Sunday, June 19, 2011

No Games For Matt: Day Twenty-Five

So I'm nearing the end of this little experiment and I have learned a few things!

First, quitting video games was surprisingly easy. I always used to say "I can quit any time I want!" which sounded hauntingly like an addict's cliche. But it turned out to be true. Perhaps my addiction was not as bad as I feared - and learning that, if nothing else, was a great result from this experiment!

Second, video games are not the problem in and of themselves - I mean, I never thought they were, I just have more proof now that they are not. I quickly found that, without games, I was no more motivated or productive than before. I just found other ways to burn through my free time instead. If my next goal becomes "to get more stuff done" then giving up video games alone will not be enough - I need to set up a schedule and routine that encourages productivity. So I get distracted easily and have a hard time being productive - this is the problem so many of us are facing now in the internet age and I'm hardly some kind of freak.

Third, video games are a go-to form of pseudo-meditation for me, a way I could escape from feelings I didn't want to feel. Again, games themselves aren't to blame, since once I gave them up I found myself looking for other things to hide in. Knowing this, now, I can keep my eyes on it and maybe force myself to be honest about things rather than just allowing myself to hide from them.

Fourth, I've decided that when my month is over and video games re-enter my life, I'm going to put a reasonable limit on the amount of time that I play. I'm also going to be more selective about the games I commit to, rather than just grab whatever I can get my hands on like before.

Finally, I've discovered that playing games ALL THE TIME turned them into something like a chore so that they weren't even fun anymore. You can have too much of a good thing. My month ends soon, and while I don't particularly feel in a rush to jump right back into gaming, the thought of firing up a new game for the first time in weeks puts a smile on my face that it NEVER did back when I was playing all the damn time.

Playing games less will give me more time for other things, and make me like games more. Win win!

Monday, June 06, 2011

No Games For Matt: Day Twelve

It's been a week fraught with emotions. I've felt like an unhinged person, all over the place. One minute I'm happier than I've ever been before, and the next I'm full of angst and crying over nothing.

It took a while before I connected this behavior to my lack of video games this month. It's almost like playing games was the thing that allowed me to hide from stuff, to self-medicate into a state of equilibrium where I was distracted enough for all unpleasantness to be pushed aside. Without that crutch, I'm finding I don't have other strong coping mechanisms for things I've been holding back all this time.

This is a problem, but an exciting one. I get a chance to really face anything that's been bothering me and develop new, healthier habits for coping with stress and anxiety. It's been eye opening to see how I've used games a cork in my emotional bottle, so to speak.

Again, this doesn't make games intrinsically bad. What was bad was the way I was using them and the attitude I'd built up around them. Dismantling the negative stuff about my gaming habit will hopefully make playing them when I do go back much more fun and positive.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

No Games For Matt: Day Six

I had my first dream about video games last night.

Quite revealingly, in the dream I had a vague sense of uneasiness and guilt about playing and kept saying "Just a few more minutes!" to some companion whose face I do not now remember. I woke up and laughed, but felt a little uneasy. My resolve has still been strong, but there has been some temptation, usually in a quiet moment when I'm not sure what else to do.

It's been an amazing experience having to choose how to spend my free time, rather than defaulting to habitual behavior. Even if I just end up watching some dumb TV show (Babylon 5 is surprisingly fun!) it's out of a choice and for just a small increment of time. By and large, though, I've been more productive in one weekend without video games then I was in the previous month!

I've written a bunch and, most impressively, suddenly found myself with a stronger urge to be social. I actually went dancing all night with a group of friends and not ONCE found myself wishing I was somewhere else by myself doing you-know-what. That's amazing. Generally social group events make me melancholy and withdrawn, but I found myself eager to reach out to people to fill the void the games have left behind.

To sum up, I'm actually happier than I have been in a long, long time.

I'm now beginning to think that when this month is over I need to create a structured way to introduce games back into my life, specifically deciding when I can play and for how long. I don't want to spiral back into the same problem as before, particularly when this experiment has already proved so successful.