outside? Does it have to be always like that?
The amount of information given as far as the story in Portal is quite limited - I played through the entire thing, and all I know is that my character was in some sort of laboratory, the computer thing was trying to kill me, and I was trying to get out. At times I'd come across 'secret' rooms with stuff scrawled on the walls, suggesting that someone else had been in the same predicament as my character.

Playing Doom, I knew that my character was in some sort of dungeon/fortress thing, there were a bunch of monsters that were trying to kill me, and I was trying to get out. At times I'd come across bodies of dead soliders, suggesting that they had been in the same predicament as my character.

The only real difference is that the computer voice made smart-assed comments throughout the game, while Doom just had a bunch of monster noises. If you picked out more story from Portal than that, then you were obviously focussing on it, rather than simply completing the puzzles.

I don't think you've argued any valid point that differentiated the gameplay experience of these two games, much less one that demonstrates that Doom is superior in some way.
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Re: Are video games a waste of time? why or why not?

Postby SecondTalon » Sat Jul 17, 2010 2:05 am UTC

SirMustapha wrote:YES! Yes, that is exactly what I mean! What is wrong with having just a series of challenge rooms? What is the matter with that? That is precisely the idea that I'm criticising: if you're going to philosophise about every action you make in a game and ponder upon its implications upon the whole world and the whole society, well, perhaps you're pushing it too far. Sometimes it just doesn't matter. I'll give a cinema example, since films have been mentioned: Cube. In the film you're given no clue of where the cube is, why it's there, who built it, why the characters are there, how they ended up there and what is outside. And IT DOESN'T MATTER! Why will you want to focus on what is not happening, instead of focusing on what IS happening? And yes, a lot of people complain about the lack of explanations in the film. But just wonder how it would be if the ENTIRE film were previously and painstakingly explained to you: its most interesting elements would be lost. The whole film would be pointless. I think that applies to games, too: if you're inside a maze with a gun that can create cool and entertaining physical impossibilities, do you REALLY need to know what's going on outside? Does it have to be always like that?

Because after so many rounds of Pac-Man, you start to wonder what the point is. You move on. You consider it a childish pursuit. Any other number of factors.

Cube. Let's talk about Cube.

You're right, you don't know why they're there. You don't know what the Cube is. You have no idea what's going on. Neither do the characters. No one is treating life as though it's always been a series of interconnected rooms with deathtraps. They want out. They want to know why they're there. They want to not die. If it were just people treating it like it's completely normal and barely reacting when a member of the party died... you'd be bored. You wouldn't like it. You'd stop watching.

I mean, if you didn't need a story to enjoy something, we'd have movies called "An hour and a half of a machine gun firing at various cars" or "A man eating soup". If we're going to continue the comparison to film, we're barely outside of the days of filming people sneezing... and you're arguing that you like the film of the guy sneezing and don't understand why we want to watch this Nosferatu and Metropolis nonsense.

I mean, that's fine if you don't like games with stories or don't really get involved. There's always going to be shovelware makers who make games that'd be perfectly presentable five years ago but today look childish. There's always going to be goofy online games with no real point other than to kill the opposition. There's always going to be your sandbox simulation games where you're free to attach a story if you like. But the addition of storylines to the average game does nothing but enhance it.

Hell, Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes added a story and RPG elements to... a goofy matching color and style puzzle game. And it improved it greatly.

Video Games are to Films via Interactive Movies as Film is to Books via Watchable Text. Yes, you can do it that way. But people are taking it in wild crazy directions that involve all sorts of new elements that still rely on the old tools. Suspense is suspense is suspense, whether it's on a stage, in a book, on TV or in a game. But you need a plot, you need characterization, you need something that makes the consumer of the entertainment actually give a shit and have some form of emotional involvement.

Otherwise you're just writing a phone book. Huge cast of characters, complex ideas being shared, even incredibly useful in certain situations... but ultimately boring. Maybe boring isn't the right word.. Ultimately unengaging.
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Re: Are video games a waste of time? why or why not?

Postby infernovia » Sat Jul 17, 2010 3:54 am UTC

I don't think so. I consider a story "superfluous" if it adds nothing, especially if it's there just because it "has to" be there, if it's just a half-arsed effort at making a story just because the designers were obliged to do so, or if they followed the "rule" of "any game is better if it has a story". It's independent of being good or bad.

Alright let us take this apart for a second.

What is wrong with Portal's story? You felt that it was an obligation, you didn't like the end song, you didn't enjoy how it interacted with the outside world (because it didn't matter), you didn't blah blah. You liked the mechanics of the game, the visuals, but not the story. So you call the story superfluous because you don't like it, so it is completely dependent on you enjoying it or not.

When I played [Doom], it was not a matter of not knowing what those things represented or meant, no: I simply did not know who the main character was, where he was, what he was doing, why he was shooting things and where he was going. I did not know at all. All I knew was that it was fun to negotiate the labyrinths and fight my way out of danger.

Yes, just like a child enjoys a very complex story like the Godfather by asking "Who is the bad guy?" Yes, it is possible to enjoy these stories like that, but that doesn't mean that it is entirely a bad thing to have stories in puzzle games.

My point is: depending on the game (and perhaps depending on the style and skill of those making it), a game might actually be BETTER if there is no story at all. That is why I say that "every game is improved with a story" is bullshit.

So is Pac-man's plot of, you are hungry and want food and ghosts want to eat you but you can reverse this with power gems in a labyrinth take away from the game?

Again, you are criticizing these narration for being BAD, you are criticizing some video-game stories for getting in the way of your enjoyment. Taking things too seriously is a mark of a bad story.

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Re: Are video games a waste of time? why or why not?

Postby headprogrammingczar » Sat Jul 17, 2010 10:03 am UTC

Taking the story idea even further, play a few games of Canabalt. There's a very clear and unintrusive story, but we only get to see a glimpse of it. In the background, and occasionally the foreground, you can see the monochrome gray-blue world getting torn apart by giant things, which seem robotic from their outline and how they move. The game starts with you running, and never stops. Clearly you are running from something, but you never get to see what it is. It must be damn scary though, because your guy is running unstoppably fast the entire game. Without this "story", the game would be a bland single-button rhythm game, but Canabalt leverages everything it has at its disposal to tell a simple and somewhat vague story, and comes out better for it.
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Re: Are video games a waste of time? why or why not?

Postby infernovia » Sat Jul 17, 2010 6:48 pm UTC

Hmm... thats not really an argument.

I think a good comparison is if someone played a full funeral song each time Pac-man died. We can call this "bad music." This doesn't mean we need to remove music all together, just those really long ones.

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Re: Are video games a waste of time? why or why not?

Postby YamaNeko » Sun Aug 08, 2010 4:22 am UTC

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 equally important/unimportant).

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)
Or
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 :)

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Re: Are video games a waste of time? why or why not?

Postby Mike_Bson » Sun Aug 08, 2010 4:37 am UTC

I guess you could always do something more beneficial to society than play video games, so, by this, they could be useless; but expecting someone not to entertain themselves occasionally and want them to help society all the time would be ridiculous.


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