The Danger in Gaming Too Much

The Line Between what you do and what you follow are often so closely tied, they might as well be the same things.

I have a confession to make, I’ve been a Hardcore Video Gamer for most of my life.

Not until about 31 years of age did I finally decide that it might be a real problem. For some of you, it’s just a silly way to kill time, for me it was an escape from my station in life. A constantly reliable source of tricking myself into thinking I’m doing something when I fact, I am in most ways just killing time. If Time is the most precious resource we have, so if Wisdom is to apply numbers to our days, what exactly have I been doing?

Yes, Video Games are, and always will be a part of my life. Even as I write this article I’m awash with all the good things it has brought to me. I was Home Schooled from 7th Grade to the end of High School, for for me Gaming was the King of outs, puzzles, adventures, a sense of awe & wonder. But, when you’re too isolated from others and it’s your main answer to too many questions in life, it becomes a hardened cave to remain inside instead of learning how to deal in R.L. (Real Life). I can tell you that my soul is forlorn for this and if I could go back and not game even for 1/5th the amount of time I have over my lifetime thus far, I would be far better off than I am now, if I spent that time constructively of course learning skills needed to better take care of myself. That is the Key issue here, lack of discipline, but its’ an industry built around the idea of gaming you, the gamer into gaming more, rarely ever less.

https://med.news.am/eng/news/13701/study-identifies-brain-cells-involved-in-pavlovian-response.html

Some games go as far as to mimic the basic structure of digital gambling machines in a “Pavlov response” dynamic between you and the potential next outcome. Dopamine chasing in essence is the name of the game. Just one more round to get that next fix to keep you feeling high until you crash again and need more. Adults who game too much look like sleep deprived zombies stumbling through the waking space. I’m talking to someone about my age at GameStop seven years or more ago, and he looks unwell. Otherwise, healthy looking adults can look old and dying as they spend too much time indoors transfixed upon screens. A modern world problem. Our ancestors had to worry about infection, running out of reliable sources of food, shelter, meanwhile we sit too much and our bodies are not evolved to deal with this much sedimentary activities. Pair this with the Standard American Diet, no wonder I was at 305 pounds and so are a lot of people yet still.

So I prayed about it. Eventually God answered, as He always does. Live the Faith, and everything else will be built onto you. So I did, for a time, finally for the first time in my entire life, I attempted to live out my Catholic Faith, the way it’s actually taught to us, this meant giving up anything that was considered a Sin. It was incredibly hard, it still is sometimes. Since then I fail spectacularly more often then I would care to admit out loud, but for one brief shining moment in time, I got pretty close for about a year.

That’s when everything changed.

Mikhaila Peterson was talking on Youtube one day, about her recovering from a rare autoimmune disease. I noticed some strange undeniable parallels inside my own personal story. Then I stumbled onto Dr. Baker, then Dr. Ken Berry and I soon completely altered my entire diet.

For seven months, all I ate was animal derived fats, meats, organs, sea salt and water. What happened was a small miracle. My weight flew off 9 pounds a month on average like clockwork. My doctors were in awe. I literally couldn’t keep it on, if I tried. No matter how much fat I consumed, no matter how much meat or eggs I was eating, I kept losing weight and my skin never looked healthier. The first month was really hard. I was pretty scared of what I was doing, I kept thinking maybe this isn’t a good idea, maybe I might permanently damage something, but then I kept thinking about how sick I already was, how much worse my health had already been getting as I was nearing 32 years of age. My joints were on fire. I was always in pain. I had terrible body odor. I looked like I was in my early 40s. It was a scary time in my life.

Then, the longer I maintained the diet, the healthier I got. I went from feeling like a total mess, to feeling like a superhero living among you. From living the Faith, to maintaining the diet, my life completely turned around (I’ll be writing a complete separate article in full about this, sometime over the next two weeks).

It was almost like the clock got rolled back 10 Years and I regained my early 20s.

Eventually I met someone, someone whom I will one day write stories about, but I would never have met her had things not changed for me. It starts with asking God for help, but it ends with giving up bad habits in general, which brings us back around to the subject at hand, Gaming itself.

For a lot of us they are power fantasies at their core. Did you just get out of a bad relationship where you felt powerless inside? What about playing as Batman for three weeks? Or maybe you’re struggling to stand out in a positive way at work, perhaps some Persona 5 will help you feel more authoritative at home, more interesting socially outside, inside? Take an outside action that hurts to touch upon and replace it with a piece of entertainment until the illusion of change occurs.

But that’s also the cost.

For me it was upward mobility but in essence, it’s that the issues never go away. It’s stagnation inside our overall cognitive and practical development. You have to develop your hard/soft skills needed to improve your honest to God interior and exterior life. Some people are absolutely boiling right now, others trying a little too hard to act indifferent when this subject arises. Of course, some people are less addicted to the feeling in general making them not the core audience for this kind of discussion. It’s for us, anyone who has ever felt like gaming has suspiciously grown into a secret counter agent, keeping us from doing the real work so that we might become the people we deeply desire most of all to become in Real Life.

Here are the Seven Things I Learned when I Quit Gaming

1. I have a surprising amount of free time that I never realized I had.

My goodness I was a professional time waster. I did just a causal analysis of how much gaming I’ve done just on Valve’s Platform Steam (an online gaming service) and it’s about 8,000 hours played. Now this isn’t taking into account other services I have, consoles I own and have owned. This is just a single place of entry into how much I have gamed. This next one took some good old fashion sleuthing, I play a lot of a popular card game called Hearthstone, there is no in app tracker for over all hours played, so instead I had to resource some numbers from fellow players to get at least a rough outline of how many hours I have played, I got chills. 800 hours played on the high end, 657 hours on the low end by calculating just averages time played to incur my number of wins on average (which means it’s probably too low), plus solo mode and a new mode I’ve taken to like a fish to water that does track. Whew, that’s Crazy Town USA and we are just getting started.

This isn’t even close to the total amount. I’ve been playing games my whole life since I was three years old. Mario for the win. But, the more I look into this, the more I realize what games have actually been for me. Yes, I’ve learned a lot of cool and quirky things from it. I’m studying UX Design right now, and being a gamer will probably help me to some extent have a leg up, as gaming is essentially UX/UI Design married (Interface meet Experience). BUT, what the heck else could I have been doing this entire time?!

So if I takes 10,000 hours on average to become a Master at something, of course I chew up and spit out video games, I probably have spent somewhere around 30,000+ hours gaming thus far in my life. I feel comfortable with that approximation.

Now it’s time to redirect all of that energy elsewhere. Somewhere that actually brings me home money and value in my real life, not some pretend life digitally.

2. I was incredibly angry with myself when I realized how much money I’ve spent on buying video games just in the last six years, alone.

Once again I’ve focused my initial search on Steam as it’s the only truly central way to get a basic gist of how much money I’ve spent, housed in one convenient location. I used some third party websites to get a general idea of my accounts current worth (which is not to say the total amount actually spent buying things). My Steam account is worth approximately $12,000 to $7,000 in US Dollars. That is a one hard pill to swallow. Keep in mind, while this is a lot of games bought on sale over the last 10 years it’s still not even close to the final number. Trying to account for a lifetime of consoles, CDs, cartridges, accessories and so on, I’m probably looking at $30,000 dollars over the lifetime of being a gamer, and it could be quite a bit higher as well, maybe cut that number down due to trade ins, but even then we would still be looking at over $25,000 US Dollars.

3. It competes directly with using my time to grow my other bankable world required skills.

To briefly recap, roughly 30,000 hours played & almost $30,000 spent over the lifetime of this one gamer thus far, that is one massive beast to compete with in the framework of any one’s life. That’s at least three skills mastered, a car paid in full and money for when I truly needed it. Extremely sobering exercise, for me. I wonder what it might be for you?

4. Too many of the games are repeating the same experience again and again.

I abhor repetition and yet a lot of what gaming is, is just that, the same thing, dressed up slightly differently again. A quiet inner rage washes over me when I realize how many times I’ve basically fallen for this ploy. Take Fallout 4 for example, the game is just a shooting gallery dressed up as an Role Playing Game. You go town to town, building to building, sure you “talk” to people but it’s really just menus with audio recordings that lead you down two very similar paths and then you go and shoot things, wash, rinse & repeat. I feel empty inside just talking about it. That one game alone I easily have over 100 hours played. Doing essentially nothing in real life and instead doing the same thing again and again virtually. Kill me.

What the heck do we even learn?

That if we keep playing we will get one more piece of loot, a few pieces of pop culture references and maybe for a brief moment a slight distraction for how awful our life has become. It’s one thing to game because you enjoy a little escapism here and there, I will always love The Legend of Zelda games for example, but I also know someone who has 25 plus characters in WoW, with one character with over 1 year of playtime, 10 years ago and God only knows who much play time now, he basically built his entire life around being in small room locked to a computer for self worth. I know a lot of people think this is a super harmless habit and of course it can be, in moderation, but my real question then becomes, do you know that about yourself as well as you think you do?

In my experience if it hit a nerve, it’s probably because there was a nerve to hit, deep down inside (maybe not even that deep).

5. I get a headache just thinking about it. I can’t speak for others but for me it was a form of addition.

There I said it. I am a gaming addict. No, I don't spend my days at a Casino, but is it really that different, if the overall effect is the same? I’ve spent money I didn’t have to spend to get one more hit of that dopamine hit, check. I lied to others about how much I was spending on my “hobby”, check. I will probably always have to be guarded around this subject because even as I write this article, and know that it’s awful for me, I still feel called to give in and waste more time doing it, check.

Well gee if that’s not an addiction, what the heck is?

6. It was too closely tied to my identity, I’m 33 years old and I want video games out of my life.

This is probably the biggest problem with doing something for too long, it dangerously becomes associated with how you and others see you. Not such a bad thing if it’s charity, or making money doing something you love, kind of an issue if it literally gets in the way of you getting things done.

For me, gaming is a black hole. It’s gotten in the way of everything that matters in my life and I have zero apologies for expressing this fact. A lot of my friends growing up are gamers as well, and I can see the impact gaming has on their lives as well. I won’t press too hard here but watching otherwise brilliant people get stuck in destructive cycles is not my idea of a good time.

7. It’s not the easiest subject to talk about in this day and age.

With the rise of streaming content, the inevitable pull is to stay home and watch near endlessly. Plus, inflation being what it is, a lot of us need to find creative ways to entertain ourselves. Gaming has become a big part of that, and the goal of this article is not to demonize the act of gaming itself. Congratulations if you are still here and have not gone directly to the comment section first. That’s been my overall walk with this subject, those who need the biggest talk about it’s place in their own life’s are the ones most often who will spit pure vitriol at anyone who questions it.

I basically got a grip on myself, my life, my future because of all this. If I ever fall back into the habit, it’s no body else’s fault anymore.

Like I said before, if it hits a nerve, it’s probably because there is some truth to it.

I genuinely hope hearing someone else talk about this, helps you too, I know it did for me.

I love to study and write about ideas, around: Catholicism, UX/UI Design, Creativity and Helping Others.

I love to study and write about ideas, around: Catholicism, UX/UI Design, Creativity and Helping Others.