Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

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Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby emceng » Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:34 pm UTC

http://www.ign.com/articles/2012/08/28/ ... ng-reasons
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Playing Games for All the Wrong Reasons

Would you recognize if you were abusing the hobby you love?



by Justin Davis

August 28, 2012


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Like the majority of men my age, I’ve been a gamer for as long as I can remember. But it has always been cyclical. I’ve never given up games entirely, but at certain points in my life the hobby has faded into the background. My gaming might be a few runs of Jetpack Joyride instead of hours spent in Minecraft. During those light periods gaming was squeezed in between my wife, movies, work and the rest of my life.

But at other times I would lose myself in games entirely. I would “fall down the rabbit hole” and obsessively play World of Warcraft, Halo or that week's hot new game. I would play it every free moment (and some moments that weren’t free). When I wasn’t playing it, I was thinking about it. This would go one for weeks. If the game’s luster wore off, I would turn my attention to the next hot thing, sure that it would be the one to scratch this compulsive itch I couldn't put my finger on.

I used to think my experience was normal. Sometimes I was just more into games than others. So what, right? It wasn’t until very recently that I realized, somewhat horrified, what was actually happening with this pattern of behavior.






These gaming binges corresponded to the periods in my life when things in the real world weren’t going my way.

The epiphany I had was that these gaming binges corresponded to the periods in my life when things in the real world weren’t going my way. I was using video games as a security blanket.

Games, especially modern ones, revolve around the principle that if you put the time in, you will be rewarded. Many gamers claim to not understand how anyone could put up with grinding in a video game. But grinding is comforting. Grinding tells us that, no matter what, if you keep playing you’ll become more powerful. If you keep playing, you’ll earn enough money to buy the things you want. If you keep playing, you’ll gain access to more levels and items and goodies.

If something is too hard, you’re guaranteed a level-up in just a few more minutes.


Do you ever think about why video games can feel so comforting?

It’s a comforting thought, isn’t it? Just put in the time, and you will do nothing but progress. You will win. You can do everything. There are no paths closed off to you. You know that moment when you learn a game has a system where unused skills will degrade or weapons will break down, or that a game has an unadvertised "point of no return," and you recoil at the thought? That’s you wanting to have it all and keep all the progress you ever make.

The real world does not operate this way. You can “grind” at a job for 10 years and still be laid off. You can “grind” at your physical health your whole life but if you switch to an unhealthy lifestyle you will immediately begin losing this progress.






If textbooks had achievements we’d all be geniuses.

Gamers have jokingly quipped that if textbooks had achievements, we’d all be geniuses. But the fact is… that’s probably true. These days everything is a game.

So it’s easy to understand why someone that feels powerless in the real world would turn to virtual worlds. Why people that get laid off turn to MMOs. Why people that have trouble in social situations might find comfort in The Sims. This is the trap that I have fallen into several points in my life.


In many games, putting in enough time guarantees success.






This retreat into the world of video games is dangerous because it causes people to ignore their life exactly when it needs their attention the most.

My subconscious has apparently been making decisions for years that I had never truly stopped to think about. I was hiding behind the success of my digital heroes and taking pride in my virtual accomplishments to avoid confronting my real-world problems and shorcomings. The reason this retreat into the world of video games is dangerous is because it causes people to ignore their life exactly when it needs their attention the most. It is engaging in self-destruction exactly when you need self improvement!

There are a limitless number of healthy reasons to play and enjoy video games. To recapture a sense of adventure. To compete. To exercise your brain. Or turn it off and just relax.

But I believe the empowering and interactive nature of video games makes them easier to abuse, and easier to consume for unhealthy reasons. I also believe video games are a more attractive leisure activity for individuals with obsessive leanings, or individuals with unhealthy tendencies towards destructive escapism. Fantasy and escapism aren’t inherently bad, but neither can come at the expense of confronting and embracing reality and living a responsible life.


Games can be powerful tools for self-expression and self-discovery.






Games create safe spaces for kids to experiment and express themselves.

There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with video games. Besides all the legitimate leisure-related reasons to enjoy the hobby I touched on above (and leisure time is absolutely essential), games also create safe spaces for people, especially kids, to experiment and express themselves. They provide safe, consequence-free places to fail.

Video games also help players discover things about themselves. What kind of person do you want to be? When given free range to make dialogue choices or build a world, what do you create? People that would never pick up a paintbrush can do incredible things when given the right tools.

All the good that games can do aside, what I have learned is that it’s important for gamers to understand their own motivations. I don’t believe anyone needs to stop playing video games, or necessarily even cut back. But everyone should strive to understand his or her own compulsions.

It’s important for gamers to have mastery of their own mind. Are you grinding out a level in World of Warcraft because you’re truly enjoying the experience, or are you doing it to replace missing feelings of self-worth that you don’t want to confront? Do you revel in your virtual successes to avoid the uncomfortable internal dialogue regarding of your abandoned gym routine?

Are you playing games because you’re having fun, or because you have an unconfronted fear of failure?



Ok, interesting idea, terrible article.

Executive summary: Author reviewed his gaming habits, and realized that he used gaming as escapism, especially spending crazy amounts of time gaming when other aspects of his life were stressful.

This would be an interesting article, but it's nothing but a series of personal anecdotes strung out to fill the 500 or 1000 word article length he needed. Do some research, study what's actually happening, then publish. There are probably many people like you. Before spouting off, find out if it's 1% or 90% of the gaming population.
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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby schmiggen » Sun Sep 02, 2012 5:56 am UTC

The article seemed fine to me. Why does the author owe you some kind of research? He had a personal revelation and suggested that he might not be the only person in his position. Lay off, jeez.
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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby Thesh » Sun Sep 02, 2012 6:18 am UTC

My problem with the article is the assumption that escapism is a bad thing. I think it's perfectly healthy to vacation from reality from time to time, especially when things aren't going your way.
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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby aoeu » Sun Sep 02, 2012 6:20 am UTC

The author is just a heavy procrastinator. If his pastime of choice was something else he wouldn't have written about video games.

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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby Jahoclave » Sun Sep 02, 2012 8:17 am UTC

Thesh wrote:My problem with the article is the assumption that escapism is a bad thing. I think it's perfectly healthy to vacation from reality from time to time, especially when things aren't going your way.

Yeah, but if you realize you're consistently escaping rather than ever dealing with the issues that are actually the problem then it could be a bad thing.

It's partly one of the reasons I don't play all that many video games anymore--also because I tend to find most games these days to be pretty damn boring.

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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby Magnanimous » Sun Sep 02, 2012 8:29 am UTC

I didn't think the article needed any research. It's an opinion post, meant for starting conversations. Eh.

My anecdote: I get obsessive about keeping things organized/simplified, and after working with complicated physics or chemistry for a while it's nice to head to Minecraft and work with... Dirt. And Stone, and Water, and Lava. My brain gets a break from dealing with molecules and fermions and crap, and just relax.

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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby Gelsamel » Mon Sep 03, 2012 1:45 am UTC

My anecdote: I have no stressors or problems in life at all, none. Video games are my favourite thing and I play them all the time. I don't know if I'm escaping or not when I play, I do know I am having fun though.
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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby Iulus Cofield » Mon Sep 03, 2012 1:59 am UTC

Thesh wrote:My problem with the article is the assumption that escapism is a bad thing. I think it's perfectly healthy to vacation from reality from time to time, especially when things aren't going your way.


All entertainment is a form of escapism. Except for reflecting on how awesome your life is, if you find that entertaining.

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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby kiklion » Tue Sep 04, 2012 2:19 pm UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:
Thesh wrote:My problem with the article is the assumption that escapism is a bad thing. I think it's perfectly healthy to vacation from reality from time to time, especially when things aren't going your way.


All entertainment is a form of escapism. Except for reflecting on how awesome your life is, if you find that entertaining.


Or teaching yourself new skills. Or sex. Or going for a walk...

Saying 'All entertainment is a form of escapism', to me, is not believing that life is/can be pretty grand and wonderful.

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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby emceng » Tue Sep 04, 2012 2:34 pm UTC

schmiggen wrote:The article seemed fine to me. Why does the author owe you some kind of research? He had a personal revelation and suggested that he might not be the only person in his position. Lay off, jeez.


Fine, he had a personal revelation. Great. How about he doesn't generalize it to the entire gaming population? I didn't like the tone of the article. It was 'Oh me yarm guys, I realized something, everyone must be exactly the same! I must reveal the truth!'.
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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby kiklion » Tue Sep 04, 2012 5:00 pm UTC

emceng wrote:
schmiggen wrote:The article seemed fine to me. Why does the author owe you some kind of research? He had a personal revelation and suggested that he might not be the only person in his position. Lay off, jeez.


Fine, he had a personal revelation. Great. How about he doesn't generalize it to the entire gaming population? I didn't like the tone of the article. It was 'Gee Willikers guys, I realized something, everyone must be exactly the same! I must reveal the truth!'.


Where does he generalize the entire gaming population? The entire article reminded me of when, in 5th grade, my friend turned to me and told me that playing video games wasn't 'Fun', it just made him content and allowed the day to pass by without trouble.

All the good that games can do aside, what I have learned is that it’s important for gamers to understand their own motivations. I don’t believe anyone needs to stop playing video games, or necessarily even cut back. But everyone should strive to understand his or her own compulsions.

It’s important for gamers to have mastery of their own mind. Are you grinding out a level in World of Warcraft because you’re truly enjoying the experience, or are you doing it to replace missing feelings of self-worth that you don’t want to confront? Do you revel in your virtual successes to avoid the uncomfortable internal dialogue regarding your abandoned gym routine?

Are you playing games because you’re having fun, or because you have an unconfronted fear of failure?


All of this is worded to encourage gamers to think about why they do what they do to ensure their reasoning is correct. People, everyone, get into habits. If we do not question why we do what we do we do not grow.

I do believe he was off the mark with these statements though

The real world does not operate this way. You can “grind” at a job for 10 years and still be laid off. You can “grind” at your physical health your whole life but if you switch to an unhealthy lifestyle you will immediately begin losing this progress.


If you grind at a job for 10 years, the company may go under, you may be laid off, but you do not work for the sake of working. It has empowered you to live as you want for 10 years and you have the experience to do what you need in the future. By working as an 'IT consultant', if my company laid me off, I can take the tools that I know and use it elsewhere. What I learn is not how to maintain and administrate company A's technologies, I learn how to maintain and administrate accounting technologies, aviation technologies, packaging technologies, key pressing, manufacturing, warehouse, medical etc

You can go to the gym every day and eat healthy, but if you start shooting up heroin yeah it's going to be bad for you. Or you can be a hard core raider with the best gear in WoW, but if you switch to being casual you will immediately begin to fall behind in gear and add-on knowledge. Or you can be a pro-starcraft player, and if you take a break you will immediately start losing to people you used to beat by falling out of the meta game and patch notes. To do my own generalization, gamers typically don't like static content, and when they do it is due to a dynamic meta-game system where 4 gate goes into Ice-fischer build into FFE-7 gate +1 into pool hatch hatch/12 min roach max into sentry immortal push....

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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby Jesse » Wed Sep 05, 2012 2:40 pm UTC

kiklion wrote:
Iulus Cofield wrote:
Thesh wrote:My problem with the article is the assumption that escapism is a bad thing. I think it's perfectly healthy to vacation from reality from time to time, especially when things aren't going your way.


All entertainment is a form of escapism. Except for reflecting on how awesome your life is, if you find that entertaining.


Or teaching yourself new skills. Or sex. Or going for a walk...

Saying 'All entertainment is a form of escapism', to me, is not believing that life is/can be pretty grand and wonderful.


Going for a jog is my form of escapism. When I'm running, and listening to music, all I'm doing is concentrating on how my body feels, and on keeping my breathing steady. Same as when I play Starcraft, because I'm having to concentrate so hard, I'm not able to think about anything else that's troubling me. Anything that focuses your mind is a form of escapism. The problem is when people use escapism to mean avoidance. I'm not doing these things to avoid my problems, I'm doing them because they're fun.

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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby Роберт » Wed Sep 05, 2012 5:13 pm UTC

emceng wrote:
schmiggen wrote:The article seemed fine to me. Why does the author owe you some kind of research? He had a personal revelation and suggested that he might not be the only person in his position. Lay off, jeez.


Fine, he had a personal revelation. Great. How about he doesn't generalize it to the entire gaming population? I didn't like the tone of the article. It was 'Gee Willikers guys, I realized something, everyone must be exactly the same! I must reveal the truth!'.

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

I read the article. He didn't generalize it to the entire gaming population.
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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby Lostdreams » Fri Sep 07, 2012 12:34 pm UTC

Jesse wrote:
kiklion wrote:
Iulus Cofield wrote:
Thesh wrote:My problem with the article is the assumption that escapism is a bad thing. I think it's perfectly healthy to vacation from reality from time to time, especially when things aren't going your way.


All entertainment is a form of escapism. Except for reflecting on how awesome your life is, if you find that entertaining.


Or teaching yourself new skills. Or sex. Or going for a walk...

Saying 'All entertainment is a form of escapism', to me, is not believing that life is/can be pretty grand and wonderful.


Going for a jog is my form of escapism. When I'm running, and listening to music, all I'm doing is concentrating on how my body feels, and on keeping my breathing steady. Same as when I play Starcraft, because I'm having to concentrate so hard, I'm not able to think about anything else that's troubling me. Anything that focuses your mind is a form of escapism. The problem is when people use escapism to mean avoidance. I'm not doing these things to avoid my problems, I'm doing them because they're fun.


Much like alcoholic drinks, it's all about mindset and moderation. If you're playing with friends or playing to relax after a long day then you're doing it right. If you spend every minute playing or thinking about playing and it starts to negatively affect you, you probably want to take a break for a while. Fortunately, gaming doesn't have the negative physical addiction alchohol does.
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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby mosc » Fri Sep 07, 2012 4:00 pm UTC

To me, gaming is a hobby. It's no different than any other hobby. A hobby is probably just a vocation you don't/can't make a career out of. It's a job you do because you enjoy doing it and not for financial reasons. As such, it is inherently entertainment and carries the same risks of addiction as any other hobby. It many of the same benefits in terms of mental health, social interaction, and physical activity (not a lot of physical activity in gaming, but neither is there in knitting or reading). There are folks who make money at their hobby but in general a hobby is not profitable. Some hobbies are harmful physically, as gaming can be. Some hobbies are introverted, some are extroverted; gaming can be either.

Gaming is like doodling a sketch while reading a novel while checking the local sports section's stat page while knitting a scarf (you hypothetically live in Florida, nobody wears scarfs) while trying to remember how to play that song you used to know at the piano while widdling a piece of wood into a duck. Why it would have any less a social standing than these activities is beyond me. If anything, it should have a higher status because it is increasingly common and has arguably the largest hobby market share, at least in younger generations.
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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby Роберт » Fri Sep 07, 2012 4:15 pm UTC

If someone posted an article asking "is your coffee hobby a physical addiction" and related a personal anecdote about how he realized he was actually addicted to caffeine, I would be suspicious of all the people scrambling to defend how THEIR coffee habit definitely wasn't. Look, you weren't accused of anything. It's just something to think about for 2 seconds and if it seems interesting, think about it some more and maybe introspect a little. Heck, you could even apply they idea to other habits you might have: are they healthy?

If you do end up thinking something about your habits is unhealthy, make a change. If not, no biggie.
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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Sep 07, 2012 4:56 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:If someone posted an article asking "is your coffee hobby a physical addiction" and related a personal anecdote about how he realized he was actually addicted to caffeine, I would be suspicious of all the people scrambling to defend how THEIR coffee habit definitely wasn't. Look, you weren't accused of anything. It's just something to think about for 2 seconds and if it seems interesting, think about it some more and maybe introspect a little. Heck, you could even apply they idea to other habits you might have: are they healthy?

If you do end up thinking something about your habits is unhealthy, make a change. If not, no biggie.


Meh. Coffee at least has physical dependency to support that. Video gaming really doesn't, and there has in past years been a tendancy to demonize video gaming(see also, Sen Ted Stevens). Hell, people gleefully try to link it to mass killings all the time, which seems a wee bit overblown. So, people get kind of defensive over it.

Personally, I don't play video games much at all anymore. No time. I'd love to, but a game like Skyrim takes weeks of solid play to really complete. I'm still on Fallout 3. One day, I might get it done. I suppose you could describe any habituation as an addition if you were so inclined, but I suspect this sort of loose verbiage is taking the word too far. A cup of coffee every morning isn't going to be considered an addiction by most, even if you miss it when you stop. Pushing friends and family away to get one more cup of coffee before you pass out shaking would be.

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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby Роберт » Fri Sep 07, 2012 5:04 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Meh. Coffee at least has physical dependency to support that. Video gaming really doesn't, and there has in past years been a tendancy to demonize video gaming(see also, Sen Ted Stevens).
True, but a lot of things get "demonized". D&D, video games, TV, alcohol, pot...

If someone who was into D&D realizes the way they were doing it was bad for them, and writes an article saying "Hey, I realized D&D was unhealthy for me. I never even thought about that possibility before. Consider if it's in a healthy place for you" in a non-accusing manner, and someone pitched a fit over how dumb the article was and got all defensive, I'd be curious as to what caused the reaction. Certainly they could be defensive about it because maybe they recently got into an argument with their nutty family about whether or not D&D is witchcraft and devil worship.
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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Sep 07, 2012 5:23 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Meh. Coffee at least has physical dependency to support that. Video gaming really doesn't, and there has in past years been a tendancy to demonize video gaming(see also, Sen Ted Stevens).
True, but a lot of things get "demonized". D&D, video games, TV, alcohol, pot...

If someone who was into D&D realizes the way they were doing it was bad for them, and writes an article saying "Hey, I realized D&D was unhealthy for me. I never even thought about that possibility before. Consider if it's in a healthy place for you" in a non-accusing manner, and someone pitched a fit over how dumb the article was and got all defensive, I'd be curious as to what caused the reaction. Certainly they could be defensive about it because maybe they recently got into an argument with their nutty family about whether or not D&D is witchcraft and devil worship.


I do happen to be a D&D player, and yeah, there would probably be derision and mockery if someone suggested such a thing about it again, and plenty of people pointing out that their personal playing habits are pretty reasonable. Certainly, mentioning the chick tract about the topic on a D&D forum is a great way to see reactions ranging from amusement to outright vitrol.

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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby Роберт » Fri Sep 07, 2012 5:52 pm UTC

My example wasn't a chick tract on D&D (looked it up, though. Pretty funny). My example was a guy writing an article saying "hey, I realized my D&D time was a mildly unhealthy form of escapism for me" or something like that. And saying he posted it on a D&D forum is making the context different as well.
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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby emceng » Fri Sep 07, 2012 6:59 pm UTC

The wrong reasons for playing games: everything except hookers and blow.
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Re: Playing Games for the Wrong Reasons

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Sep 07, 2012 7:38 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:My example wasn't a chick tract on D&D (looked it up, though. Pretty funny). My example was a guy writing an article saying "hey, I realized my D&D time was a mildly unhealthy form of escapism for me" or something like that. And saying he posted it on a D&D forum is making the context different as well.


I've seen that thread, and seen the exact same responses. Meh. People are gonna defend things they like.


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