Despite the fact that I spend my nonexistent spare time writing for Kotaku and being pretty immersed in the wild, wild world of "game culture," I harbor a bit of 'game shame.' OK, a lot. I've gotten a little bolder in discussing my Kotaku gig, but I still keep my love of games and gaming under wraps in most situations, unless it's apparent that I'm talking to someone who isn't going to look at me like I have three heads when I bring the topic up in anything more than a detached, academic way. Michael Abbott of the Brainy Gamer takes a look at 'game shame' and how we attempt to justify gaming — 'they make learning fun!'; 'they stimulate cognitive processes!'; 'they teach us things! Lots of things!'. And while all of these things may be true to varying degrees, he asks what's so wrong with admitting that some games facilitate play in the best, self-indulgent sense of the word:
It's tempting to demonstrate the value of playful activity within the framework of the very system that disapproves of such activity. In other words, I could leverage the values of the puritan work ethic system to prove that play and fun ultimately help make us more productive, which translates into the transcendent goal: more money.
Here's what that would look like: Games are good because they make learning fun. Being an engaged learner motivates me to learn more. Learning more makes me smarter. Being smarter makes me more capable; being more capable makes me more productive; being more productive makes me more valuable; being more valuable makes me more money.
Or another take: Games simulate cognitive processes such as identifying patterns, understanding complex systems, and chunking large amounts of information. Playing games enhances these cognitive abilities; enhanced cognition makes me a more capable learner. Learning more makes me smarter. Being smarter makes me more capable. See above.
I'm not suggesting these arguments are invalid; only that their validity relies on a set of desired outcomes driven by values that games should bear no responsibility to uphold. Maybe games can make us smarter and more productive, but games don't require such outcomes for validation. In fact, many of the best games provoke all sorts of wonderful, but decidedly unproductive, self-indulgent, and inefficient behaviours. Such games are like toys in the best, most delightful sense of that word.
There are some aspects of 'game shame' that I probably won't ever get over, and I can't imagine waxing rhapsodic to most of my fellow graduate students about my favourite titles or 'that time in such-and-such game when ...'. But I'll still look forward to the times when I do get to wax philosophic and the hour or two every night I get to escape into unabashed, unproductive, and totally self-indulgent play.
No more game shame [The Brainy Gamer]