Top 5 Reasons to Play Videogames

Hey all. Welcome to the Top 5 Takedown, where I’ll be taking down my top five whatever in videogames every week. I’ll be ranking games, characters, developers, pirates, annoying pocket-sized monsters, hardcore pocket-sized monsters, and everything in between. With that exhaustive list to go off of, I will be starting out this midnight train with my TOP FIVE REASONS TO PLAY VIDEO GAMES.

Ok, so this may seem like a basic idea, especially to someone reading a column on a gaming website. But I think it’s worthwhile to take time to remember why it is that you did spend $600 on a PS3 right when it came out, or why you waited outside in the rain at 11:59pm just so you wouldn’t have to wait another valuable gaming second to play World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King (I know that I will be among that crowd for COD:MW2 on the night of November 9th, get pumped!)

World of Warcraft

So without too much extrapolation or pontification, here are my top 5 reasons to play videogames, with 1 being the best reason and 5 being the fifth best. (Note: As a disclaimer, I understand these five might not align perfectly with your top five, this is simply my take based on my individual videogame experiences.)

5. Improved hand-eye coordination

Wii Fit

So the improvement in your fine motor skills doesn’t really make up for the hours of muscle atrophy to the rest of your body. But videogames do have a way of teaching the hands and the eyes to react, and with reflex oriented games like pretty much any FPS, those reaction times get even quicker. Of course, with the addition of the Wii to the video game community, its no longer just about your fingers and thumbs, but your whole body. New games like Wii Fit, Wii Play, and Wii Jazzercise (don’t you wish?) have brought on a new era of gaming dedicated to the idea that you can actually LOSE weight while playing videogames. Personally, I’m sticking with my standard reclining-position, couch-slouching games. At least I’ll be in shape for some professional indoor thumb-wrestling.

4. Brings friends together

Xbox Live

This reason is becoming an even bigger deal with the increasing popularity of gaming networks like the PSN and XBL. Games have always been a source for community activities, but it used to be that you would get in your car, drive to your friend’s house, talk to his mom at the door, sulk down to his basement, then spend four hours getting virtually whiplashed by the arbitrary minigames in Mario Party 1. But no more! Now you plop down right in your own home and rock out as a synchronized rock band with friends thousands of miles away. Or maybe you trudge through co-op in Fable 2, only to realize an hour later that just one of you gets to keep all that cool highwayman’s swag. And with all the new family oriented game titles and the distinct possibility of universal image networking through technology like Natal, who knows how connected we’re all going to be. Just be careful… Microsoft may be watching you!

3. Provides a competitive outlet, even if you’re not good at sports


This sort of alludes to the previous section covering dexterity, but examines a different facet of gaming that is similarly applied. So maybe you aren’t the star soccer player you were in first grade. Hey, back then, everyone was a winner, right? But by the time you hit college, if you play sports "for real", then you don’t have time to play videogames. And if you play videogames "for real", well, you probably just don’t play sports. But the competition that gaming provides is as inherent in sports as it is in sports games. Or shooters. Or puzzle games. For gamers, it’s all about the challenge (although too much is still just too much, Conker’s Pocket Tales!), and that challenge, whether it is with the game or with others through the game, is one of the key components to the success of videogames. Besides, who wants to play real basketball when you can play as a super-powered three-point ace chicken headed man in NBA Jam?

2. Allows you to step away from your everyday problems, and take on the totally sick nasty problems of someone else

Half-Life 2

I’m a huge believer in solid storytelling in gaming; if the story goes nowhere, just don’t bother. That’s because videogames, like movies and books, possess the element of escapism that is only possible if we are able to connect with either the characters or the plot of the story. And with videogames, you get to really be in the story, making it a much more engrossing and believable experience. Of course this comes with its own set of caveats, like "Oh, by the way, remember you are a real person, and as awesome and totally sweet and epic as this game is, it’s still a game." But aside from taking the gaming connection too far, games have the ability to take us to their world for a little while and truly experience it. In heavily story-driven games like Bioshock, the Final Fantasy series, and the Half Life series, I find myself getting very emotionally invested in the main characters, and it makes me that much more excited to pick it up and play. And besides all that, who really needs homework when you’ve got zombie killing to do?

1. It’s just fun

Video Games

I would be remiss if this weren’t my number one reason for playing video games, because it is the basis for why we all started, and why we still haven’t put the controller down. Everything else is a component of the larger idea of the pure fun that game designers and publishers work to cram onto a compact disc and sell for way too much money. But we still pay for it, because it’s just that much fun. Every mature gamer has a memory of one of the first games they played, and played, and played, because the images and sounds and ideas and controls were so fascinating, relaxing even for some, that they kept going with it. And because gamers all over still haven’t stopped playing, the videogame industry earns over $10 billion dollars every year. But without getting too dramatic about the whole thing, I do think the fun factor can’t be underestimated as the main reason for the success of gaming. Oh, yea, that and the ladies always love a gamer. Right?


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Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

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