October 2009

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The Game Problem…

So, I have to admit I have a problem.

I think the lines of what constitutes non-chemical addiction are a little bit fuzzy for me, so I don’t know if I can call it an addiction, but I can definitely say I’m struggling with it. It costs me hours and hours every night, it makes me feel disconnected from the world and numb to my feelings. And it is so clearly more about escaping than about actually engaging in my life.

My problem is games. Board games. Card games. Computer games. Video games. I’m pretty close to obsessed with them. Not nearly to the extent of other people in the gaming world, but still to a definitively unhealthy level.

First off, as I’ve said a number of times before, I spend hours on the internet scouring gaming forums, reading gaming news and reviews, watching gaming videos on youtube. It’s rarely even about games I play; it’s about games that I’m thinking about buying next.

Which is the second point. I don’t even play the games I have for very long. I get a few hours of fun out of them (sometimes up to 20 or 30 hours if I’m lucky), and then I’m off chasing the next great game. Glendi has a running joke with me that every month I’m saying, “They say that this next game is like the game of the year, I have to try it!” In the end, it’s not even about enjoying games and their actual qualities…it’s about building up obsessions and living in my own imagination of future recreation.

Which is the third point. This is deeply connected to consumerism, and an obsession with the new that I’ve had since my first pair of brand-name, Air Jordan shoes in 5th grade. I remember that personal shift pretty clearly, actually. And ever since, I’ve had some consumerist kick or another. Clothes (rarely), books, music, computers, and now games.

This is deeply linked to my cycle of depression that I’ve been exploring here on this site. It’s both a cause and a consequence, because I obsess about games specifically to avoid feeling what I need to feel. And then I start getting guilty and self-blaming about my game problem, and then that just encourages me more to just go down the shame spiral. Is that what addiction is like? If so, that’s me.

Truth is, I like games. I think there is a healthy place for games in my life. And I like game communities and I like being able to talk to strangers and play games with strangers who share this hobby in common. I’m not interested in going cold turkey, or in “growing up” away from this playful part of myself.

But if I’m not actually playing, and not actually enjoying what I’m doing, then there really is a problem, and I need to face it.

Thankfully, I have this blog, and it feels great right now to write this out, so that I don’t have do go around in circles about it privately. I have a problem, I want to confront it and give my games and my broader consumption a healthier balance in my life. I think writing is a critical step toward that healthiness.

Who knows, maybe actually writing about games and why I enjoy them might be helpful…making me more active in my hobby rather than using it as a tool for passive escapism. We’ll see.

I sat down to write in my paper journal today, for just 20 minutes, and I couldn’t do it.

As sad as it is to admit, I just didn’t know what to say to myself. I didn’t feel like I know myself enough to write anything. Like two people awkwardly shuffled into each other at a party, I didn’t know what me and myself had in common. So easy just to jump to the small talk…so, what’s the plan this week? Have you paid all your bills? What do you have your eye on buying these days? Those more intricate spindles of my personality seem dried up, and they feel so distant. My fun curiosities and probing reflections feel like a chore. What is happening to me?

With all of the automatic deposits, the automatic debits, the automatic weekly and bi-weekly appointments, the pre-planned social time with wife and friends, the monthly house meetings, the regular game nights, the chore days and the cooking nights, the TV schedules and the annual fundraisers…what is left beyond the pre-planned? Where is my life beyond the regimentation? Where is the time I’m making myself just to think, to feel? Because I’m not sure I am, and I’m not sure I do these days. When it is completely satisfactory to go numb for hours on board game forums, or window-shopping new electronic gadgets…when it seems unthinkable for me to be even one minute (in line, in the bathroom, in bed waiting for Glendi) alone without a magazine, my laptop, or my cellphone…when it seems impossible for me to be alone with my thoughts…something is wrong. I used to talk to myself–literally talking–for hours a day, and now nothing. The silence really is chilling. Is my soul dying or smothered? Have I sold out spiritually, even though my body keeps doing the political work? Is this why leftists seem to become so stodgy and uncreative? They just live on auto-pilot like I am?

I know that perky, sunshiny Jeremy finally needs to admit that he’s dealing with depression. Therapy has been helping a bit, but what he really needs is some time alone to himself. Just to step away from all the auto-responses and auto-deductions and just feel this shame and sadness that is in there, so that he…

…so that I can heal.

Currently Reading:

-Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi