Gaming isn't new relative to life spans. Even someone 90 years old will have spend a third of their lives, at least, with the existence of computer-based gaming. For younger people, they may have never known a time without gaming. For example, at a mere 23, I grew up with games. So games are old in this sense. But in terms of society, games are young. Very young. They're barely more than a generation old. And being in such an early stage, they are changing rapidly, so it's risky to even put Pong, GTA, and Wii Sports in the same category of "gaming". It would be as if we tried to group Chess, Monopoly, and Risk in the same category of board games, despite having much different rules, social interaction, and play time.
I don't think society has figured out games yet. This is why we see arguments over everything from "gaming is terrible!" to "20 hours a week is excessive" to the guy who thinks 20 hours is nothing at all. We all struggle for comparisons to other hobbies, other social activities, other potentially risky habits. We talk of TV, reading, drinking, smoking, chatting, and we get nowhere at all. There simpy aren't any good analogies.
This isn't restricted to just gaming. Look at the issue of illegal music sharing. Just that phrase is absurd. Sharing? It's not sharing. Sharing is when I give up something I have so you can have it, temporarily. Theft? It's not theft either. Theft implies someone lost something. Piracy? That's a type of theft, so it doesn't work either. We need a new word, a new phrase, something with a better ring to it than copywrite infringment. Does copywrite infringment sound like a crime that an ordinary person commits? Not at all. It sounds like something argued in back rooms at big corporations with ten dozen lawyers and possibly an animal sacrifice.
But getting back to gaming: what is a reasonable amount of time to spend on it? We don't know. No one knows. Literally no one knows becacuse it hasn't yet been defined. There isn't a social norm yet. Instead there are hysterics, prohibitionists, casuals, hardcores, addicts, and a whole lot of people with no previous experience on whicht on structure their views. Whenever someone tries to create a definition of reasonable, they end up going off what they previously think of gaming and create an extreme from that. Someone who thinks it is evil will say zero hours per lifetime while a person who grew up gaming will see any and all free time as reasonable.
I suppose I'm being idealistic to think there would ever be any standard. We don't even have those for old activities. How much should a person drink? Read? Watch TV? Socialize? Commute? Personally I think that last one is the worst. It's a huge time and energy drain, and for what? It's compensation for a lack of planning on all levels, from personal to business to government from city to federal.
I do expect that within 100 years we'll see some vague consensus on normal, in the sense that we won't have many people saying that zero is normal or 60 hours is normal. And maybe, just maybe, people will stop making comparisons to pot. Or they will and it will make sense, since by then they'll both be legal activities.
The posts which triggered this: Righteous Orbs: Fear and (Self)-Loathing and Raging Monkeys: So when's the last time you /played the game?