After playing video games for so long, and them acting almost as a quasi-parental model, I couldn’t help but notice some glaring contradictions in the lives of gamers. This piece is for people who play video games to excess. It doesn’t give me pleasure to do this, but being a psychology major with the intent of helping others who suffer, let’s dive in.
“You don’t look like your photo.”
It may be the most visual evidence of hypocrisy in the gaming community: the hero you play looks nothing like you, and many times bears a sharp contract to you physically. This is not to be so cruel as to say that typical heroes are beautiful and typical players ugly; the anorexic and meathead standard of beauty in gaming resembles the Hollywood scene. Rather, it’s to note that the more time you spend sitting, the less you look like the heroes you play as. Y’know, the heroes that are constantly walking, running, jumping, climbing, fighting, and lifting things.
Video games are a weird meta activity in that rather than exploring and fighting (don’t do this) and tackling challenges and fighting for a cause, you’re playing as a character that is doing those things. Rather than learning of the horror of violence and of responsible gun use by reading history and going to the gun range, you are shooting avatars online. Mind you, I’m not claiming that all gamers only play video games and never do physical things or venture out and explore. But if we’re going to be honest, we have to agree on some basic terms, and one of those basic terms is that too many people game too much and live too little.
This is perhaps most humorously portrayed in an episode of South Park where the boys become World of Warcraft addicts and their lives fall apart.
I have talked to too many people who see themselves as white knights, incapable of treating sexual interests poorly because it isn’t the chivalrous thing to do! -lifts monocle- Because of this, they remain virgins well into their twenties (or later), not realizing that what they see as disrespect is oftentimes a complex mating ritual.
We’ll need to unpack this a bit. There is a community of people who call themselves pick-up artists. People in this community go out and practice tactics for picking up women. At best, it can get men to break out of their social awkwardness, and at worst, it’s dangerous, teaching men to go out and hunt for women, to treat them means to an end.
However, all of this time spent in clubs and bars and on the streets talking to women is sometimes referred to as field work, and some decent ideas have been tested almost like a sociological study. I believe Mark Manson covers the best aspects of some of these ideas and dismisses much of the garbage.
Manson’s first lesson: Neediness is unattractive to women. Rather than faking non-neediness, create a life in which you are not needy. All people are needy occasionally, and that’s fine, but as a man you need to keep it in check more than women do. Men will put with more neediness from a women, perhaps because of evolutionary differences.
People who spend the majority of their time playing video games will miss out on important social lessons. From an outsiders perspective, sometimes a man may look like he’s disrespecting a woman. Want to know how you can tell? Is the girl laughing? Does she look like she’s having a good time? Then leave it be.
You can treat women like glass dolls or you can treat them like Amazons or something in-between. Women, most of the time, do not need you to save them. If a women feels disrespected, she will typically know how to end that conversation. Now, obviously, if a man is being physically aggressive with a woman, or abusing her, or not letting her leave, and she’s obviously in distress, step in. But in order to pick up on these sometimes subtle social cues, you need to leave your house and talk to people.
This is what white knighting is. It’s jumping in the middle of a conversation at the bar because the guy grabbed the girl and pulled her close or said something that seemed offensive. You can tell you’ve fucked up when the girl looks confused or turned off. If you cannot let women be grown adults and sexual creatures with appetites much like your own, you will probably not have sex.
The same goes for being nice to a sexual interest all the time, and this is important. There is a difference between being disrespectful and having self-respect. If a sexual interest disrespects you and you let them know it’s not okay, that is non-neediness, and that is attractive. This may mean cutting off contact with someone you’re attracted to because they are not willing to afford you basic respect. If you cannot do this, you will probably not have sex.
I talked to a twenty four year old man recently who said that he would not disrespect a woman to get sex and would rather die a virgin. This person does not understand the aforementioned lessons and will have a hard time in the sexual marketplace. If you are truly asexual, or choose to be celibate for religious or other reasons, this does not apply to you. But! This often takes a lot of self exploration and integrity to know if you are truly asexual in any of these ways. To lie to yourself and believe you are because you cannot handle the pain of being unable to attract a mate is cowardice.
Identity, or, “I choose to do this.”
This post may become harder to read the further we go, and this one will test how honest you are with yourself. I’ve met many gamers who were melancholics, artistically-minded, introverts, people who felt they lived in a world bereft of imagination or that it had left them behind or that they were born in the wrong age. And I can relate to some extent. I have always been rather melancholy and introspective. It would be no big claim to say that our representatives have failed us, and that oftentimes the world from our view can be a disappointing place.
The first solution is to shrink from the world and to escape to a fantasy world where one can act out another life, free from the judgments of the external world. Another is to operate within this world and to bear the disappointment while trying to affect change.
The Stoics thought it was important to imagine yourself on your deathbed. There is a Bhutanese folk saying that to be a truly happy person, you should contemplate death five times daily. So, try it. You’re on your deathbed. Looking back, did you accomplish everything you wanted to? Half of it? Are you what you truly want to be? Is your identity that of a gamer? Or did you have some other dream, some vision for what you wanted to be that got lost somewhere along the way? Take a breath. Now, make a small change today. Maybe play for ten less minutes. Maybe pick up a book. Tomorrow, reflect again.
I have written before that if you loved soccer, you probably still wouldn’t play for two days straight without sleep or adequate breaks. Should it be any different for video games? Are you truly choosing to play for this long?
One more exercise. Put the controller down the next time you’re playing. If you meditate you can probably do this with some ease, but if not it may be more difficult. Sit still and think about how you feel. Is there a tugging sensation? Do you feel a slight pull to get back to the game? I ask you again: are you truly choosing to play, or is it compulsive?
The Game World Is Better than the Real World
Video game worlds can be all-encompassing. They’ve got everything you think you need within easy reach. You can quickly get a group of real people together and go tackle a dungeon, or jump into a match and shoot at some terrorists. You can ride your horse over to the tavern and play some poker. If you’re good enough you can get quite a bit of cash. You can head over to the amusement park and race big yellow birds, or participate in coliseum fighting.
There’s no shortage to what you can do in games, but there is a major, major difference: these are all experienced in a 2D world. There is no physical sensation or embodied experience when you climb up a cliff side and explore a cave. You don’t feel the slick paper and aged creases of the cards as you deal them out. You don’t feel the light crunch of snow under your boots as you jog up to a vantage point, or the slight push against your shoulder as you pull the trigger of your M4 and take a pop shot. And no, haptic feedback in your controller doesn’t count.
After a while, this lack of experience and sensation starts to make you feel numb. Then the depression sets in. Before you experience it again, get outside. Go for a light jog around the neighborhood and get your blood going. Maybe play cards with friends, see how it compares. Maybe go to the gun range. Are these things further out of reach compared to their inferior game counterparts? Sure, but the effort is worth it.
There are more
There are plenty more examples. Know of anything that should be here? Let me know.
I recommend checking out Game Quitters. We’re not affiliated with them but the website helped me reduce my game time.