I'm a casual gamer at this point in my life. I couldn't even tell you how many Maddens or Marios I've missed by meow. There was a time when video games were my entire life though. From Pitfall on the Intellivision, Oregon Trail on the Macintosh, and a pixellated strip poker game my dad didn't realize I knew how to find on his homebrew 386 to camping in front of Walmart for a week to buy a PS3 and Wii, getting eight WoW toons past 60, and embarrassing my grandma on Bejeweled Blitz; I spent quite a bit of time with video games...
When I was a kid, the Internet was barely an infant. The most technologically advanced games at the time wouldn't last five seconds in today's app marketplace. Most of them were one-player. As two-player games were introduced, I started competing with my friends. By the Genesis/SNES wars, I had every system, peripheral, game, magazine, and book that mattered (plus a few that didn't)... and I was the one of best at all of them. Sony jumped into the mix... and Microsoft... and by the end Nintendo was the last company standing from the OG's.
I spent a decent amount of my 20's shunning reality for video games. Most of my friends were doing the same thing. My gaming addiction outlasted four major relationships and more than a dozen jobs. I feel like I spent so much time honing my hand/eye coordination that I need to impart the lessons I learned:
1) My Life Sucks... Well It Used To, Anyway -- World of Warcraft taught me one thing and one thing only... if at any point in your life you realize the only thing getting you through the day is the thought of teaching your Night Elf Rogue how to fish later that night while a naked chick falls asleep on your bed, your problem has nothing to do with video games... Your life just sucks.
2) How To Measure Friendship -- Mario is one of my longest standing friends. Why? Mario gives me his best every time. No matter how little of a priority video games become in my life, I know I can go back at any point by buying a Nintendo system. By the time I'm done, I'll be ready for anything. No matter how much time has passed, Mario has always been there for me. 've never been in a mood so bad that Mario couldn't put at least a temporary smile on my face. I heart you, Mario Mario.
3) Teamwork and Relationships -- You can tell a lot about a gamer as a person by how they treat noobs. You learn a lot about yourself as a gamer by the same measure. I saw a lot of interesting things online in console and PC gaming communities, but it was the offline relationships in my house that really intrigued me. For a good amount of my time in Phoenix, there were about a dozen of us that lived in nearby neighborhoods. I saw many girl/boyfriends, fiancés, and husband/wives come and go in my social group during that time. Watching how a gamer reacts to their non-gamer partner is as good of a sign of a failed relationship as playing couples Pictionary. If you're arguing about a video game, it has nothing to do with the video game. That's just who you are as a person. It's so precise Dr. Drew should add couple's video game therapy to his practice.
4) Video Games Don't Cause Violence... Oxygen Causes Violence -- I've played some of the most gruesome and bloody games ever made. I turn the blood up on Mortal Kombat. I teabagged and blue-screened hundreds of thousands of people. I played Grand Theft Auto so much, I still occasionally have to fight the urge to get out of my car at red lights to pull the guy out the car in the front of the line. Despite all this, I manage to go to work, school, and 328957264 other places throughout the day without shooting anybody. That's not to say there aren't video games that cause violence... The U.S. Army has combat simulators and drones ;P
Have you learned anything important from video games or other hobbies?
Brian Penny is a former business analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower who spent the last 2 years helping regulators and attorneys uncover the largest bank and insurance fraud in history. He documents his experiences working with Anonymous and fighting the banks on his blog. He's currently in the Tampa Bay area preparing to live in a van and training to be a yogi under Ally Ford.