My Love-Hate Relationship with Gaming


While we’re on the topic of addiction and bad habits, I figured maybe I should share something that’s a bit of a personal topic. I’ve mentioned how much gaming has gotten in the way of life for me before, but I never quite went in-depth with how I feel about it.

I’m going to be up-front about this: I’m writing this now because I’m procrastinating. I have multiple papers due the day after I’m typing this (though you’re seeing it after those papers were due) and my mind keeps going to two extremes.

On one end, I realize that I can get the papers done right now. Once they’re done, I can go play until the sun sets and comes back up if I really feel like it. I can also ask my girlfriend where she hid Breath of the Wild.

At the other end, I think to myself, “I can just play one game to get it out of my system, right?” In the past this has worked, if treated responsibly. But I know that today of all days, this is a bad idea.

Okay, I guess those aren’t extremes. The extreme would be “Screw school. I’ma go become an unpaid professional gamer. Later loserz.” So I’m floating between an extreme and moderation.

What I Love About Games

It’s hard to articulate this. The question really comes down to what kinds of games I enjoy and why, and there’s no consistent answer. I hated open-world games until Xenoblade Chronicles X and Breath of the Wild. I dislike all First-Person Shooters but Counter-Strike.

So, I’ll stick with where I’m comfortable. I enjoy stories. I like interactive games, which is why Mass Effect is one of my favorite video game series. Minecraft: Story Mode was so good it made me cry at one point.

But I also like games that challenge your reflexes and puzzle skills and allow you to grow your character through exploration. Like the Zelda series and Mega Man Legends.

If you can combine great storytelling with skill-based gameplay, you’ve got me hooked. Games like Undertale and Xenogears.

What I Hate About Games

This is easier. First, I hate the time commitment required to improve in most games, especially games where you level up based on the number of slimes you’ve killed. Just give me a game where I can use my own reflexes rather than a randomly-generated chance to dodge an attack or hit a target. This is where most RPGs fall apart for me. There are some exceptions, wherein the strategy is a large part of the gameplay: Earthbound, Xenogears, and Paper Mario for instance.

Some games take this to a whole new level where you have to understand all the algorithms and formulas used to determine your character’s stats. You’re expected to use this knowledge to your advantage to maximize your chance of success. This doesn’t sound like fun to me. This sounds like math. Pokemon is notorious for this kind of system, but largely only because of its community.

Speaking of which…

The Community

I feel like this deserves its own subheading. The gaming community is, to be fair, a mixed bag. Part of the cause of this is probably due to the wide spread of ages it appeals to. The average gamer is in their thirties, but there are new gamers from the younger generation every day. And the reason this is a problem is because you can be anyone on the Internet.

On the Internet, a twelve-year-old—so long as his grammar does not give him away—can pass himself off as a wise old man. On the other end, a man in his forties can behave like a stereotypical twelve-year-old.

Of course, this is mostly only true of online games with a social aspect to them. Games that are totally offline and/or single-player typically keep the discussions confined to fansites and subreddits.

But much like with politics, even though the community is a mixed bag, the negative gets magnified. And for those of us who’ve done a lot of soul-searching to keep our tempers under control, sometimes these situations can get downright distracting.

Last night, I decided to play a couple rounds of Heroes of the Storm—a game a lot like League of Legends, but simpler and without the 10,000-hour learning curve. During one of these matches, a player (who was on our team) started berating us, asking us if we were “new to the game or just video games in general.” He told us to read up on the map to learn its objectives.

I should note that he started into his tirade while we were winning the match.

We got called two of the three most inflammatory words in the English language before the game ended (again, in victory) and we were all thankfully forced to part ways.

I—as I tend to do—took the bait at one point. I know I should have thicker skin, and usually I do. At first I just laughed off his prodding, but after a time it became frustrating. I was non-confrontational at first, asking if he would like to offer some guidance. He had nothing to say to that. When it got to the point where I told him all I hear is a lot of whining, then it became an argument on all sides. Everyone else agreed with me, but this guy was vindicated in the end by being the match’s MVP.

It was distracting during the match and it was distracting after the match. I shut down the game ready to write my essay, but was waylaid by a two-hour Windows update. Lucky me.

I should point out that this is not a common interaction in HotS for me. Most matches have had a quiet chat with only the customary “gg” at the end. Some have even had some nice discussions of strategy and generosity for much-needed healing. In the future, I’m going to just mute players like this, if only to save my blood pressure.

The Bright Side

Having these kinds of interactions reminds me why I tried to quit gaming a while back. I’m prone to anger—mostly due to an untreated anxiety/depression combo—and I know how gaming can affect me negatively, especially with these kinds of people getting under my skin. I had a hard time focusing on reading the rest of the night.

But mainly, it puts gaming into perspective. For this person, gaming was more than a hobby or a way to pass the time. He researched the game, developed strategies in his spare time. This game was his life.

Gaming is not as important to my life as it is to people like that guy. I don’t want to do offline research for a video game, unless reading Sun Tzu’s Art of War might somehow offer some insight. To me, gaming is another hobby, another way to pass the time, like reading or watching TV. It has its place.


About David Shank

David T. Shank spends most of his time in worlds of robots, dragons, and robot dragons. He gets his cardio vicariously through video game characters while carbo-loading on Killian’s. His perfect vision lets him see everything but the fact that he’ll never defeat those walls he keeps punching. When he’s not doing the novel-writing thing, he can often be found in public reading his Kindle and being antisocial.

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