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