Iain Plays
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Gaming as a Leisure Activity

I play Battlefield 4 on the PC a few times each month with fellow adult males and females from an online circle of friends, called a clan.

We all have a great time voice-chatting with each other while we play together on the same map in squads to achieve objectives and hold strategic points to win each round. The chat is often filled with campfire stories and banter, interspersed with tactical discussion regarding the game in hand.

We bond in this social group setting much like one would have done growing up at the Scouts or equivalent institutions that I am not so familiar with.

The in-game violence is abstracted and not glorified. It is like playing tag or dodgeball. When you get tagged, you have to wait for around ten seconds to rejoin the game. A round can typically last 20–40 minutes. There are ground, air and water vehicles which multiple people can enter simultaneously, as well as exploring the terrain on foot. Up to 64 human players on the same map play in two opposing teams, split into squads of up to five members.

It’s easy to demonise computer games, as people unfamiliar with them have done for the past five decades, however it is important to remember that computer games are a medium, much like books, films and music. There many fine examples and some masterpieces. As with any medium, for each masterpiece there can be thousands of mediocre and terrible examples.

Once one has selected a quality computer game to play, the other major difference from other media is that a certain level of skill and context is required to play and appreciate games. The general learning curve can prove too steep and frustrating for some.

The other aspect of gaming as leisure activity that I ponder about often is the commonly-held perception of it being a total waste of time and something that one ought to grow out of, as the responsibilities of life are continually heaped on; how dare we waste our time playing in imaginary worlds where nothing we do will ever transpire into real world value.

Though I have found that my self-selected diet of games includes business simulations too, which I have no doubt helped me from an early age to learn quickly, be goal-oriented and think about the world in terms of connected systems, rather than just isolated cause and effect.

A mix of empire-building strategy (Civilization, Capitalism, Sim City 2000, Transport Tycoon); reflex-testing action (Doom, Tyrian, Castlevania); immersive role-playing (Final Fantasy VII, Deus Ex, Earthbound); and many other genres and titles combine to form a rich and interesting living history of an exciting medium where one can derive both value (in terms of skills and knowledge) and entertainment (mental and intellectual stimulation and relaxation).