A few months ago, a friend of mine posted something on Facebook I’ve been thinking about ever since. Though it has some faulty logic and was clearly posted to bait comments, it’s what the statement represents that makes it memorable. He wrote, “Unless you’re a professional gamer, video games are a waste of time.” Then he added the bait: “Change my mind.”
I spent about 10 years away from video games and would have readily agreed with him a year earlier. While I never made a conscious decision to move away from games, they eventually evolved into a convenient scapegoat for any problems I’d inherited from my past self. Bad grades in high school? My study time was eaten by video games. No childhood savings? All of it sunk into my old Xbox 360. After a while, I couldn’t think of any good thing to have come from owning a gaming system and would sometimes think of how much further along I could be if only I’d spent less time gaming and more time reading, exercising, socializing—or literally anything else.
When I was in New York City for work a few years ago, I found myself trapped in a maze of ads for Rockstar’s upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2. Buses, taxis, subway stops: if the City had any space, their marketing team had filled it. The Economist predicted it would make more in its first weeks than the last two James Bond films combined. The New York Times called it “true art.” My teenage brother-in-law gushed about how amazing it was over Thanksgiving dinner. And gradually, after seeing the ads, watching the numbers, and hearing the praise, I wasn’t quite so curmudgeonly anymore. I was curious.
It took me another year, but I finally pulled the trigger and picked up a PlayStation 4 and Red Dead Redemption 2 along with it. I’ll save my longer-form thoughts for the blog, but my short answer is this: video games are far from a waste of time. It didn’t take long for me to see that gaming has evolved far beyond superficial shoot-em-ups: they’re now a bonafide storytelling method capable of communicating dynamic, complex narratives with an impact that most other mediums could only dream of. God of War led me to engage with fatherhood in a way no other story has to date. The Last of Us challenges the player to empathize with characters as they’re forced to make impossible decisions. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a profound meditation on human nature and the complex definitions of right and wrong. To dismiss video games as a waste of time is more than inaccurate: it denies the value of their stories, and what we have to learn from engaging with those stories.
With 11pm, my goal is to explore these stories in more depth and further evaluate the human connections fostered by visual media so we can better recognize these patterns in daily life. My hope is that you’ll leave each article considering how stories in any form have helped you break walls, build relationships, and gain a greater understanding of the world around you so we can all better contribute to the growing dialogue around fiction in all its forms and its necessary place in our society and culture.