Why Do I Play Games?

Why Do I Play Games?

This question has been percolating about my brain a bit of late. At least since mid-July in fact. Because The Gaming Diaries covered it then and I’d already been trying to work out just why it was — if games were truly an escape, or a way to relax — that my time spent with them fell through the floor when it might otherwise seem such an escape was so desperately needed.

With Blaugust 2019 officially into ‘Getting to know you’ week, it seems like the perfect time to tackle it.

I think when I left my comment on The Gaming Diaries’ post on the matter, I was looking at it a little too black and white. I don’t think the fact that I have a tendency to pull away from games during times of turmoil really invalidates the reasons I hold for playing them otherwise. Rather, I think there is a limit beyond which games shouldn’t be used as the answer.

A realisation that would have seen me in much greater stead had I realised it earlier in life, no doubt.

But I’m getting ahead of myself a little here — I’ll come back to this. First; what do I believe are the reasons I play games?

To De-stress, Decompress and Relax

I’m not an extrovert. I just play one on TV in day-to-day life. Work in particular.

It’s a necessary part of managing and being part of a functional team. But come time to go home, I’m very much ready for some recharge time. To let the issues of the day — whatever they happened to be — slough off into a corner somewhere to be forgotten for a while.

Of course there are family commitments as well so this isn’t always possible during the week. And I can manage that without going crazy pretty well.

But! My Sundays are sacred. No going out bar super special circumstances or emergencies. Not for any religious reasons — but rather for mental well being and ensuring I’ve properly recharged my social-energy batteries before Monday arrives.

Gaming is the main vehicle in which I achieve that recharge.

Social Connectivity

Seemingly in direct contradiction to the prior point — but my friends and I don’t get to visit each other in real life as frequently as we would otherwise like to these days.

We have children, partners, busy jobs and all that other carry on that comes with ‘adulting’.

God I miss some of the people I met in this game. (Asheron’s Call 1)

Instant online connectivity and the ability to share a hobby without spending 40+ minutes travel in either direction is a huge boon.

Over the years I’ve certainly changed my online social habits. And at least in the context of MMOs, I’ve become more and more closed off from creating new meaningful relationships. I now think this is in large part because I approach most games as a ‘BYO friends’.

The blogging community is sort of game-adjacent for the purposes of this discussion, but one enables the other and I’m incredibly thankful for that.

Occasionally, to be Challenged

Both Rakuno and TheRoyalFamily recently spoke to challenging games by and large not being for them.

I understand the point of view, and while I’m not overly keen to admit this — generally I’m in the same boat. I’d much rather the game provide me with the perception of being challenged than actually taking me out back for a swift kick up the backside.

Nooo! Not THIS much challenge! D: (Dark Souls 2: Ruin Sentinels)

Although if a game doesn’t offer even the slightest amount of resistance, then this can be a turn-off too. I ultimately stopped playing Ni No Kuni II for this reason. I believe they’ve since patched in a harder difficulty to address this, but for me at least — the damage is done.

Like Rakuno acknowledged though — there are exceptions. A couple of them we even have in common, namely the Dark Souls series and Monster Hunter: World. Both games quite happy to give you a rapid and repeated what-for. But when the right mood strikes, taking on this challenge — and ultimately beating it — is really quite the rush.

Circling Back Around to the ‘Limits’ of Gaming, then?

Where to start… I guess first, while this actually isn’t the ‘confessions’ style post I was inspired to do by Quin’s Museum of Bad Behaviour post, it could well do a good job of pretending to be. That post is still coming though.

You see, one of my prior blogs was called ‘Modicum of Gaming’. It was so named because some years before that blog, there was a time when I applied very little control to the hours I spent whiling away in some MMO or another. University — and everything else — for a time was taking a backseat, to say the least.

In fact it might be better to say we didn’t even occupy the same vehicle much of the time.

The idea for that blog came about when I happened to capture a random but powerful thought. ‘I don’t want my kids to ever game like I did.’ The follow-up thought for the blog then being to ensure the better balance I’d found was maintained over the long term.

Because that earlier sort of uncontrolled behaviour? That is what using games as an escape can look like.

Now I know, I know- most of the time ‘escape’ is simply being used as a stand in for ‘relax’, or not meant in any fashion more intense than the way one can ‘escape’ with a good book. And that’s fine. I think my brain understands this colloquial difference.

But to this day — seemingly unconsciously until I went through the effort of unpacking it all — there is a certain threshold of seriousness after which I don’t believe games are the right answer, even just for relaxation or temporary escape. Better in these circumstances to face it more directly, have the necessary discussions and get past it that way.

Perhaps I can call this a sign of maturity — in fact, I shall.

Looka’me, supes mature! ;)

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10 thoughts on “Why Do I Play Games?”

  1. Fantastic, fantastic post. It’s not usually popular within the gaming community to say that “games aren’t always the answer”, nor to admit that gaming can actually be harmful. It’s feels kind if like airing dirty laundry to make such declarations. But it’s absolutely true, as with all aspects of life, a balance should be struck.

    Now, here’s the tricky part. Gamer parents parenting gamer kids. Now THAT can be a difficult balance to strike, because we understand what it’s like to be told to “get off that thing this instant” when there’s no save button. And yet, sometimes we have to be the bad guy and make sure little Johnny finishes his chores or homework and doesn’t take advantage of us just because we’re gamers, ourselves! Sorry, went off the rails a little bit there but those are some of the everyday disagreements I have to deal with.

    • Aye, it’s a discussion I’m familiar with!

      My eldest is right into Fortnite. As much as I despise the game, I try to be understanding where possible. But there have been a few times where the foot has had to go down for missed chores or the like.

      And in terms of games potentially being harmful — aye, especially when the recent round of scapegoating going on the US, it might not even have been the best time for it. Granted that’s a tangential issue to the one talking about here, but still.

      I will come out and say that I don’t think computer or gaming addiction is a thing. Which might be an odd thing to say in the context of this post, but certainly it is not an addition in the way alcohol and certain other drugs can be.

      The physical hooks in the biochemistry just aren’t present — gaming is more of a case of avoidant behaviour. There will be some other issue or issues needing to be dealt with.

      But all that could easily make for another post at some point!

  2. It’s always good to reflect on hobbies. Why do I do that? Does it (still) make me happy?

    Also, it’s a good idea to remind yourself every once and then, that there is such a thing as “too much” of anything. As long as we know that, the chances of that happening go down drastically.

    So, cheers to supes mature! :-)

    • Yes, very much so. There have absolutely been times in the past where I’ve had a serious question in my mind as to whether I was even still enjoying gaming. (Inevitably the answer is: Yes — but sometimes need a break to get there again. :))

  3. Intersting! I do play games to relax, and in the past I’ve played them for social connection but that’s been less of a reason for me lately. (Perhaps why I haven’t been as into MMOs?) When I think about decompressing, though, if I need to decompress lately I usually go with TV or books. I think that might be because games usually require more mental energy than simply absorbing a story through book or TV form. Another thing for me, I think, is that I work from home and if I’m going to game it’s at the same desk where I’m working. Works well for a nice lunchtime break, but not to wind down after sitting here on and off for 8 hours.
    Alli recently posted…Alli Tries Albion OnlineMy Profile

    • Ahhh. Yeah — if I was regularly working from home, that would be interesting to see what happened there. Because I agree, the place you spent all day working is not also a good place to try winddown.

      I use TV and Books too, but those tend to be another step again from gaming. They’re beyond simply winding down for the day and more getting into the territory of getting ready for sleep right now.

      In terms of the social connections — yeah; this is exclusively for maintaining close ties with RL friends I don’t get to see as much. I don’t really ever generate any *new* ties through gaming any more. (Well… almost never. I still count blogging and communication driven here and around it as an entirely seperate thing from the act of gaming itself though.)

  4. A great post and I particularly liked the introspection. You may have counter inspired me to do a ‘why do I game?’ post of mine.

    I think it’s a struggle that we all must feel now that we’re ‘adulting’ (though I hate that term). Food for thought.

  5. It’s easy to be defensive about time spent gaming, that it’s not a valid use of time, especially in these times where life/work/society is increasingly competitive. I feel it doubly so as I enjoy MMORPGs but am also spending more time on writing RPG adventures myself and that’s a potentially endless rabbit-hole where time is concerned.

    I’ve always lived with a “everything in moderation” credo for diet, so I guess that works too for gaming, I do allow myself gaming time quite generously but not to the exclusion of everything else. When I first started WoW, and my partner did too, we probably played way, way too much of it. Things are thankfully more balanced now.
    Telwyn recently posted…My take on player factions for EberronMy Profile

    • Yep. Balance is key, and on the defensive front?

      There is an alternate reality where the version of this post was written with a counter question of, ‘And why does this question even matter?’ going into how it’s a bit of a holdover from the days where gaming was seen as an invalid hobby or held in less repute than other options.

      Really though, that time hasn’t past us yet. Not completely. Certainly openess is growing, but ultimately I thought actually answering the question was the better and more positive way to go. :)

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