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December 12, 2012 4:56 AM   Subscribe

Press X not to Die - one woman's story of self-harm and videogaming
posted by mippy (17 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am still finding myself through games at 46. Reality is often too complex, and too permanent, to allow me to test my own philosophies, beliefs and capabilities. Games are safe. They can be saved, restarted, and shut off. But the lessons remain. Who am I? What do I need, in order to be fulfilled? How do I act, in order to feel true to myself? Games let me discover these things.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:30 AM on December 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


Personally, I'm worried about the role of games in my life. I'm 32, married, employed, no children. I'm not addicted to games per se, but whenever I've got stretches of time when I'm not playing them for whatever reason, I do feel a type of longing to get back into it. I often find myself realizing that playing games is probably not the best use of my free time. For example, when a good game comes along, taking over my evenings for a while, I am conscious that I am not giving my wife the attention she deserves. She almost never complains, but I still get pangs of guilt about it.

On one hand, I consider games harmless escapism, a fun way to relax and pass the time. On the other hand, I fear their effect on my capabilities to enjoy other things in life. Games are an enormously efficient delivery mechanism of distilled pleasure. All too often when presented with a possibility to spend an evening doing something else, I compare the estimated pleasure I'd get from the alternative activity with the pleasure I'd get from playing a game, and end up choosing the game.

I see people who play less or not at all, see how many of them have actual hobbies, skills they learn or maintain, social stuff they take part in, levels of physical fitness way beyond mine, etc. My only real "hobby" besides playing games is consuming other types of media. And here's the kicker: I'm not even interested in doing much of anything else. It all seems either boring or too much work to bother with. I fear that video games have created a void in my mind that they alone are able to fill. If I'm not gaming, I don't get withdrawal symptoms, but I'll just sit around, watch movies, read RSS feeds, idle in IRC or browse imgur. I consider all of these inferior to gaming, but still I choose them instead of going out and exercising, bettering myself or trying some novel and refreshing things.

It goes further. I'm on the fence about having kids. I've noticed that the fear of not being able to play video games nearly as much as I'd like after reproducing has a disproportionately large influence on the "don't have kids" side of my inner debate. From a purely rational perspective, it's ridiculous: surely I can't give video games a similar priority as the genetic imperative? And yet, instinctively, I do.

For the author of the article, games are a form of treatment, though not a cure. For me, they may well be an ailment of sorts, a net negative in the long run, but this is hard to ascertain and I don't want to stop gaming to find out.

Now, if you'll excuse me, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is totally beckoning me.
posted by jklaiho at 7:12 AM on December 12, 2012 [17 favorites]


jklaiho: I wonder - do you also play games on your phone or other mobile device? I do, to a probably compulsive extent, and this fills gaps in time that I have that used to be spent sketching in notebooks, mulling over creative ideas (I still do this, but I have to block out time for it), planning other parts of my day.

I don't feel as burdened by my gaming as you describe, but as an interesting waypoint between your experience and the experience of the author of the linked article, I think there's a cross section between "addiction" to gaming as psychological burden and as a tool. I hope we're starting to find it, as a culture, because gaming technology and psychology has become so intrinsic to our every day experience that I don't think we'll ever (easily) be able to extricate ourselves from it. SuperBetter is an interesting example of this put to use, as are some recent game-ified tutorials in software, but I bet there's more coming on the horizon.

I was actually thinking of posting in AskMe about this at some point: are there more examples of improvement through game-ified experiences that have only recently become possible because of the rise of the video game generation(s)?
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 7:35 AM on December 12, 2012


SmileyChewTrain: I wonder - do you also play games on your phone or other mobile device?

No, I mostly catch up on tweets, RSS or Instapaper backlog on my iOS devices in addition to daily browsing. While I do have games on them and I occasionally play some of them a lot (Super Hexagon, for example), for me mobile devices are clearly more in the "other media consumption" category.

As for gamification as a means for self-improvement, I've heard good things about Memrise.
posted by jklaiho at 7:44 AM on December 12, 2012


It seems like everyday, someone posts a new article on here about some seemingly profound social influence of video gaming. Maybe this is just MeFi's selection bias, or maybe it's the media that covers gaming trying to give their medium a sense of legitimacy, or maybe video games really are special in this regard. Why don't we see daily articles on how people saved themselves through yoga or volunteering or sports or anything else? Are these not happening, or are these situations just taken as a given, not worth reporting on? Are video games special just because this sort of thing happens less often through them?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 7:45 AM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


tylerkaraszewski, my uninformed guess is that games just aren't that well understood yet, their various effects on the human psyche least of all. Any new data points about the effect of games, such as this article, perhaps appear more significant or just novel to the MeFi crowd than data points about the effect of other things. Gaming doesn't yet have that "well of course it has that effect on you" thinking behind it that yoga, volunteering or sports may have.
posted by jklaiho at 7:57 AM on December 12, 2012


The Town Square
You are standing in the middle of a pretty town square in the center of a
nondescript New England town.  Like most any other nondescript New England
towns, there's not much to see or do here, but maybe you'll find something
amusing and enjoyable to do.

A shiny metal phone booth sits in the center of the square.

> _

posted by 7segment at 7:57 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


> get ye flask

You can't get ye flask!

> _

posted by dobi at 8:01 AM on December 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Don't be silly, there's no such thing as phone booths anymore.
posted by ook at 8:09 AM on December 12, 2012


I passed three on my way to work in central London this morning. Admittedly all were covered in adverts for various prostitutional services, but they all appeared perfectly functioning.
posted by mippy at 8:17 AM on December 12, 2012


jklaiho - 30, married, employed, no kids. I sometimes feel similarly to how you describe. If I have some free time, the first thing I ask myself is if I can fit any quality gaming time in. Most games I prefer to play in hours-long stretches, so lately I've thrown myself into Binding of Isaac. I can play a game to death or completion in an hour or less in most cases, so weekday evenings usually go dinner, Isaac, time with wife, then after she goes to bed an hour or two of media consumption until I force myself to bed.

The upshot for me is that I do enjoy cooking and baking as hobbies, and I've managed to maintain social activities outside of the house as well.

Still, some of those weekday nights can end with some fairly intense feelings of guilt.

edited to fix broken bold tag
posted by owtytrof at 10:15 AM on December 12, 2012


It goes further. I'm on the fence about having kids. I've noticed that the fear of not being able to play video games nearly as much as I'd like after reproducing has a disproportionately large influence on the "don't have kids" side of my inner debate. From a purely rational perspective, it's ridiculous: surely I can't give video games a similar priority as the genetic imperative? And yet, instinctively, I do.

I can't speak for anyone else, but sharing games and gaming experiences with my son had the same effect on him that Sunday afternoon matinees had on me and my relationship with my father.

As I was playing the new Baldurs Gate, and the memories of my son sitting on my lap shouting directions (shoot a fireball! Dad, that kobold is getting away!) came rushing back, and made me sorely miss him at that age.

When he was older, we would play WoW together - and when he was at his moms it was a way we could keep in touch without her knowing and becoming upset.

Just the past weekend, we spent several hours talking about new games and stuff.

So, I think other parents have war movies, or fishing, or baseball, or cars or whatever as the thing they keep in common with their kids - my son and I have video games.

And if you enjoy it, then enjoy it. Don't feel bad. I mean, I have an uncle who spent years of his life building a model train set. I know guys who spend all their free time on their ham radios. Probably to the exclusion of some other thing. It's the balance that is the key, not so much what it is you are doing.

If you should be spending more time with your wife, then do that. But don't blame fly fishing, or working on the truck, or gardening, as the reason why you aren't doing that. That's all you, not the thing you do.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:48 AM on December 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


It goes further. I'm on the fence about having kids. I've noticed that the fear of not being able to play video games nearly as much as I'd like after reproducing has a disproportionately large influence on the "don't have kids" side of my inner debate.

This has nothing to do with games, though: whatever it is you like to do, you'll probably have to give up most of it once you have a kid to raise. That's just the way the world works. This feeling doesn't mean you have a weird relationship with video games: it just means that you, like many people, don't really feel a strong a desire to have a kid.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:37 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: covered in adverts for various prostitutional services.
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:24 PM on December 12, 2012


Time you enjoy wasting is never wasted time. Who wants to spend all night every night talking to their wife? Jesus. How does that go? "Pursuant to our conversation last night, I had further thoughts on the shelf positioning of the large casserole dish." Instead of that it's "Hey, Niko, want to go bowling?" when you're on the other side of the goddamn city.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 2:18 PM on December 12, 2012


whatever it is you like to do, you'll probably have to give up most of it once you have a kid to raise. That's just the way the world works.

QFT. Now that I'm a parent, I think of adulthood as still wanting the things you wanted when you were younger, but having to pick and choose what you can do based on much more limited time, cost and opportunity. Prior to becoming a parent, as an adult I still felt like I had more time and opportunity than I had interests, and timesuck entertainment (like video games) was a much easier pastime to indulge in.

having said that, playing wii with my kids is a blast, so I still get a little gaming here and there
posted by davejay at 2:31 PM on December 12, 2012


When he was older, we would play WoW together - and when he was at his moms it was a way we could keep in touch without her knowing and becoming upset.

Back when I was playing WoW quasi-regularly, I was in a clan, and one evening a younger member asked for a little help running though a dungeon. I was waaay over-leveled, so I answered him, told him we'd speed through it, and he could grab all the gear. As we got started, he mentioned that normally his dad (who turned out to be another clan member) was the one who'd help him with that sort of thing, but couldn't that day. I said, "Wow, he sounds like a pretty great dad," and the kid thought for a second and said, "Yeah, he really is."

I haven't worried about gaming and having kids since.
posted by Amanojaku at 3:22 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


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