Never Game Alone

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Breaking The Vow

I remember when I was really small I made a vow to myself. I vowed that I would always keep video games as a part of my life, and that I would always enjoy them.

This vow was made out of fear, because when I was young video games were one of the most pleasurable experiences I had. It was something I could always turn to and enjoy no matter how rough things got.

It was suggested to me many times that when I “get older” I’ll outgrow video games and do adult things.

This to me meant that to get older is to become miserable, because I depended on video games so much to bring pleasure into my life.

However, a few weeks ago I did something very, very bold and possibly extreme. After gaming for about 4 hours, until about 3am, lying in bed with my girlfriend I was told groggily “Devon, you’re obsessed”.

No spite or venom, Rochelle isn’t like that. Just said matter-of-factly.

After she said that I stopped for a moment, closed my game, and after a few minutes of thinking about it, I uninstalled Steam from my computer.

Steam is something I’ve had for a long time. My library sat at a lovely number of over 120 games, some I’ve invested over 100 hours into. This game, The Long Dark, was climbing into the 30 hour mark.

To uninstall steam was always unthinkable to me, what would I play?

Two Weeks After

The first week was pretty rough, I was literally dreaming about The Long Dark, but I refused to play it. I couldn’t, I deleted my save file I was obsessed with returning to.

The week after though I started to realize something: time seemed a little more plentiful.

Heck, the re-launching of this website was in no small part because of the removal of Steam from my computer. When I’m sitting with nothing to do, the boredom makes me invest into my projects. Before this, I would just play a video game.

One Month After

Sitting collecting dust in my closet was my Playstation 3, which I hadn’t touched since my incident with Destiny.

I was talking with Rochelle and there is some interest generated for a game that I have, The Last Of Us. Really good game, and great to play casually with a friend. We decided to hook it up and give it a shot.

I allowed this as part of an experiment: Never Game Alone.

In Cal Newports amazing book Digital Minimalism he discusses how some people have gotten around media technology addiction, namely from services such as Netflix. One method really stood out to me.

The method was simple: never watch Netflix alone. Always watch it with a friend and make it a social activity.

This made total sense to me, because the biggest struggle that video games brought to me was isolation. When I was gaming I’d completely shut everything out, which is the last thing you want to do when you want to actually make your life a good one.

So, I made my limited gaming time social. Rochelle and I would play The Last Of Us an hour or so every other night. Except we got distracted and started playing Okami instead because I happened to have it installed.

It has proven to be a fun game to play for us both because of our shared interest in art.

The Artsy Fartsy Game Okami

The Results

Rochelle and I have been playing every other night for a few days now and it has been really enjoyable. We play for roughly an hour every other night, and it turns into quality time.

The Core Issue I Had With Gaming : Disengagement

After being far enough away from gaming I’ve come to realize what the core issue really was: video games gave me a way to disengage from life.

Conventional wisdom states that it’s healthy to get away from life from time to time, to take a break. Heck, Abe Lincoln himself would retire to a cottage every weekend during his presidency.

As usual though, conventional wisdom is only half truth, the other half misconception.

Breaks are good, and doing something distracting is important, but doing things that amount to nothing is not good.

Tim Ferris discusses what he calls “Lifestyle Design” where you build the life you want, piece by piece. Everything you do must in some way contribute to the life you want.

Do I truly desire to chase the highs offered by the video game industry?

No! Of course not! But playing without any true reason defaults to this. It creates a divide in your life, and then you’re trying to build two lives instead of just one. Except one isn’t even settled in reality.

Where video games were destructive to me were where they kept me from developing my life based in reality, instead of a life based in a simulation.

The difference now is that video games are used as a medium to deepen my relationship with Rochelle. Sure it’s break time activity, but it’s still activity that contributes something to my life.

Why not have both?

Healthy Gaming

I now enjoy my time with Rochelle playing Okami, and she enjoys it too. I’m looking forward to playing more games with her in the future.

The catch of course is that it stays something that we both enjoy, not something that absorbs and undermines our own lives.

Given that I am diving back into my game development work, it’s really special to me to start focusing on games again, but in a healthy way.

Thanks reading, I hope you found this insights interesting. Take care!