Practice doesn’t make perfect:

Practice makes permanent. 

In gaming this means our gaming habits become ingrained in us. They become part of who we are, how we think, what we do.

In science this is partly explained by neural plasticity; basically your brain works hard to specialize in whatever you make it do the most. Want to be great at running? Run well, and a lot! Want to be great at piano? Practice well, and a lot! Want to be great at gaming? You get the idea.

It’s important to note: Practicing something a lot doesn’t mean you’ll be good at it! You have to practice well.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of the book Outlier, looks at what it takes to be the absolute best in any field. He finds that evidence points to the idea that perfect practice, and a LOT of it, is what allows someone to become the greatest.

“The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything,” writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin. — p. 40

Remember, whatever we do repeatedly is what we make permanent. Mr. Gladwell points out the research that shows mastery requires repeated, excellent practice.

When tied into the conversation of gaming, it seems like this fact doesn’t matter. The average gamer age 13+ puts in 6.3 hours / week (Nielsen Study, 2014). It would take one of these gamers 30+ years to become world-class.

Yet in the US alone there are 34 MILLION gamers who are “core gamers”: Those who play more than 22 hours a week and make up the nucleus of the gaming community. These gamers could reach world-class status in just 9 years!

As of 2013 American Academy of Pediatrics encouraged parents to “Limit the amount of total entertainment screen time to <1 to 2 hours per day.”

Take this in contrast with Jane McGonigal, game designer and author of the book “Reality is Broken”, who argues that because video games can be enjoyable we should play more of them. In fact, in a TED talk she states that she believes the answer to many of the world’s problems is more gaming. It’s a fascinating idea that isn’t going away anytime soon.

Jane McGonigal says what we need in this world is to play MORE video games: Check it out for yourself here

There are at least 34 million gamers in the US who are actively following her prescription. That’s more than 1 in 10 Americans.

Really the idea that gaming can make us happy is just a recycle of the original sin: Adam and Even looked to themselves for satisfaction rather than trusting God.

Let’s review:

  • Practice makes permanent
  • Some argue (Ms. McGonical is one) that playing more video games is important, because games help us feel better.
  • 34 million core gamers play enough games to count as training their brains to be experts in just 9 years
  • 10,000 hours of purposeful practice is the upper end of what it takes to be a world-class expert.

We’re putting in the practice.

The question is: What are we becoming permanent at?


For those of us who game too much, we may not like the answer. Please check back and I’ll be addressing this question in several upcoming posts.

In the meantime, here are some other posts that might interest you.

Just click on a title below.