I am about to say something that will probably drop the jaw of anyone who has ever known me. Brace yourselves.
Video games can be dangerous…
I know, I know; I’ll start again once everyone has picked up their chairs off the ground they just fell over in. Get a napkin to clean up the coffee you just spit out, and I will continue. Everyone back? Okay.
Video games in general are not bad, nor were they created with any kind of ill intent (for the most part.) The people who collaborate and create these fantastic worlds are geniuses to say the least. They have created worlds that you can spend years getting lost in. (Trust me I know. Thank you Bethesda and Turn 10.)
Therein lies the exact problem though. You can get lost in them. Gamers all over the globe continue to ask for more and more immersive play environments. They beg for a game that “feels” as real as possible, and when the market asks for it the producers absolutely strive to make it happen. Even immersion aside, what starts out as a simple way to pass time – comparable to reading a book, watching television, or going to the movies – can turn into a need to achieve for so many people. You need to beat the best score. You have to complete those quests. You have to win the race. It becomes a focus, and for many of us it can begin to consume us. We tell loved ones to hush because we are trying to hear what we have to do to complete a quest. We don’t answer the phone because it will mess up our focus on the race if we pause. We can’t answer the beckon of a loved one because we need to try just one more time. It leads to isolation, loneliness, and relational problems for so many people, and they don’t even see it happening because they are so focused on their games. I know because I was absolutely one of those people.
The need to achieve greatness in a world created by a room full of geniuses leads to us creating an emptiness in the real world. As games become more and more “real” this problem will only get worse. Can you be an addicted gamer and still lead a functional life? I suppose that would depend on your definition of functional. If your definition is droning through life, still collecting a paycheck, and have a family who is okay with you not being attentive to their needs then yes. However, if you want to actually have a any level of motivation in your life to continually better yourself I would say that is impossible.
You can not learn to defeat life’s giants by fighting imaginary ones. If life’s giants are pushing you down, and you are instinctively turning to video games to escape and fulfill your natural need for achievement then you will never feel the need to face the giants keeping you down in reality. Instead you will passively let the world push you around and make a fool of you because your sense of achievement, pride, and fulfillment is being augmented in a fictional place.
“Yeah well books and movies are just as guilty, right?” No, the hands on sense of accomplishment does not relate to sitting down and escaping into someone else’s world for an hour or two. A movie or a book is a window that looks into a world. A video game is you crashing through that window and taking the lead role in someone else’s story. Passive entertainment is not the same of vicarious ownership of someone else’s fate. There is a huge difference.
Video games can definitely be a form of entertainment, so it all depends on how you use them. I am not saying they are bad for everyone, I am saying they can turn bad for anyone. If you are finding yourself losing your focus on life to a video game; it may be time to put it down and go knock out a few “achievement badges” in the real world for a while instead.