If you are feeling gamer regret, the feeling might be justified. After all, there is more to life to video games. However, it is important to avoid being too hard on yourself. If you enjoy games, that is a perfectly fine hobby. Games have a lot to teach us about problem-solving, technology literacy, creativity, innovation, and scientific inquiry; after all, isn’t that what this site is all about? But just like anything else, everything should be done in moderation. If you are experiencing gamer regret, it might be time to reduce the gameplay a little bit, but that doesn’t mean those gaming skills should get stale. Put them to good use for society. Here are a few ways you can do that.
1. Design your own game. There is a huge national movement right now for creating games for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. Chances are you have a thousand ideas for a game; why not make a game where you can teach something of real substance to someone? [http://www.stemchallenge.org/] If you have never programed before, try using a program like Gamemaker, Scratch, Gamestar, or Kodu. If you aren’t interested in education, how about games for social change? [http://www.gamesforchange.org/]
2. Get involved in an alternate reality game. As a gamer, you are likely to have an impressive arsenal of skills like collaboration, system-thinking, information retrieval and organization, determination, and ingenuity. Put those skills to use in a social change game like Evoke or Sparked (see game archive). There is no better feeling about making the world a more educated and better place WHILE gaming.
3. Have an idea about how your favorite game can change the world? Then get involved in an online community! Enjoy Minecraft? Check out how it’s changing schools and letting students tour the Taj Mahal or learn geography. [http://www.minecraftinschool.com/] Need one more turn in Civilization? Instead, look at how it’s being implemented in classrooms to revolutionize history. I recommend the book by Kurt Squire called “Games and Learning.”
4. Find a game with real world meaning. If you loathe alternate reality games and find them cheesy, try finding a game that actually benefits society. Games like Foldit (see games archive) are actually improving science and technology and require no knowledge of biochemistry. Put those spatial orientation, logic, and creative gaming skills to work!
5. Take your game interests outside the game. Has BioShock or Deus Ex left you pondering some different philosophies? Get researching! Post what you find in your gaming community or talk about it with your friends. Have you played Civilization and wondered about the life of the Ottoman janissaries? Maybe you have been intrigued by the jabber of The Sims and want to create your own language or learn a new one.
6. Use your game to create art, stories, or movies. If you can’t part from your favorite game, consider using it in a different ways. Google how to create machinima and start using those information processing gamer skills to teach yourself. Create a movie or a play based around your family in The Sims. Join a fan-fiction community and start writing stories about your favorite Final Fantasy game characters. Try your hand at some digital art and draw up new weapons or worlds for Halo.
There are dozens of ways to put your gaming skills to good use. Games are the most productive when you are using them in new, creative ways. Make a list of all the skills you have, particularly those that gaming has provided, and find out how to apply them. In my personal experience, this has been the best way to combat gamer regret. Gamer regret is usually an indicator that you might need to come up for air and reflect on your gameplay. Instead of wallowing in those “lost hours” figure out what you have taken from those hours and improve the world around you! Happy gaming!