The theory is simple — “humans advance when they don’t play video games”.
The gaming community reading this can now shut-down their phones and computers, and reinstall browsers to clean up the message(just in case). All others who feel the pressing need to monitor and moderate society can feel the blissful aura of knowing right thing all this time.
Is it that simple? The history leading up to the conclusion, alas, is murky. This post is a personal rant rather than anything else. Read at your own risk.
You see I was a game buff even when it was not quite fashionable to say you were one. I played Need for Speed 3 demo on my old Pentium that my mother bought to see her son achieve greatness. I decided that greatness comes later, what will come first was the adrenaline.
I played the demo about two hundred times, totalling 600 minutes. That should have told me something, but I was not listening.
I did go on to other games, but then, I stopped. I stopped for no reason, as I was passing through an exciting learning phase at work. The sidetrack on gaming and the change should have told me something but again, “there was no active listener on the other side”.
When I got bored, I started looking beyond work. I was trying to create ideas, following them through, created websites & blogs. Amidst all that I also happened to come across the MMO world.
Lord of Ultima happened.
The Interim State
I was obsessed with Lord of Ultima. What started as a weekend entertainment, grew into evenings “invested” in creating my kingdom, helping my tribe, and doing stuff that made continents kneel before me. I ended up spending hard-earned money – maybe $20 in my quest to achieve greatness.
Hundreds of hours again should have screamed something at me – but I was barely looking. In many ways, LoU was the beginning of an era. The era of long gaming sessions was just beginning,
Moving on to a powerful graphics card in Y2015 was the cornerstone. The graphics card along with Steam put me on the fast track to gaming greatness. I was more than 35 years, having a loving family, quite a few things to do – and there I was going nuts about Half Life, Assassins’ Creed, and then, Skyrim V: The Elder Scrolls.
Fast forward to 2018, and The Division happened. What started as a Steam weekend free play became my newest obsession.
This game was crazy. I was putting in crazy hours in the night and weekends to get ahead of the game, getting killed in PvP one too many times, gaining friends across the globe, and keeping track of global events, and changes to weapons and armour with the numerous patches.
The era of social gaming put me in touch with hundreds and thousands of people like me. An entire community focused on a million things that may not even make sense to a non-gamer.
I sunk in a lot of hours to achieve proficiency in the games and getting entertained. I devoured content on YouTube, followed the masters, and also tried to help others on some forums. I was not even sure I was thinking anything beyond important stuff like building super characters, increasing my efficiency, and to latch on to a system to find a purpose.
Looking back I am still surprised at how I found time for the games since it was quite common for me to stay back in the office pretty late, have late-night meetings, and spend weekends at work. My alternate life in gaming just seemed far too exciting as compared to work. It was not the game – it was I who was crazy.
300 hours in ‘The Division’ and still going strong – there is and always will be something new to encounter in the game. I began to see where it began and what it was leading to.
Gaming can encroach a few minutes or hours at a time, and quickly stack up to days and weeks. All the free time that you could spend with your family, working out, program the world, or simply meditate, will get sucked up.
The Division will just a conduit. There will be new stuff, and there will also be other games – The Division II, Tomb Raider, and tens of other excellent games.
I never considered myself “addicted” (if such a thing exists). There were weeks and months that I did not play even for a single day. But once I start, it took a long time to end. The quest to find “exciting things to do” was never really over completely in the gaming world.
All I had to do was to start the game, and I was naturally transported to the White Zone, Dark Zone and everything in between. There are no prizes to guess what my monkey mind would do given an option between that and alternatives in real life.
Realization slowly dawned on me. I certainly got entertained, wondered at all the technological wizardry and loved the alternate life gaming offered. What I did not have, however, was any semblance of an impact on my life in the real world (todo for later: define reality).
The 2000 hours in the past 5-7 years could have been spent to-
- learn WordPress in and out, develop themes and start a new consulting business
- learn and follow through Go-lang as it developed
- follow through on my technology love in Salesforce
I had a choice- I could continue with gaming and reset my defined path. That should be doing something more than just playing 2-12 hours a week by myself. Or, reset life to the path defined earlier.
I was ok, but not a terrific gamer. I could certainly work towards making stuff work, but I was not quite attracted to a life revolving around gaming as a career option. It took me two weeks to realise that my current path was not aligned to set objectives for my life.
I wanted life to have more of:
- code & develop stuff of wonders
- travel the world
- go deep on achieving bliss
It was easier to do the above if I spent less time on gaming. But “spending less time” was a virtual impossibility because of the nature of gaming. The change was surprisingly easy once the realization happened.
I reset my life. I went cold turkey on games.
I also promised myself that I will delete all accounts, burn the hard disk, and bury the ashes in the Indian Ocean if I ever opened Steam, Origin, or visited any of the game deal sites (Goodbye, Isthereanydeal– thanks for all the fish).
Am I a far better person because of my decision to quit games?
Yes. (in my perception of reality)
That realization in itself is worth the effort. Everyone has their “idea” about themselves, and I am all for the idea to adapt and change. However, at any time, you should also have a sense of clear purpose. My sense of purpose in the world outside of games made more sense to me.
I have the following tasks for you that could help you decide either to go deeper in whichever areas you choose.
- Write down on a blackboard about how you see yourself in five years.
Be a doctor, data scientist, hunter, painter, gamer? Enjoy doing sculpting, watching grass grow, develop content & games that people love?
Place the blackboard in a visible spot. We don’t want to bury this in an app and uninstall the app.
- Write down three tasks that you would do today, and this week to get to your goals
- Measure the time that you spend on activities in the week, and keep that going for 3 more weeks
- Every weekend, get together your family or trusted friends. Discuss the ideas on the blackboard, what you accomplished in the week, and how you spent time in the week.
No guilt or negative discussions allowed – it has to be an objective discussion about past and a passionate discussion on the future
Now, either reset your purpose (OR) your way of living. As simple as that.
.. takeaway for gamers.
There is nothing wrong with gaming. In fact, you are in the best century in the history of mankind for any sort of entertainment.
eSports is big and will be bigger. Even if you are not **that** good, you will make a lot of money by simply staying humble, thoroughly likeable, and having entertaining conversations in your streams and videos (I am looking at you, Radbrad :), or developing guides, testing games, and writing reviews.
.. for others.
Understand that it was simply not enough to stop doing what you did. Find good substitutes to fill the time. It is quite easy to gravitate towards other areas that can equally engage the monkey mind. For e.g. finding better music on SoundCloud, read all Kindle books that any author releases for free, or go through all free courses released on Udemy. (yep, I was there)
Find a better day planner that includes objectives rather than just tasks (e.g. ‘DO THIS, MORON’). In about two months, I noted down three high-level life goals, did a significant career change. And, had my Asana setup for the distinct, daily activities.
Finally, while I would love to say that I don’t regret the past altogether, things could have been better. What I would never stop talking about is where I want to be. That is the most important take away from this rant.
All it takes is some discipline in the first few weeks and constant reassessment – you are set on the path to greatness.