Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Gaming in moderation

Playing video games with a limited amount of time requires the right mindset, and as each generation of gamers gets older they too will have to accept it. When you are young playing video games spare time is in abundance. However as time passes you find yourself being pulled in more and more directions. That time slowly shrinks and one day you realize that you can no longer play at the same pace that you once did. It’s an ugly revelation but it isn’t the end of the road.

As a kid I always assumed one day I would get tired of playing video games and that I would in fact “grow up” as so many people told me I should. Well that day hasn’t happened and after 30 years I’m pretty sure it’s not going to. I have been burdened with more responsibilities though which results in a readjustment in my gaming ideology. I can’t just play a video game until the wee hours of the morning with no concern for how it will affect me the next day. I have a career and family to consider who all depend on me.

I have never really hid the fact that I use to be addicted to video games. As our responsibilities grow we, as mature gamers, must accept the fact that we can’t play video games as much as we would like. The old adage goes “Everything in moderation,” to be honest I’m not even sure if that is an old adage. The phrase still holds merit though. The problem with any addiction, or not even an addiction but situation, is that moderation is always subjective. You must create some other rule which to judge your play schedule by in order to impartially determine if you are playing too much, or in fact to little. I strongly believe this is the key to healthy gaming life style with increased responsibilities.

I have one major rule I use along with some general ideas. Like in the military no matter what your specific mission is it is always important to know the overall goal. By knowing the overall goal you can adjust those small general ideas to your specific situation in order to keep your goal achievable. Never forget the goal.

The rule… Will it make a difference in 5 days? This one rule has been key to keeping me from staying up late every day of the week. If I stay up 2 or 3 hours past my typical bed time will I achieve something that will continue to benefit me 5 days from now? It’s a basic cost benefit analysis in the simplest terms. If I’m about to reach some mile stone that will catapult me ahead for the rest of the week, then yes I will sacrifice some sleep that night and struggle through work the next day in order to achieve that goal.

If, in 5 days, I will see no difference in what I’m doing from staying up late then I log off and go to bed. This has resulted in me logging off in 1 or 2 bubbles left to leveling more often than not. It’s too easy to get sucked into that one more mentality… one more quest… one more bubble… one more level.
Now there is one small exception to this rule and I don’t use it very often… am I having an extraordinary amount of fun that night, and would it continue if I didn’t log? There are those brief moments in a video game where the stars align and it’s just more fun than normal to keep playing. Once in a great while I allow myself to continue playing late into the night accepting that I will still have to wake up and go to work the next day. Now you may think that this is a cop out, and that I could use this rule to stay up late every night, but refer to my primary rule. Will it matter in 5 days?

Sure these things are complete opposites of one another, but that is why I said you have to keep your overall goal in mind… your mission. You want to continue to play video games without adversely affecting the rest of your life. For someone recovering from video game addiction or just beginning to adjust to a reduced play schedule I would recommend never using my exception. It has taken me five years of trial and error to discover when I can and can’t use it. I’m fortunate to require fewer hours of sleep than your normal person.

In the end just remember two things. If it wouldn’t matter in a week, don’t worry about it and you should always be having fun. If you aren’t having fun why are you playing video games to begin with?

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