Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An Effective Waste of Time

My time is very precious to me, which is why I'm so careful about how I sqander it. I don't have cable TV (or satellite, or even an antenna) because I feel that television is not the most effective use of my time.

Yet I waste whole evenings doing "research" on arguably worthless Flash games for my "Flash Flood" column on GameCola.net. I'll throw away hours upon hours in search of one last monster for my Final Fantasy II Bestiary. When it comes to video games, I can excuse almost anything pointless by claiming it's "progress." One step closer to being a know-it-all gaming master. One step closer to completing my Backloggery.

Television, in most cases, doesn't feel like progress to me. In the time it takes to watch a single season of a one-hour show, I could have played through and beaten more than ten Mega Man games. Reading every single fiction novel ever penned by Michael Crichton would take roughly the same amount of time as watching half of Law & Order.

When I think of television this way, it truly feels like an ineffective use of time. An entire series is just one item off my life's to-do list. How many more fandoms could I experience by watching movies, reading comics, watching plays, and attending concerts during that same amount of time? If television is just a form of entertainment, then surely there are many other ways of being entertained for much less of a time commitment (assuming you're a completionist like I am).

That's why, if I watch television at all, it's something like Jeopardy! or Most Extreme Elimination Challenge that has no real continuity and requires no previous knowledge to enjoy. More importantly--and these two shows are prime examples--television needs to be something that makes me think or makes me laugh. Futuristic technology and cool explosions also help.

Comedy is instant payoff--life is better when you laugh. Television that raises thought-provoking questions is equally meaningful, if not more so--even when a single story takes ten seasons to tell, there's a payoff in every episode when you're prompted to think about questions that are even bigger than the show.

There's nothing wrong with television. It just needs to be exceptionally thinky, funny, or explodey for me to give up breeding Chocobos until the end of time.


zharth said...

I would say that television is just a different kind of fandom. But I'd have to agree with you, it feels like an unproductive waste of time to me, even though I know that's a subjective value judgment. The thing that really bugs me is the commercials. I understand the justification for commercials, but I feel like some kind of pathetic lab experiment, having my entertainment periodically interrupted - in the middle - for some words from our sponsors. If I'm going to sit down and watch something, I want to watch it, not something else.

Flashman85 said...

Oh, man--live TV is a lost cause for me. I was actually only referring to TV on DVD. I fully understand the need for advertising, but I think we're in a day and age where cookie-cutter time-waster commercials just won't cut it anymore. Super Bowl-style commercials all the time, I says!