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Have you ever done something that you knew you were truly addicted? Have you felt consumed by something so strongly that you could not imagine a life apart from it? Has a life where it was not included in your every day seemed impossible? Me too my friend. In fact, my addiction was not long ago. If you are a gamer, you may be able to relate.
For a short while now I've been living in Los Angeles pursuing my dreams in acting and other ventures. I knew early on that I didn't want to waste time during my stay. Making the executive decision to leave all video games in my possession back in Texas was scary at first. Soon the fog lifted and I was able to see a life without them again. One day while visiting my family I heard something shocking. There was an instance where my cousin asked me to play a video game with him. I picked up the controller as my Aunt was passing by. The moment she noticed the controller in my hand, she asked me a question that I had never heard before. She asked me, "Do you still remember how to play video games?"
Now if you don't know me then you most likely aren't amazed by this but, for me, this was an astounding achievement. Especially since I know what it is like to lose myself in something such as video games. I know what it is like to be unable to separate the virtual from your reality. In a way, video games became my reality. I can remember being at work thinking about video games. Being stuck in traffic thinking about video games. Even sleeping and dreaming about video games.
After years of living like this, my habits started to get very unhealthy. To the extent that, when I walked outside, it was as if I was still in a virtual world. I became so disoriented from staring at the screen for long hours that there were times where I literally had trouble separating the actual world from the virtual one. It was like I was caught in the Matrix! If you've ever seen a person playing a video game for long hours you may have noticed a zombie-like look on their face. We get consumed and we don't realize how we appear to others. In fact, often times we're not really there. We may be physically sitting on a couch but we're actually inside of that world. We have become the character we're controlling and, for the moment, we have transferred our minds into the game world.
I won't be the one to say that video games are dangerous to the point where I think they should be banned. On the contrary, I still love video games! There is even an awesome talk by Jane McGonigal that expresses how wonderful they can be. They can be a great way to bond with others, and can also be used to increase and build certain mental faculties. They can give us a sense of power or a feeling of growth and accomplishment. They can be a wonderful sense of escape from everyday life. They allow us to traverse different landscapes that we've never been to. They allow us to do things that we could only dream of. However, I do know how intoxicating they can be without moderation. What's more, I have also found that a book can do all of these things as well!
Gaining control of the controller
I have made it my mission to be successful here in California. I knew that, if I came here, I would have to transfer all of that energy from the video game world into the actual world. In order to succeed, I needed to somehow derive my sense of achievement from real life. I needed to get excitement from success in the physical. From finding out new ways that I could help and inspire others. Ultimately, doing things that involve my contribution to society. To do this, I had to switch something in my mind. Now I am conquering the bosses in real life. Every time I get a new success or reach a new goal in real life, that is another level I have passed. When I make time to meditate, I am leveling up my character. By transmuting this energy, I am able to be that much more successful.
You see, in my opinion, video games are not harmful by themselves. Yet I was the type of person who put in long hours, long days, and nights into accomplishments no one could see. There is a book I thoroughly enjoyed reading that illustrates what might happen in a world where people are entranced by virtual reality. It is called "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline, and was so successful that it led to its own movie. I relate to this book a lot because I used to enjoy escaping into that kind of utopia. It was not uncommon for me to go without eating, using the restroom, or sleeping to conquer a level. What do you think would happen if I had put all that time and energy into achieving something worthwhile? Something that would actually earn results that were tangible and could change others lives?
Think of something in your life that you can use to inspire. Think of things, outside of yourself, that you've been spending a lot of time and energy on but have not really been serving you. Do you feel like your time and energy could be spent elsewhere? Do you feel trapped? Unable to break out or believe in a life without it? Trust me when I say that you can. That fantasy life doesn't have to be a fantasy. It's out there for you and, if you look hard enough, it could be here right now. So fight your own battles. Beat your own bosses. Realize that, in your life, there are many ways to level up.
One thing that has me hopeful for the future is the ongoing use of "Gamification". Gamification is defined as the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts i.e. learning, and physical exercise. I remember playing an educational game on the computer in my pre-teens called "Jump Start" which taught me various things from new languages, mathematics, to history and typing. There are many phone apps out now that encourage people to actually go outside and get moving. I support this as a way to find some form of balance. Where we can see progress not just in a game world but in our everyday lives as well.
By Jerome Shaw.
Find me on Twitter and Instagram: @jromeshaw.
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