During a bout of insomnia instigated by the late-night shenanigans of a certain wee man and after the now almost obligatory computer/console gaming that occurs late at night, I actually experienced what one of my readers referred to as an ‘existential style hangover.’ To skip the lengthy exposition and put it simply, why should I pretend to perfect skills, craft beautiful items, overcome great challenges and build a beautiful little world in a game when I could do all that for real in my own life?
I go back and forth, though. Pretending is such an important part of growing and developing that I balk at just cutting gaming out of my life, and then there is the traditional aspect of it. Gaming, practicing with weaponry and poetry were long considered the passion of the Gaelic aristocracy. Of course one could pick out a stark difference between
fidchell and Halo, but I would argue (perhaps in a post down the way) that many of the same skills apply. Before my bout of insomnia and subsequent three-hour gaming spree, I felt that the video games offered a chance to sidestep the otherwise incessant pressure to be always locked onto your own state of being.
Now I am wondering if it’s a distraction. I have been an avid gamer since I was eight years old — the year when my brother first got a copy of Dungeons & Dragons. Even then I had my doubts, and not because my best friend insisted that it was ‘Satan’s favourite game.’ My doubts arose from the simple fact that everything in the game is translated into numerical relationships. In graduate school we would laugh about how we were ‘level three academics’ and the feats we were planning on choosing once we levelled, but at nine years I was disquieted that I was beginning to think of the world in terms of levels, stats and races.
Now I think of the hours that I have spent not so much pretending but crunching numbers and ‘housekeeping’ in games, and I think of what I could have accomplished if I’d applied that same kind of thinking to real skills. Facebook games like Frontierville are the best/worse for this as you are constantly housekeeping — a term that a friend and I coined for games that require arranging elements of the game for the best possible outcome, whether spell or item stacking, buying and selling goods or upgrading various things.
Ultimately though, I think I won’t be giving up gaming anytime soon. There are definite benefits to it, but I think that too much gaming actually winds up chaining one to certain ways of thinking. Ironically, I would argue that the dangers of gaming are not that it makes your perspective too fantastic and unrealistic, certainly not that it leads to Satan worship <chuckle>, but that it makes one’s thoughts too regular, too normalized and constrained to mathematical thinking. Its great benefit derives precisely from the flights of fancy that it cultivates.
The trick is to take the initial excitement — the love of adventure that gaming excites and needs in fact — and use that to launch you into action in other areas. Gaming ‘addiction’ arises when one returns time and again to the game in order to get that feeling of accomplishment and beauty that is our right as living souls. It is, in my opinion, a kind of self-victimization since to see the game as offering an ‘escape’ requires first the abandonment of one’s own ability to shape reality according to our ideals of beauty and, for lack of a better term gentilesse.