Saturday, January 12, 2008

Could I put the brakes on?

Could I, someone who plays games daily, put the brakes on my hobby until it came to a stop? Could I put it in Neutral, the handbrake on and hop out of the hobby for a week or maybe longer, seeing the world from a perspective that isn't hindered by the doors, windows and windscreen that would normally surround me?

Okay, lame car analogy aside, Leigh Alexander of Sexy Videogameland fame recently experimented (along with a few of her blog's readers) to see whether she could last a week without playing any video games. That means no games of any sort, PC, console or handheld. Her latest Aberrant Gamer column reveals that she couldn't last the entirety of seven days and then goes on to discuss why she thought that was and how she should feel. Reading about her desire to trial it and then of course reading about the results afterwards made me question my own self. Would I be able to last a week without playing a single game?

Honestly? I don't even need to think about the answer to that one. I absolutely could not last a week without playing games. I'm not even sure I would be able to last 3 days like Miss Alexander managed. So with that question answered, we move onto the next one. Why wouldn't I be able to control myself and not play a game for what is essentially, a minimal amount of time?

That's something I'm not so sure I can answer. Is it because I'm addicted to my hobby, needing my daily feed of anything gaming in order to satisfy within? Or is it because I lack the self control that other individuals out there seem to have? Or perhaps, it's both? None of the above?

As I said before, I can't answer why. I just know that I wouldn't be able to do it. Previous experiences dictate that missing even just one day of gaming sees me out of my comfort zone. A different person. One that, dare I say it, is similar to a pregnant woman with particular cravings.
During the years that I have been gaming, I have had a few occasions that were out of my control (holidays for example, or hospital visits - things like that) whereby I wouldn't be able to play games for a day or maybe more. The longest time without games that I can remember was 3 days and that was while I was in hospital. Ironically enough this hospital had a few game stations (with Super Nintendos) so I eventually got my gaming fix, but those 3 days (and every other time where I haven't been able to play a game) were absolute torture. Sure, you could argue that I was distracted by whatever it was I was doing at the time (be it the hospital, a holiday or whatever) but even with these distractions all I could think about was my life within my passion, gaming and where it would take me next. I would think about what I had just recently done, be it finish a particularly hard level or setting a lap time in a game. I would think about what I intended to do in these games next, or perhaps even which game I was going to play next. I would think about what wonderful worlds, cities or just locations in general that these games would take me and how I'd feel about them as I experienced them.

I wasn't just thinking about gaming in these times though, I was feeling gaming too. Not literally of course, but I was feeling what it was like to not be participating in something that was a daily ritual for me. My fingers felt different as I wasn't using a controller; my mind was feeling the effects of not escaping into the various worlds and not being immersed within. My body (and this is something that Leigh alludes to, interestingly enough) was not well. Not well in the sense that it was anxious, fidgety and because of this, I even felt ill sometimes.

It didn't matter what length of time it was, 3 days or even just one - Not playing games was hard and it was with a great big sigh of relief that things went back to normal the next time I picked up the controller and sat down with one of my wonderful games.

As I read over what I've just written the question comes to mind again. Am I addicted to games?

Absolutely. Do I care? Not at all. Gaming, as every gamer knows, is a wonderful medium to use to escape. Be it escaping the world of reality, or just escaping from boredom - Gaming is a medium that provides entertainment on many levels and even fulfillment. Satisfaction, through accomplishment, immersion or just the actual fact that you're enjoying yourself.

If that means I play every day and crave to play daily when I can't, then so be it. If that means people see me as an addicted person with no self control, then again, so be it. As long as it's providing me with everything I intend it to in the first place, enjoyment, fulfillment and immersion, then that's all I care about.

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