Confessions of a would-be gaming addict.
I love gaming. Whether they’re on my phone, my computer, or on gaming consoles made for TV, video games can be a fun, fantastic escape.
But at this point in my life, I don’t play them. At all.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not a self-congratulatory piece about how perfectly I spend my time. Like most of us, I have other vices — social media and Netflix being two of them.
So why the hard line on gaming?
First, let me take you on a nostalgic tour of some of my favorite gaming relationships from my distant and not-so-distant past.
The earliest example of complete seduction by gaming that I can think of goes back to a computer game called Digger, released in 1983 by Windmill Software. I used to play it on so-called portable computers — much too large to be called laptops — that my dad brought home from work.
Digger was a Pacman-like game that involved collecting emeralds while avoiding goblins. Although simple in concept, the speed, difficulty, and intensity of the game grew with each passing level. Every time I lost my last Digger life, I began a new game with deepened resolve to improve on my best score and level.
I could and would play Digger for hours if my parents allowed me to. 30 years after playing it, I remember the theme song and sounds of Digger like it was yesterday.
World of Warcraft (1990s)
I remember playing World of Warcraft II on desktop computers in the late 90s, during my university years. Now over 20 years old, this game from Blizzard Entertainment was a leader for its time.
When I played World of Warcraft, I was completely and utterly immersed in the game. I mean, I didn’t move, I didn’t snack, I didn’t think about anything else. My eyes darted here and there across the blue screen for hours as the mouse clicked away with constant urgency. I was all in.
As I recall them, games lasted anywhere between 1–2 hours. Inevitably, my civilization would be destroyed by another, stronger force. Dismayed, but convinced I could avoid the strategic errors of the game before, I would often start a new game and repeat the same thing all over again.
On such occasions I would typically stay up too late, defer important work, and avoid the company of others just to keep playing Warcraft.
Clash of Clans and Clash Royale (2010s)
Even in recent years, gaming has pulled me briefly into its vortex, this time on my phone. I jumped on the Clash of Clans and Clash Royale games from Supercell and found them both tremendously entertaining. These games are free to download and offer intense, competitive gameplay.
I knew I had problems with each of these games when I began paying for in-app purchases (paying real money for upgrades in resources or levels). Even worse, I found myself retreating from human company so that I could play. I was even tempted to check in on my games while at work.
Games Aren’t The Same for Everyone
This piece is not to say that gaming is morally wrong or carries some sinister power in itself. I recognize that many people enjoy a healthy and measured relationship with gaming that doesn’t encroach on more important values and priorities. But for me, the accumulation of small warning signs makes a too-compelling case to avoid games altogether.
A Losing Deal
Here, then, are the main reasons why I don’t game today.
- The addictive quality. For me, gaming can become all-consuming in ways that other screen-related vices can’t. Your experience may be very different, but even the few and fun examples I’ve shared here reveal the compulsive power of games for me. These compulsive behaviors are typically followed by denial, dishonesty, and random disappearances — all strong signals of personal dysfunction.
- The emotional crash. Have you noticed the irritation you face when you try to pull a gamer away from their games? Gaming tends to have that effect: it offers a nice high of stimulation but is often followed by lingering dissatisfaction. Any parent that asks gaming children to put away devices and get ready for bed is familiar with the snarly reception that can follow. I know the emotional letdown of putting the games away because I’ve lived it many times myself. It’s something I am simply a better man without.
- The terrible return on time. Even vices like Netflix can expand my thinking or inspire imagination, and social media interactions can positively contribute to authentic human relationships. But in my experience, gaming contributes absolutely nothing of value to my life. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, but ROT (return on time) has become more important to me. Gaming is simply a bad deal.
- Create> Consume. Just over a year ago, I decided to create more content. To take more risks. To be more vulnerable. To read more, write more, record more, publish more. And it’s been an exciting, growing, learning, and life-giving experience to do exactly that.
In stark contrast, I see gaming as the antithesis of learning, growth, and content creation. Instead of creating, it only consumes. Instead of enlightening my mind, it immerses me in a meaningless fog. Instead of contribution to community, gaming demands infinite time, energy, and resources.
Today, the choice is simple. I just don’t game at all. It’s not the conclusion everyone will or should reach.
But it’s the right path for me.
How does my journey with gaming compare with yours? If you’ve ever felt the pull of gaming, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.