Video Games vs. Other Forms of Leisure


We’ve spent a ton of time talking about games on this site. This post compares different types of video games to their non-video game parallel.

Video Games: Frequency, Amplitude, Guitar Hero, Rock Band
Non-Game Parallel: Playing a real instrument.

Why play with a plastic guitar, when you can practice with a real instrument? I don’t think these are exclusive behaviors at all. I enjoy a little of both. The games are much more forgiving and are easier to play and appreciate, while the real instruments can be far more rewarding when you are in the mood to give them your full concentration. If you do love music games and haven’t touched a real instrument in years, I would definitely recommend giving it a shot.

Non-Game Leisure Activity: Reading a novel
Video Game Parallel: Narrative driven single player experiences such as Grand Theft Auto, Manhunt, or Resident Evil.

I love certain really good narrative driven single player games such as Manhunt or GTA. These seem to fill the exact role in my leisure activities that novels do for other people. They are both linear, solitary, story driven experiences.

Video Games: Brain Training, PQ, and other puzzle Games.
Non-Game Parallel: Crossword puzzles, novelty puzzle books.

The title “Brain Training” implies genuine learning, but it is merely a catchy title for a puzzle game. If you want to really learn something put down the crossword puzzle and the game controller, and go master a new craft, build something new, grow your career skills, or take a challenging course at a local college.

Video Games: Multiplayer Deathmatch titles. A few familiar examples are Resistance, Warhawk, and COD4.
Non-Game Parallel: Playing cards or shooting pool with a group of friends.

Both game and non-game variations of these activities are simple, repetitive, prmarily social experiences. The non-game variants provides more social face to face interaction, while the video games provide more convenience, variety, and technology.

Non-Game Leisure Activity: Exercise. Going to a gym, riding a bike, going for a run, doing laps in a pool, playing on a intramural team, etc.
Video Game Parallel: Wii Fit, Eye Toy Kinetics, DDR games, etc.

These video games are really a novelty at this point. Almost everyone prefers real physical exercise, however the video games are probably appreciated by a small niche audience. DDR is also great fun for kids.

Can you identify any other such parallels? Do any of the above parallels miss the mark? Do you prefer the game or non-game variations? Speak up in the comments.


Written by: Darrin - Contributing Editor


  1. #1 by Segitz on November 29th, 2007 [ 1470 Points ]

    Well, I used to play the piano (on a VERY VERY amature scale^^) and enjoyed GH1 on my PS2.

    For me, gaming can never substitute “real life” activity. I mean, going out to play Darts or Snooker just can’t be exchanged with doing it online on a console. There’s much more to going out. You can meet people coincidentally, you order a beer or ten, you eat a burger… You sit down and talk, the game of Snooker itself is just secondary. The main theme in going out is meeting people (for me) and this cannot be substituted by a console.

    And exercise^^ Come on^^ Ok, I do come from a different league (I used to do martial arts, till my doctor said I can’t anymore, then I switched to “small scale” body building and cycling). The stuff you do in Eye Toy Kinetic you do it for fun, not for exercise (well, to me exercise IS fun^^).

  2. #2 by Purist on November 29th, 2007

    You forgot paintball as it compares to COD4. Of course it’s more expensive and painful.

  3. #3 by Fran├žois on November 29th, 2007

    I think video games offer an unfair competition to more traditional individual leisure because it immerses the player through the use of images sound and interactivity. Something that a book or a movie can`t completely do. I no longer read novel, I only read about essais about politics, wars, environment…something video games can`t do yet.

    In term of social leisure, board games (from settlers of catan to taboo) are more accessible than video games and provide more fun, in my opinion. You also have to look at other player and chat instead staring at a screen.

  4. #4 by Darrin on November 29th, 2007 [ 17143 Points ]

    Segitz, darts won’t completely disappear, but I think that video games compete for the same leisure hours. They definitely both have their pros and cons and they aren’t exclusive (many do both), but in general, games like Counterstrike fill the same need for social casual leisure that darts and shooting pool do.

    Francois, board games have been replaced by video games a long time ago. There are still groups that play them, but they used to be far more popular.

    I also agree regarding books: I have given up on enjoying novels as well. I like books and I like fiction in non-book form (movies, tv, games), and I’ve tried many times to get into novels, but I’ve given up.

  5. #5 by Burten on November 30th, 2007 [ 550 Points ]

    Purist got a good point. Paintball is a a good parallell to games like COD4.
    Just more fun :-D

  6. #6 by SL33PY on November 30th, 2007

    As to the narative part, I think CoD4 fits in there perfectly. Instead of a good book I’ll take CoD4 (Single Player) any day. I don’t think that GTA really fits the category. Agreed there is a singular storyline, but there is so much other trivial stuff that interferes with the general storyline that some of the depth, the loosing yourself in the story, gets lost. Which is absolutely not the case with CoD4

  7. #7 by Gary on November 30th, 2007 [ 1780 Points ]

    One from me and Tosh:

    Tekken, Virtua Fighter etc compared to real life Martial Arts training.

    I love MA training and nothing can replicate the buzz you get from pulling of a submission or doing a technique that you’ve struggled with for months, or the buzz from sparring.

    Obviously playing Tekken or Virtua Fighter etc present less of a risk from injuries (apart from repetitive strain injuries), but despite my wrecked body, I wouldn’t give up my training for anything.

    I don’t class Martial Arts training as a “leisure activity’ though.

  8. #8 by Watch Free Anime Episodes on December 2nd, 2007

    I don’t know if Guitar Hero and playing guitar are perfect substitutes. There’s so much more skill involved in playing a guitar AND practicing SUCKS. Playing a guitar is fun, but to be able to do it, you need to log hours and hours of time doing scales. And it hurts your hand more.

  9. #9 by ninja.s on December 2nd, 2007

    I totally agree with most of the post. But I don’t like multiplayer games as much as most. I don’t have a lot of friends.


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