Video Games (Life-Flavored Ramen Noodle Soup)

Most of us know first-hand at least a little bit about technology's ability to capture our our attention and hold it for long periods of time.

These days unless you are, (a.) a hermit, or (b.) a savage dwelling deep in the Amazon jungle, the odds are very high in favor of the likelihood that you are subjected daily to the addictive pull of technology. We all have at least one, if not all of the following: Computers, cellphones, cars, ipods, television, etc.

... and these things are fully integrated into our social interaction, creative sides, productivity, entertainment, and countless other aspects of our lives.

We hear about it in the news, we see and experience it in our lives and the lives of people around us; yet it's a sort of "elephant in the room" that nobody really talks about or wants to think about seriously. Video games are the most obvious examples of this phenomenon.

There are quite a few studies out there about the addictive power of video games. There are reports in circulation about Game developers actually incorporating both physiological and psychological elements into their products that can build an addiction to video games on par with such illegal drugs as heroin. Whether utilizing visual effects that trigger chemical responses in the brain, or incorporating game-play that appeals to both a broad range and also specific personality types, there can be no doubt that it is a kind of epidemic.

However, if you are a "Frequent Flyer," a platinum credit-card holder, or subscribe to any sort of incentive/rewards program that offers earning graduating status, achievements, or any other type of gratification above the actual purchase and basic use of a product, you too have been "snookered" into playing a game - whether you realize it or not.

But opening that box of lovelies would probably could suck the hours of my life like a mana-draining spell. And with that reference I have of course exposed myself as the closeted gamer... dang it.

The painful truth I want to talk about is that throughout my life I have, and probably will continue to intermittently play a given video game to the point of obsession, then dropped both that particular game and video-gaming in general for a season for no apparent reason. First-person shooters, MMPORGs, action-adventure or strategy games, etc... all these and others have sporadically captured my attention and mental focus throughout my life, whether it was the early years with Math Blaster on my dad's Apple II, or more recently the massively popular and notoriously addictive World of Warcraft. But no game has ever really captured my interest for very long. I've often wondered why these games have such long-term and devoted players that never seem to lose interest.

***At this point I lost interest in finishing the post and left it dormant for a month. Tonight I picked it up again and try to finish the thought:

I fully intended to devote this whole post to developing a detailed psychological comparison of the mind of an addicted gamer and why games have never held my attention for long. I took a couple of tests to figure out what particular type of gamer I was and planned on using that as a reason why I've never experienced long-term addiction to video games. My results were not nearly as remarkable as I thought they'd be - mostly because like most amateur scientists do when dabbling in the methodology of creating a theory, I did research and experiments with this pre-determined result in my mind and so of course I synthesized and filtered data, I narrowed my exploration to specific studies and concepts.

So, while I learned some interesting things over the course of this project, the lengthy discourse I planned to launch myself into fell by the wayside due to lack of scientific integrity, calling to me for all of a few hours.

Now, months later, I revisit this still smoldering wreckage of scientific incompetence, I stumble upon the reason why I never have been a long-term addicted gamer. I guess it's nothing against gaming in particular, it's just because I have only rarely spent more than a month devoted to anything.

In fact, the healthier my interaction with other members of the human race becomes, the less I worry about finishing my EP album, or sticking with a single blog, or art and photography, or working on my novel (which I've scrapped and restarted four times), or staying up-to-date on a particular topic of interest. I think that most obsessions grow in the space where real interest and interaction with people and our world should reside.

Experiencing emotional fulfillment can make writing songs about heartbreak seem inconsequential and self-flagellistic.

Learning to more fully experience the multi-faceted beauty of our world makes compiling simple snapshots of it seem confining and meaningless.

Feeling completely unsure of one's own path through life, and being satisfied with that feeling makes trying to finish a story seem like an exercise in ignorance.

But every healthy aspect of your life, both good and bad can be completely negated by either masochism and/or escapism in the form of artistic pursuit, some sort achievement/entertainment-driven gratification, or some other self-destructive agenda.

Whether you don't know that there is more to life, or even you do and choose to sacrifice living fully for something that you consider more important, you will not experience any measure of contentment - only a placating placebo to the vital urges, desires, and questions that make our human experiences so wonderful.

Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy had a notoriously unhappy family life due primarily to his unrealistic expectations. But rather than adjust his expectations and move forward, he persisted in the fantasy that family life could be romanticized. This was masochism and escapism at it finest, and it produced the 1400+ page novel, "Anna Karenina" which I have read and re-read multiple times, and enjoy it more every time I do. But as many truths and revelations as I continue to find there, to say that I know about life after reading it is like saying that I know what oriental food is after eating this:

It did taste really good though...


  1. I too have heard reports on this. people comparing video games to crack and accusing programmers of consciously manipulating minds into becoming addicted. However, I think you make an excellent point in noting that it's no different from frequent flyer programs, credit cards, rewards cards, etc. At least video games improve eye-hand coordination. :) What does a maxed credit card improve?

  2. You're right. Certain types of video games can actually stimulate our brains in unique ways and in parts that might otherwise lie dormant. Just like credit cards, which can help build credit, both can be considered a good thing when used in moderation, and not to substitute for real life or an income.

    But as a philosopher, I think I would have a good deal of difficulty defending video games - or any other activity that involves being manipulated in that way. Even many brilliant works of fiction, music, and art, as well many other immersive pleasures are in fact highly manipulative. Books and music especially have a tendency to play with emotions, opinions and state of mind, etc. The important thing is to build a solid baseline of life experiences so that it's easy to recognize when something or someone is trying to twist you into thinking or feeling or acting in a certain way.

    It's important to "know thyself" and "thy" weaknesses so as to keep from falling prey to such influences. I should think that there is quite enough to concern ourselves with in the world we live in without being victimized by our own imaginations.

    That being said, it is nice to unhook once in a while and read book that completely captures your attention, or listen to an album of emotive music that brings certain emotions to light. I think it's healthy to exercise your imagination and to churn still waters every now and again, just so you don't forget what lies beneath.

    There's also times when it's not so terrible to zombify "thyself" with a nice, violent, reflex-enhancing, shoot'em up, beat'em down, take no prisoners video game. Or perhaps Wii Golf if your tastes run that way. :-D