Welcome to the first installment of what I'll be calling "Friday Fun Posts". Every so often I'll blog about another one of my interests. I'll try to keep them loosely related to finance, but they'll be a bit more light-hearted and fun to read. Enjoy!
From their humble beginnings of Pong, Atari, Space Invaders and the forever popular Nintendo Entertainment System, video games have become such an expansive industry, there is something out there for everybody these days. You’ve got computer games, console games, mobile games, even virtual reality games for your phone or computer to choose from. Game systems like Xbox, Sony PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch are always coming out with more engaging and life like games. Despite being a multi-billion dollar industry, many people believe video games really are a waste of money and a waste of time, but I’m certainly not one of those people.
What’s a Waste of Time or Money?
Webster's dictionary defines “waste of time” as bad use of time. To me, anything that you might spend money on in the process would then be a waste of money as well. There are many things that I would consider a bad use of time:
· Unnecessary worry or anxiety
· Mindlessly Surfing the Web
· Any movie after 1998 with Adam Sandler in it
I could go on, but no matter how far I go, playing video games won’t be on that list. The reason is, playing video games is mostly meant to be a form of entertainment. If you are going to deem playing video games as a waste of time, then you need to include TV, radio, music, sports, movies, board games (and I love board games) and so on.
Some people might consider one or all of those as wastes of time a well, but that doesn’t make it true, at least not for everyone. There is value in all entertainment and playing video games is no exception. Are there more productive things you could be doing instead of defeating Gannon or Bowser for the 100th time, maybe, but that’s not the point. The very nature of the entertainment business is to waste time and it’s a necessity for a happy life.
We Need Entertainment\Relaxation
The ability to be entertained and take our minds off things has never been more important. Forgetting about any worries you may have is not a waste of money, but an invaluable use of your money. Without the ability to relax, many of us would go absolutely bonkers. People created entertainment for a reason and it certainly has its health benefits, video games are just another form of it.
They are Actually Cost Effective
As far as entertainment value goes, playing video games is actually quite cost effective and they always have been. Developers first created games that were almost impossible to beat, also called Nintendo hard. The reasoning behind this is that developers thought that once the game was defeated, it wouldn’t get played anymore. Making games so difficult would force kids into playing their games for hours on end until they mastered every level, every bad guy, and every move in their arsenal.
Today’s games have moved more toward the replay value model. The idea here is that you can play the same game, but there are many playable characters, game plots, and\or endings that can happen based on one or many of these factors or even other in game decisions. This can in essence create a whole new gaming experience while still technically playing the same basic game.
The way I like to look at it is by breaking down different forms of entertainment by their cost per hour. For example, you might go pay $14 bucks to go see a movie for two hours, making the cost $7 bucks an hour. Although video games have a higher upfront cost, console games (my preference) typically cost about $60, because of the original toughness and today’s replay value, video games come out on top.
Now these are just a few popular forms of entertainment and the prices may vary, but I think they are reasonable averages. There are cheaper hobbies, sure, but I’m actually lowballing the hours entertained for video games here. I personally love to play video games in the JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) genre and some of these games can easily take me 50+ hours to beat. Length is actually one of the attributes I research before buying a game.
Considering 50-60 hours of game play for only one play through would bring my total cost to about $1 per hour. Despite the fact that I rarely take advantage of the reply value (I really have to love it, like Final Fantasy VII love it, I’d hardly say the games I buy are a waste of my money.
The chart above also assumes that you are playing single player games. Imagine how much the cost effectiveness improves for multiplayer games. With online games being so popular, anytime, anyplace is always an option. You don’t even need to be on the same continent as your buddy to login and start having fun.
Don't forget that there is a market out there for used games so after you've finished playing it yourself, you can sell it to recoup some of the cost.
Fun for the Whole Family
Popular video games like Mario Party, Mario Kart, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros and similar titles are not only made to be played over and over to no end, but many of them are super family friendly, even for non-gamer moms, dads, or even grandparents! Not only is it entertaining, but having the whole family involved in any activity no matter what it is, is time well spent and is never a waste of money in my mind. Think of it as family board game night, only on the TV instead and probably more engaging to boot. The only risk here is that you’ll likely need to invest in some extra controllers to play with but for the right game, it's very much worth it. But, being able to play video games and spend time with the fam is a win-win to me!
People who play video games will tell you they are a great form of entertainment and now you know they are cost effective, but that’s not their only benefit. Video games can help teach a variety of skills and make us better people for a wide range of reasons.
On top of being cost effective, video games can actually be quite beneficial, in moderation of course. On the surface it might look like you or your kid is mindlessly mashing buttons while staring at a screen and vegging out on the couch barely using their brains, but that’s not always the case.
Many video games actually have hidden benefits. They can improve dexterity(show me a surgeon and I’ll show you someone that likely plays video games), hand-eye coordination, help with problem solving skills(anyone that’s ever been stuck on a Legend of Zelda dungeon for days knows what I’m talking about right?) and despite popular belief, actually make you more social. Also reversing popular belief, violent video games such as Call of Duty, Halo, Battlefield or the always controversial Mortal Kombat don’t lead to aggressive behavior or make you more violent, they can actually help lower aggression.
Many also believe that playing video games can teach kids to learn to deal with failure, form perseverance, and goal setting abilities. Maybe not as much for today’s games, but trust me, beating the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle game as a kid was absolutely a highlight of my childhood. I can only imagine how many times I must have tried and failed to beat that came before finally taking down Shredder and the Technodrome. Man what a good feeling it was.
Get in Shape - Video Game Style
Would you consider exercise and getting healthy and physical fitness a waste of money? Plenty of people spend their money on pricey gym memberships without question. Most of the time, they aren’t worth the price tag. For those of us that have moved our workouts to be home based, video games can be a great option (Pokémon Go anyone?). Not only do they help make the workout more entertaining, but they will help track your progress. When you can tangibly see your improvement, it only makes you more motivated to keep going making them even more valuable.
Another big industry video games have broken into is education. There are countless games that have been designed to help kids learn math, reading, writing, spelling, history, even money management (start ‘em young!) and the list goes on. Kids will not only be entertained (which is priceless in itself), but they will learn without even knowing it! Anything that accomplishes those tasks is no waste of money in my book.
You Can Make a Living Playing or Making Them
Back when I was a kid, one of the knocks on video games was that being good at them didn’t really mean much since it wasn’t a marketable skill. Well, I was born in the wrong era because those days are long over. Esports and video game playing has become more than just a side hustle for a lot of gamers, but their main source of income and they can really bring home the bacon. Tournaments are handing out millions in prize money and with sites like twitch, gamers can get paid to have people watch them play. Not everyone will make it big, you’ll have to be very good, very entertaining, and very lucky to make as much as these guys, but for dudes that play video games for a living, their earnings are no joke. Sure beats any investments I have. It's not just for boys anymore either.
Since there are so many gamers out there, someone needs to make them right? They say that if you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life. Well if you love playing computer games, then develop some games! Maybe you like game consoles better, you can make a living there too. Making video games takes an army of people. You can be a video game designer, game developer, programmer, a game tester for quality-assurance. A game company will not only need video game developers, but they'll also need music composers, game artists or animators, even writers for storylines. Getting interested in the gaming industry can lead you to some very rewarding occupations. Who knows, maybe you can help create the next Mario Bros!
Creating games doesn't have to be your full-time 9-5 job either. There are plenty of tutorials, design courses and game development tools out there that will help you through the design process of being a game creator. There are plenty of people that create video games as a hobby by utilizing a game engine like unity or unreal engine. This is likely limited to making a mobile game, but with a little coding knowledge you can create a video game in a few months during your spare time. Once you are ready for monetization, get your game on the app store and watch the money pour in.
Beware of Additional Purchases
For as great and cost-effective as playing video games can be, there is a line in the sand for me. Although the upfront cost of games is typically $60, the video game industry will definitely attempt to extract more from you to make the game “better”, which I am personally not a fan of. This is typically done in one of two ways.
For many console games, you buy the “main game” for a base price. Yes, you can play the whole game, beat it and be satisfied. However, with many consoles having internet access and the rise of online gaming (think Destiny, MMORPG, etc.), game developers created what’s known as DLC or downloadable content. This might be an exclusive stage, a cool looking outfit for your character, or anything in between. Where they will typically get you is making something available that will give you an advantage in the game, also known as P2W (Pay to Win) or P2P (Pay to Play). For me, simply playing a game is enough. I have no desire to be the best player at any particular game, as long as it's fun, I’m content. Other video game players will waste (yes, now it’s a waste) their money to say they are better than someone else. How much money they spend will determine how "good" they are at the game, not for me.
Microtransactions are similar to the DLC, only these are normally associated with mobile games. Most of these games are typically free to start playing. Once they have you hooked, they again allow players to enjoy perks, but at a price. As the name suggests they are small in nature, but that’s the sneaky part. Spend a dollar here, three dollars there and you don’t think anything of each individual purchase. Then before you know it….bam! That “free” game has cost you $20-$30 bucks. Although that in itself is still a relatively low cost per hour, it’s money that you really didn’t need to spend.
Overall, time playing video games is hardly a waste of time at all or money for that matter. Although by nature, they are designed to be a waste of time, video games really have evolved into so much more. Not only is video gaming more cost effective than many popular forms of entertainment, but they can add value to our lives as well. Exercise, education, and a good ol’ fashion family fun are by no means a waste of time to me. Video games can be a way to deliver each into our lives. Whether you’re into first person shooter games, action games, role playing games, retro, puzzles, or sports games, there are different games for everyone out there.
Not only is it a benefit to play games, but making them can be fun too. Video game development is a booming industry and isn't going anywhere soon. Video game companies will not only the typical computer-science majors out there, professional for all aspects of the game. There are plenty of ways of making a game yourself and bringing your game world to life.
As with anything else, time spent playing video games should be done in moderation, nobody wants too much screen time, plus the outside world is kinda nice too. In the end, the video game industry is out there trying make a profit, but you can easily live a very frugal, very video game friendly lifestyle. Happy gaming!
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