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2017's Best and Worst Cities for Gamers

Colin Milburn was featured in WalletHub's recent piece about the best and worst cities for gamers.

What tips do you have for a person that wishes to indulge his or her gamer habits without breaking the bank?

Although keeping up with all the latest gaming hardware and the most recent AAA premium games can be an expensive habit, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the pleasures of video game culture. Some public libraries now have collections of games and gaming hardware that patrons can borrow. Eventually, library game collections ought to become standard civic resources across the country.

Although keeping up with all the latest gaming hardware and the most recent AAA premium games can be an expensive habit, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the pleasures of video game culture. Some public libraries now have collections of games and gaming hardware that patrons can borrow. Eventually, library game collections ought to become standard civic resources across the country.

What tips do you have for parents looking to monitor video game content and prevent children from spending too much time playing video games?

Video games are fun, of course, and extremely captivating. Like other art forms, they can provide intensely enriching experiences, provoking new ideas, even self-reflection. But not all games are equally valuable, in this regard, and not all games are suitable for everyone. For parents looking to monitor content, there are many resources available. The ESRB ratings and content descriptors issued for most commercial games in North America are a good place to start. There are also plenty of reviews, articles, and discussion forums to be found with a quick Google search that address virtually any game in existence.

There are innumerable “Let’s Play” videos and other gameplay recordings online, which can be a great way to see actual game content in action. When reading about a game or watching recorded gameplay, it is important to consider the aesthetics, the storyline, the gameplay mechanics, and whether it is a single-player game or a multiplayer game, all of which can significantly affect the meanings and implications of its contents.

However, nothing really substitutes for actually playing a game yourself, or perhaps exploring it together with your children. Parents might wish to openly discuss their own values with their kids, explaining what they see as appropriate content. Games are everywhere, widely available, and if children know their own family's policies about certain kinds of games, then they can be better prepared if they want to play games in places other than home. Finding the right balance between gaming and other activities is also crucial if games are to contribute to a rewarding, healthy, and intellectually exciting life. As we all know, there are many elements involved in a well-balanced life, including work, sports and exercise, reading, spending time with friends and family, traveling and exploring the world around us, enjoying other forms of entertainment and recreation, and so forth.

As one element among others, games can be deeply fulfilling. Some people have even found that playing games gives them a different perspective or a better appreciation for other aspects of their lives. But of course, everything in moderation. For parents, it can be worthwhile to make clear what the boundaries are, establishing the expectations about what might be a healthy amount of time to spend playing games, and making sure that games are not somehow detracting from the other elements of life.

As a professional scholar of digital culture, I play a lot of games myself. But some days I don’t play games at all. Other days, I may poke around a game for only an hour or so. And yet other days, I may spend a rather good chunk of my waking hours immersed in a digital world. It really depends on the game: some games take longer than others, some games are more intellectually or emotionally captivating than others. It also very much depends on what else is happening in my life during a particular week, and I adjust my play time accordingly.

When games are experienced as part of a full life, they can be very rewarding things, especially if they provide opportunities for meaningful conversations, if they help to strengthen human connections or encourage us to reflect on our world in more nuanced ways. A game can be a wonderful mode of recreation and an escape from routine, as well as an important tool for inhabiting our actual lives with pleasure, adventure, and imagination. But again, balance is crucial, and talking openly about these issues is good for everyone who enjoys games.

Which is more cost effective: a subscription model akin to Netflix that allows users to access a catalog of games or purchasing games individually?

I think different gamers will have different opinions on this question. For some gamers, a subscription model can provide access to a greater variety of games for a lower cost. For other gamers -- especially those who like to replay the same game more than once, or study a game in more depth by exploring it over a longer period of time, or revisit favorite game moments as often as desired -- owning a copy of the game can be very important. The stakes become especially clear if a subscription service or a game download service loses the rights to carry a particular game, or decides to stop supporting that title for any reason. In these cases, gamers might lose the ability to revisit that game, unless they then decide to go out and purchase another copy directly. Yet it might not even be possible to do so; if the game has gone out of print, the cost of acquiring a remaining copy can often be exorbitant.

Likewise, there may be certain titles, or add-ons, or multiplayer capacities that are only available through subscription, and while these things are often very good incentives for players to remain loyal customers, if a player can no longer afford to keep up the subscription, or if the service itself goes out of business or changes its policies, then the player loses access to experiences that may have become deeply important to them. So when it comes to cost and value, it all really depends. Some gamers will be quite happy with a subscription service, others will prefer to own individual game titles in perpetuity, and others may want both options, or more. Whether or not one of these approaches proves to be more financially effective over the long run strongly depends on circumstances and personal preferences.

Do you believe the popularity of eSports will continue to rise? Will it ever rival major sports leagues such as the NFL or MLB?

The popularity of competitive eSports is growing rapidly, attracting more players each year -- as well as more and more spectators. The success of Twitch, the growth of Major League Gaming, the crowds that turn out for The International (the annual Dota 2 tournament), the enormous cultural impact of eSports in South Korea and elsewhere: these are signs. The valuation of computer games is changing worldwide. The legions of passionate fans who want to watch eSport competitions both online and offline are surging.

Right now, it remains an open question whether eSports in North America might eventually come to rival major professional sports. Nevertheless, I think it’s clear that the communal experience and 
excitement around eSports speaks to the significant role of computational media in our lives today in a way that other spectator sports do not -- and this will only continue to escalate in the foreseeable future.

Should betting on eSports be legal in US?

The legalization of sports betting in general in the U.S. has been a complicated issue, and it has become especially fraught with the expansion of online gambling opportunities over the last couple of decades. I think it’s fair to say that we are on the verge of a major reassessment of sports betting in the U.S., both online and offline. So if a widespread legalization of sports betting does happen across the country, then certainly eSports ought to be included as part of this revaluation. I would see no reason to distinguish eSports from other sports, in this regard.


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