Conversations with Omen

“So, you felt the need, on your own to moderate your time spent playing those games?”

Yeah, I was spending hours and hours playing them, neglecting a lot of other things I should have been doing. Even some of my relationships suffered because of it. I found myself choosing to stay home, and not accepting invitations to go out with people. I’d even feign mild ailments to make my staying home seem more plausible.

“It is very admirable that you recognized the addiction and did something about it. Have you thought about what the attraction, or pay-off was? What it was that you were ‘getting’ out of the gaming that was more satisfying than being with your long-time friends?”

Well, yeah, I guess so. I think I liked being in control of some entire situation, even if it was a fictional world. I liked getting so skilled at it that I was becoming admired by others who also played. I mean, there was also some comradery to it, I played with lots of other folks from all over the world. That was the social part of it, and probably made it easier for me to not see my friends much.

“You don’t see another possible component of the addiction?”

I was having a lot of fun too; I suppose enjoyment is a motivator of some kind.

“Think about accomplishment. Does that factor in to it in any way for you?”

I suppose so, I was conquering armies and monsters, stealing treasure and making the world a better place. That was usually kind of awesome!

“Perhaps, but, what was really being accomplished? Were actual monsters slain? Were actual treasures added to your bank account? Is the world truly a better place now?”

Well, it’s a game Omen, it’s not real life. Its fictional fun, it used to relax me and relieve the stress of my day in a creative kind of way.

“I did not mean to insult you, my friend. I just offer a different perspective to you, one that you may consider and accept or reject as you see fit. What I am speaking of is false-accomplishment – the feeling that you have truly done something admirable and satisfying, but yet you have not. The monsters are cartoons, as are the treasures and the lands to be conquered. When your evening is done, you might feel as if you have done the work of goodness, but it truly was all a fiction. The human brain will produce the same satisfying neuro-chemicals that make you feel bliss, but it is not over anything tangible.”

The feelings are real, and the interactions with other people are real too!

“Yes, I do not disagree with either thing you have pointed out. But, those are not usually what you felt pride over, are they? I do not recall you telling me that you had especially satisfying interactions with other players. The stories you told were of your finishing a long and complicated quest of some kind. You spoke of receiving rare rewards for your character, such as weapons or special powers. None of which are real. You cannot remove that sword from the game and wield it in your true-life can you?”

No, of course not. I never claimed that I couldn’t distinguish the game from real-life. I was perfectly aware that none of the rewards were actual objects, and the gold I earned was also fictional. But, it still felt good to get those things… I think I am starting to see what you’re saying now. I can know that the rewards or accomplishments are fictions, but I still felt good about them. Like I was mixing fiction with factual life. Feeling like I’d done something heroic and special, but I’d really just played a game well.

“Yes, the fictional accomplishments caused very real internal reactions – both physical and emotional as well. That kind of easy emotional gratification can become addicting rather quickly – becoming a substitute for actual accomplishment or interactions. I will go further and say that like many other addictions, it ultimately leaves you feeling empty and longing for more of the same feeling.”

So, the gaming becomes a pacifier for the mind? Like alcohol or drugs do? But, I have never heard of gaming ruining someone’s life like drug addictions usually do.

“More than a pacifier, so much more than that; it becomes a false sense of your own self. I agree that there is little academic evidence dealing with gaming causing the downfall of people’s lives, but it remains true that it can happen. Relationships begin to wither and fail, sometimes a person’s physical condition will also begin to wither way. Dietary habits may suffer, along with hygiene and sanitary concerns.”

“Real relationships are often unpredictable and difficult. We do not exercise the same level of control over the obstacles in our true-lives as you felt while in your game world. Many times one is completely out of control of the circumstances in their life for a period, and that is an uncomfortable condition. Getting through a period like that in a positive way is a true accomplishment. Genuinely satisfying accomplishments are fewer and further between for most people living true-lives. Many times they are much more subtle too. But, they are real – and the real feelings tend to last much much longer than the false ones do.”

I can see that, and at some level I must have felt it all along. Even if I couldn’t have put it into words, something in me was nagging at my thoughts the entire time I was so into the gaming. Something was trying to tell me to either stop, or cut way back on it. Somehow I knew I needed to be back with real people, doing actual social things with them. I think I was starting to feel isolated and lonely too – even though I was interacting with other people in the game, it was pretty two dimensional.

“Indeed, false accomplishments and vague relationships cannot lead to genuine feelings of self-love and satisfaction. Only through actual relationships can we truly see ourselves and grow into better souls. In games we can accept challenges, go on conquests or attempt to slay monsters – if we do not best the challenge we have the option of restarting it again. True life is not like that for most people, we often only have one chance to accomplish a goal, and if we fall short of it, we have real consequences to accept.”

Sure, real feelings get hurt, either our own or someone else’s. I get that, but I also know that games are fun, and people will always like them. Heck, I still like them too, I just play a lot less than before. I know that not everyone gets addicted to them either, so what is it that makes the difference?

“A variety of reasons cause different individuals to react in their own ways to the exact same stimulus, or game, in this case. There are those that are very grounded in the present, and remain keenly aware of both what the game provides, and what their true life provides. Others may benefit from the diversion of the game, yet not be seeking a complete escape from their true lives. And, of course, we should not forget those who do not feel the draw of games such as those we are speaking of. Those individuals who lead lives of intimacy, emotion and personal interactions with others. They find all the treasures they ever need in the relationships they have with their fellow human beings.”


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