These days I own multiple consoles and mobile devices and play on all of them, but time now is a much more valuable resource. This bring the question – is that time well spent?
Sure, spending quality time with your favourite console game helps you relax.
But I find that it also helps me get more creative. This may sound trivial, but one cannot be a serious game developer without playing lots of games. Playing other people games helps us get a perspective of our own work product. Whether playing high profile console titles, casual, plattformers, or mobile games, the first hand experience is what helps us understand what works and what not, or how a single aspect makes or brake the entire game.
For me there is also the attempt to play through to the end – I confess that I often fail in that. Some of my favourite games proved too difficult to pass. I could never finish GTA IV (although I came close) and struggled hard beating levels in Bioshock 2; I do much better on casual and puzzle games.
Even for technical aspects playing can be helpful. A certain cool feature we first see in a game can drive a coder to try to imitate it, or improve on it. I can tell for myself that I often get into experiments trying to reverse engineer a certain feature just to see if I can pull it off. In that sense playing breeds creativity, and we don’t call it creative coding for nothing.
What about playing shortly just to compare shading, frame rate and polygon count? One can argue that playing briefly for research doesn’t really count. The dynamic of gameplay, the progress and gained achievements are things that take time to experience. This is true in my opinion for almost any non-casual title.
So it turns out we need to play and keep playing, even only for staying in touch. How much time should we spend on it remains an open question.