28 Nov 2018 | Sujay
Video games were the ultimate source of my entertainment. Not anymore!
I’ve always had this unusual attraction towards computers. I’ve loved spending time in front of my PC ever since I had one since the age of 10. One major reason has been computer games. Starting from the era of Super Mario, NFS and Quake to the era of COD, Fortnite and PUBG I have played quite a lot of games.
Over the past 14 years, I have spent a significant amount of time gaming. I have a history of prioritizing games over other important tasks. I was definitely a video game addict
A question, a realization and a belief.
Let us consider a stat. If I spend 2 hours a day gaming, I spend over 700 hours gaming annually. This is equivalent to a month’s time!!! That’s a lot of time spent over gaming. Looking back, I ask myself, ‘What did I gain?’
This question hit me hard; What is it that I gained out of all those hours that I put in over the last decade of my life? What did I learn? How is all that time spent on games helping me now? What is the return on investment from all that gaming?
The answer? Well, I don’t really have an answer to justify or reason out why I spent so much time gaming. Apart from the dopamine rush that I got every day, what else did I get out of it? Fun and leisure are fine, but there are other ways to have fun that can contribute and have a good return on investment on my time spent. But games? No, Not worth the time.
Games are not healthy in the long run. Addiction to video games is recognized as a mental health disorder by the World Health Organization. When I was pondering on the thought if I am a gaming addict, it was disturbing.
Yes, games are fun and a good stress reliever, but my realization is that games are engineered to keep us engaged. Games are designed to tamper with our brain’s reward system which involves the release of dopamine − a chemical that is associated with success and is responsible for human motivation. Good games are designed in a way that keeps us engaged for a longer duration, demanding us to deal with incrementally challenging tasks. As we finish each of these challenges, the brain’s reward system gives us a dopamine shot giving us a sense of success and a motivation to take up the next challenge. This keeps us engaged with the game; we feel like we are the superheroes in that world (Who doesn’t like to be one?). But deep inside, it is just a psychological hack feeding instant gratification monkeys inside our brains.
Games kept me engaged to an extent that I didn’t even bother if the house I am sitting in is on fire. When I was highly focused on playing a game, I ignored everything around me. Sometimes even ignored the important people around me. In retrospect, that doesn’t look good and that is not something I am proud of.
“I might have won a lot of Chicken Dinners in the game, but in reality, I felt like I am one of those losers.”
A friend of mine made me realize this and that was the nudge I got to lose this addiction. That nudge was very important and that was the inception of the process.
The belief is that I can be a better person and I believed if I invested my time in the right activities over a period of time, I can improve other aspects of my life.
Well, this has been my attempt since the last 3 months. And I think I am over it. I don’t really feel like I should be spending my time after work playing a video game. All I did was organize my day and stick to the plan. And that plan didn’t have time allotted to video games. This was all quite difficult in the beginning, but then it took only a while for me to get comfortable with the new ways. I started incorporating new habits in my day including reading, writing and exercise. I started socializing and going out more often than earlier. This has been working out well for me since the last few months, when I finally said goodbye to PUBG, the last game I played.
As a professional working on real-time rendering technologies, I have to check out games to understand the intricacies of the newly games. I will play games occasionally. But this time, not for fun. The way I see a game now would be through the lens of a computer graphics professional and not from the eye of a guy who played games for fun.
Losing a gaming addiction was an experiment on myself. It worked out for me and I definitely see my time being utilized effectively on the things that matter. I have a lot of time for other aspects of my life, and I have definitely made a lot of progress on my side projects. I am happy about this, and I don’t see me going back to gaming anytime soon.