Friday, May 11, 2012

The Scourge Of The Gaming Classes

Maybe there is something wrong with me? Lord knows I found it difficult to fit in at school. But me and computer / videos games have always suffered a rather ambivalent relationship.

Not even “love/hate”. Its more “occasional like/hate”.

I hate the way they suck you in. The addictive quality to them. The way they impose on you fake, spiritually unfulfilling goals and aspirations. The way they give you a false sense of achievement when all you have done is sit on your arse for hours on end while real life and real opportunity has passed you by.

Most of all I hate the fact that what they truly steal from you is not your energy, or your intellect but your time. Your precious here-for-one-time-only time. Little slices of your life stripped away and tossed down the drain. If Poe were alive now it wouldn’t be sleep he’d be railing against. It would be the high tech soporific of the computer game.

I’ve had friends whose every waking thought, whose every financial expenditure and decision was influenced by the addict’s need to keep up with the latest computer games. Books and magazines were read for clues and cheats and “Easter eggs”. Online resources were tapped into with the dedication of an anti-government insurgent. Entire evenings and weekends were given over – not to interacting with friends or family; not to furthering the requirements of intellect or spirit; not to forwarding long-held dreams or life goals – but to trying to get their elf avatar to level up to High Elf Chieftain or slay a warrior class Orc.

And then they’d return to work on Monday bemoaning their lot in life and wondering why things – why their life in particular – never changed. Why they never seemed to actually do anything like other people seemed to.

And then they’d shrug their shoulders and spend the next few hours boring me with tales of how they’d escaped from some digital dungeon, slew a virtual dragon and earned so many electronic groats they were practically millionaires.

Gah!

Not that I’m completely without sympathy or understanding. I’ve been there; I’ve been sucked in. I’ve tasted the bittersweet sugar of game addiction. In my early thirties I got sucked into The Sims for a few months. I can recall the annoyance of having to obey the dictats of real life – go to work, see friends, eat meals – when all I wanted to do was play the game. All the time. It was like I was bewitched. Possessed.

But I cottoned on pretty quickly that the game had merely created a desire in me that was made of vapour and atoms so intangible Professor Brian Cox would cream his pants if ever he saw one.

Each time I gave up time to the game I was stabbing my dreams and ambitions in the back. Actually, worse than that. I was neglecting them; starving them. Letting them die through abandonment.

So I went cold turkey. I stopped playing.

More importantly I threw myself back into real life.

I took myself back to University. I started writing seriously again. I allowed real life ambitions to take me over.

I’ve never regretted it. I let my Sims friends die and found I did not mourn them.

And now, if I play any games at all, they tend to be cathartic shoot ‘em ups that can entertain me for no more than 20 minutes at a time before I get bored and switch them off. An instant hit. No commitment necessary.

I hurl any need for escapism into my writing.

But the hatred of full-on gaming stays with me. Which, in a family full of enthusiastic gamers, must make me a difficult beast to live with. I have no sympathy or truck with “but I just need to do this and then I promise I’ll finish...” or “I won’t be able to concentrate on anything else unless I get to this level...”

Responses like that make me want to smash the game consoles up; makes me want to shoot them chock full of holes with a plasma rifle or a photon cannon.

Now.

If they invented a game that allowed me to do that... then I would quite happily become addicted.


Share

28 comments:

John C said...

Hi, my name is John and I'm currently addicted to Borderlands. I hasten to add that this is not at the expense of interaction with my wife - she bought me the damn game for Christmas and she's got hold of the other controller.

Games do suck up so much time. We fire up the console, think "we'll just play for half an hour, there's nothing decent on TV" and before you know it it's gone midnight, you've spent the last few hours slaughtering everything in the cross-hairs and have precious little to show for it.

However... It is something we do together. If I knuckled down to some serious writing, or she hit the journals/text books for some CPD, we'd be excluding the other one, sitting in our little bubbles of silence. And it's a good stress-release, picturing the faces of the muppets whose trivial questions I've answered through simple Google searches on the psychos and zombies being blown away.

I don't game a lot, Borderlands is the only one I've got on the go at the moment.

Keith said...

My sentiments exactly.

I once sat with a dedicated gamer who was showing me round a site he was on. I think it was a space station or something. "You can interact with anything on the screen", he told me, "it's all virtual".

I pointed out that a potted plant in the corner of said space station looked like it needed a water and could he open a cupboard, get out a watering can and give it a good soaking. 'of course not", he scowled and told me I had 'no imagination"

Need I say more ?

Kelloggs Ville said...

Maybe the people that enjoy filling their spare time with gaming look at writers the same way. It's just a hobby. They don't always have purpose. Like trainspotting, fishing etc. I've done hours across the course of my life gaming. Including the Friday night to Sunday night marathons with friends. I enjoyed it. I've also filled a lot of my sick leave recently playing games. It's mindless, a way to rest. like reading fiction. Addicted? maybe. But only the same as putting a book down.

Steve said...

Jon: thanks for dropping by. It sounds to me like you have things well under control and in perspective. Sadly not everyone is as balanced about it as you are. I’d also like to point out that my wife and I do lots of things together... I haven’t merely swapped one selfish addiction for another and now spend 8 hours a day locked away on my own writing my soul out to the exclusion of all else! For one thing I am far too lazy...!

Keith: he could interact with anything on the screen? Did he not see that he could interact more fully and more satisfyingly with everything outside of the screen? Plus, conceiving of a potted plant inside a virtual world is the height of imagination in my book!

Kelloggsville: thank you for reminding me that there are worse things than gaming. Trainspotting and fishing both. And football. God, I hate football. ;-)

Rol said...

Of course, I didn't need to read beyond the opening sentence.

(I gave up on computer games some time ago because they took up too much time I could be doing other stuff in.)

Steve said...

Rol: well said in a nutshell.

Gorilla Bananas said...

You've got a pretty high opinion of yourself if you think you could make Professor Brian Cox cream his pants. Maybe if he saw you burn up on re-entry he might sigh a little.

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: wish I could think of a worthy comeback to that but I can't. That one was unbeatable.

Yankie Doodle said...

Pen n paper's nice; digital versions add spice.

Fire away!

http://www.escapemotions.com/experiments/flame/#top

please doodle responsibly, on your own stuff and so on, or else. Cheers

About Last Weekend said...

Congrats on being a BIb finalist first off. I am so useless with any technology that I wouldn't even know where to start with a video game

Wanderlust said...

My ex was into all this. He used to try to get me interested, even bought me a game marketed to women. I could not be less interested. I'm missing the gaming gene.

Steve said...

Yankie Doodle: that's just dandy.

About Last Weekend: knowing where the off switch is, is enough for me.

Steve said...

Wanderlust: I think I'm just missing the X-Box chromosome...

Hannah Denski said...

Aaaaw, you bring back the memories of a Sim City... and that one called Ancient city or something like that... same here had to abandon the virtuality for reality... it was a simple necessity to live.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Well I know I have an addictive personality... so my gaming forays are limited to: trying out Pacman before it had been released in NZ, with a joystick screwed to a wooden board at the importer's house and playing Tetris while breast-feeding my eldest for the first three months of her life. But I have to say that being around kids, who end up working for Peter Jackson, and a school environment that pushes digital possibilities incorporating Earthquake inspired technology, has made me want to explore the actual making of games with gorgeous graphics and geo-cache-ing etc..
A bit ironical really cos - setting up geo-caches is the real living side of things! By the way I limit my addictions to tea.

Steve said...

Hannah: I could never quite get into SimCity... but The Sims, now that really did appeal to my God
complex...!

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: wow. You sound like an expert! I thought a Geo-cache was a bag for your Maths equipment...! ;-)

libby said...

Two sides to every coin I guess....the gamer and the non gamer each have a point of view. As for me I don't 'game' at all and don't see the attraction. My mister was kind enough to buy me an ipad last week.....and then told me 'I've downloaded these free game apps for you'....30 years of marriage and does he know me at all? Oh wait....it's HIM playing on it at the moment..mmmm.

Steve said...

Libby: that's a typical male ploy, that is - buy the wife a gift that you secretly want yourself. It also explains the Pirelli calendar I bought Karen last Christmas.

Hannah Denski said...

Oh, if you play Sim City just for a while you will actually sympathise with politics (to certain extend) - it's not easy to please BIG crowd! (Nodding to herself)

Steve said...

Hannah: I think what's what I couldn't get into whereas the day to day personal politics and intimacy of The Sims really appealed.

Katriina said...

During law school I couldn't stop playing Solitaire on my PC. Somehow its mindlessness helped me get through mental fatigue and mental blocks. Ever since, though, I've consciously avoided all games. I haven't even played Angry Birds. Not even once. I just know I would be irresistibly drawn to it...

John Gray said...

I can be obsessional on things
the walking dead, an occasional white wine,blogging....
but I have Never really been attracted to games and gaming!
I wonder just why that is?

Steve said...

Katriina: I can't even bear to play games on my mobile phone. Angry Birds is not for me!

John: a high level of intelligence!

Owen said...

That virtual games have achieved the level of sales and popularity they have may confirm : We are living in an increasingly brainless society...

The question being... how to regain a brain ?

Steve said...

Owen: what is truly scary is that one of the most popular games is called Brain Training...!

Livi said...

*goes to hide precious games consoles*

I'm so easily addicted to games but I love it, and being useless in the real world for me it's a way to have a life without the stress of having one. (That sounds awful but it's true!)

Readily A Parent said...

I love you so very much. Not just for what you've said but for how you've fucking said it. There are so may brilliant lines in here. So, so many.
Stevie, honey, you need to be writing for National media.
I totally get it. I feel the same way, even, about TV. I can't even do hour long shows anymore, unless I watch them online, commercial free, in two shifts.
They just require too much time and brain space when there's so much more I could be doing. And I just don't care about them anymore - once you're able to remove yourself, go "cold turkey," at least it's not like other addictions where you crave it and turn to it for the rest of your life. At least not for most of us.

Steve said...

Livi: I bet you're not as useless in the real world as you make out!

Readily A Parent: thank you bigly. And yup... I'm finding I'm much more choosy about what I watch on the telly. Most of the time Karen and I now bypass the TV completely and invest time in DVD's of shows that we genuinely want to see. That way we are totally in control of how much and when.