Confessions of a Video Game Addict
Posted by Ben Erlichman on October 14, 2010
What I’ve Learned
After having logged an estimated full year’s-worth of playing video games, time I could have spent developing my writing career, I’ve finally discovered what might serve as motivation for me to play fewer video games: my own laziness.
I hate working. I hate being responsible for making money, for putting in long hours at jobs I hate in order to pay the bills (though I’m actually enjoying working for my dad so far). I’d much rather play video games than work, but since that’s not an option, I work, then play video games when I get home.
I realized today that the only real way to break that cycle is to sell a novel, then to sell a few more after that. Once I’ve got at least three books published, I should be able to make my living off of writing and perhaps extra-writing activities (like speaking publicly, etc.). My goal is to be self-sufficient in my writing by the time I’m 30, which is about 5 years from now.
Video games hinder that goal. They keep me enslaved to two different things: more video games and my day job. The more video games I play, the less time I have to work on my novels, which means they take longer to finish. That means it takes longer to get them published, and, well, you get the idea. My video game addiction is literally keeping me from succeeding as an author, or at the very least, slowing it down considerably.
So if I’m really serious about my writing (and about not working), something’s gotta give. Soon.
And really, what do I have to lose?
Long, dark periods of isolation. Feeling like my life lacks purpose. Quick, easy entertainment.
That last one is just so darned strong, though, so hard to avoid.
I think that this series has helped me realize a few key things about video games and video game addictions. Video games aren’t bad, but devoting too much of your life to them can have detrimental side-effects. They can quickly seize a place that a friend of mine referred to as “the throne in your heart,” meaning they control you to some degree.
Parents, here’s my advice to you: don’t keep your kids from playing video games. It won’t work. They WILL go behind your back and play, either at home while you’re gone or at a friend’s house. Instead, provide them with so many other fun alternatives that it’s hard for them to want to play video games.
Here’s an example of a good compromise, one that works especially well with boys and young men (who are the main group of video gamers): over the summer, the guys in my youth group and their friends have gathered at our church on a Friday or a Saturday night at least once a month for what we call a “Night of Manly Mayhem.” It’s an event specifically designed for guys who want to do two key things: 1. play video games; and 2. beat each other up with foam swords.
In recent events, I’ve noticed that by and large, our attendees would rather swordfight outside and run around playing capture the flag (with the swords) than sit inside and play video games, which serve as a break when our bodies are worn out from the sword-fighting.
Parents, perhaps this is a good thing to explore with your gamers? Enable them to do things outside or that are active that seem like they’re video games in real life. Kid plays Madden on his Xbox? Have Kid learn to play football for real, even if it isn’t on a real team. Kid loves action/adventure games? Help Kid make some swords for him and his friends to play with. Shoot, they can even make armor out of cardboard so it’s safer, or Kid can just wear his football pads instead, if he does both.
My last message is to the gamers themselves, people just like me who need video games in their lives: you do need them, but you don’t need them as much as you think you do. What do you love about life? What really gets you going? What’s your favorite thing to do? If “playing video games” is your answer, that’s not sad or unfortunate, it just means you haven’t found anything else that compares.
It also probably means you haven’t looked very hard. My encouragement to you is to either get serious about your gaming and go pro (and one local tournament should give you an idea of how you stack up against others), or figure out what else you love to do and find a way to make money at that. That’s what I’m trying to do with my writing, and I know someday it will work out so that I can write full-time and still play video games too.
In the end, it’s your decision. Are you going to take one year out of every fifteen you live and spend it on video games like I did? Or will you use it for something else? I want to encourage you to keep looking for that “something else.” When you find it, you might just realize what you’ve been missing all along, just like I did.
*Feel free to check out the first three parts of this series on my personal blog, In the Fray.
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