When Video Games Become A Problem

Now that I have written an article about why you should be playing video games here is a warning about them.  

I am not one of those zealots who proclaim all the good of something and ignore the bad.  Video games are a great medium to experience an artists creative vision.  They are also one of the more immersive experiences we have right now.  

Just like with any escapism though they can provide too much of an escape and can become too much of a replacement for doing real things in life.  This is more of a danger because they are more interactive than other media.

Yes there are people who become obsessed with movies, books,or watching Youtube videos.  These all hit a dopamine part of the brain and trigger a positive response that people want to repeat.  Now video games trigger this response more so than their other media counterparts so this is a danger to some.  

My Confession

I have had a video game addiction, I still love video games I just had to take stock of my life and realize that while video games do make you feel accomplished in the short term your life goals are quickly flitting away and time is not something you can ever have back.  So in life as in all things there needs to be a balance.  You can enjoy video games, but make sure you are also attending to your life goals as well and taking care of every thing you need to do.  

Diving further in to my addiction as it was.  I would not say it was an addiction in the common sense I didn’t crave games like a jonesing addict would, I just felt despondent and wayward.  I had no hope for my future so I did what made me feel good and accomplished, all be it virtually.  So I played tons of video games and worked and that was my life, nothing more.

You see they made me feel a sense of accomplishment because you are doing things in them you can build entire empires and be a complete bad ass in them and there you can be king for a day.  The sad thing is that it doesn’t relate to the real world all those hours spent in game equate to negative time in the real world.

I was thinking one day as one of my game characters had created a space empire in the game X2: The Threat and I finally had established a working commerce empire where I now could afford what ever I wanted, and I thought to my self “this would be great if it was in real life.”  This thought got me thinking if I put the effort into making a better life for myself rather than playing video games.  If I focused as hard on making money in life as much as I did in every game I could become a millionaire in no time.  

Now this is where I would like to tell you that this epiphany made me re-sort my priorities and change my direction, but it took me longer than that.  Habits are hard to break be they good or bad.  We fall into routine and that routine we go about without thinking.  It has been hard for me to break my routine of firing up my computer, loading up whatever game I am obsessed with right now and not stopping until I realize that I have some other obligation.  

This is where balance comes in and for me as well.  My fiance wonderful woman she is has decided to start going to the gym, and I have decided to join her, and get fit with her.  So by freeing up the time it takes for that it has helped me to realize how much time I spend playing games and not focusing on my goals.  

My goals are as follows, if you care.  I would like to get back in shape.  I used to do martial arts and be a bad ass, instead of playing one in video games.  I would like to get a better job because of the next reason.  My fiance and I are discussing having children and getting a nice house.  I would also like to make enough so that she can stay home with the kids and be there in their formative years.  

So with all these priorities my video games will have to be relegated to entertainment rather than my life.  So What have I done to fight back against my addiction so to speak.  Well, it is scheduling time for things.  I now have a certain time I can play and a certain time I have to work on my goals and gym.  To be honest, this makes playing video games more enjoyable because it is more of a treat rather than a common thing.  Think about it this way, if you had your favorite food for every meal, like, say ice cream, then it would become kind of boring, but it you only had it on occasion and ate healthier food in the interim than you would enjoy it that much more and appreciate the experience more as well.

The Good

Entertainment when used as such and not a replacement for life is a good thing, and video games are just one more step up the rung of immersive entertainment.  

They can be great teaching tools and help with memory, reflexes, and emotional control.  Video games provide great stress relief and can provide a great experience for those who use them.

They can also help people with social anxiety get out and interact with people, and feel like they are part of a group.  Through video games can come a fun interaction with friends and family getting together and playing games together.

The Bad

Video games are not real, any accomplishment you make in them is not real either.  If you pursue only video games then they can give you the temporary high of accomplishment, but soon after when you look at your stagnant life and your constant aging you can find that you have wasted years doing nothing, but pursuing false goals and accomplishments.

Life is hard, video games are not, unless by design. They have set rules, and easy to follow rules.  Life, on the other hand, doesn’t not have such easy to learn the rules.  Life is messy and people are messy, so the appeal of retreating to video games is one I very much can relate to.  

The Ugly

Some games by design are created to be addictive.  They have no substantial value, they do not have a great story, they offer no real game play to speak of, but they trigger our action reward part of our brain so we can play them for hours and walk away feeling empty inside at the end.  

Most of the mobile games are created with this design in mind.  They are designed to make you want more of it and feel like you are accomplishing something so you will be compelled to fork over tons of money for a simple game that took a short time to develop.  Sadly, these games make back way more on their investment than most triple A games, just because they are leading their user base along with a subtle carrot, and giving the player just enough to want more.

Sadly, most games are working towards this model of innovative drought where they want to keep getting their user base to pay, but not deliver any real game play or amazing experience.  Take the Star Wars:  Battlefront 2 loot box debacle.

For those who are not in the know, here is the short of it.  Battlefront is a team based shooter where one team wins against another.  Well if you wanted to get the best weapons or the secret characters, then you needed to earn or buy loot boxes.  These loot boxes were completely random and most of the time gave out crap that you didn’t want.  This became a pay to win strategy because the people who plopped down the most money had the best gear and would dominate the game while new players and those who did not want to pay for their game more than once were stuck with earning the loot boxes and spending a tremendous amount of time getting crap just so they might get something that helped their game.  

The loot box system incorporates a gambling element and has been proven very alluring to people with an addictive personality.  There have been cases of people spending thousands of dollars on one game just to get all the loot box goods.

This of course is a very bad element of gaming and one I am not keen on myself.  I generally stick to single player games and rarely venture into online games, and if I do, they are games like Unreal Tournament 2004 where there are no loot boxes or pay to win it is just your skill against everyone else and either you are good or you are demolished.  I tend to be on the demolished side of that equation, but it is still fun.  

Conclusion

Games can be a positive part of one’s life, but they can also be dangerous because some people will use them to escape life and seek out false validation through video games instead of pursuing positive goals in life instead.

The answer to this is moderation, one must balance their life with their entertainment.  Sometimes working out a routine is the best way to balance these things like setting aside only a certain amount of time for entertainment and then knowing when to quit and work on other goals.  

Some games offer no real experience they are just designed to be a time sink and give a false sense of reward.  I am not going to say avoid these games at all cost instead I will say recognize these games for what they are and then decide if you want to spend your time and/or money on them.  

The most important thing is to not let games become your life, you will find that all it will leave you with is emptiness and regret instead of joy and happiness.  Do whatever it takes to keep games a positive experience in your life and not let them become a negative.

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