videogames, motivation
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Why You Feel So Empty as an Ex-Gamer

written by Thomas Mühlematter on Wed Jul 15 2020 13:31:31

Why We Loved Gaming When We Were Younger

I still remember when I played some video games for the first time when I was young, the passion I felt for discovering characters, locations, stories and this excitement about interacting with a mini world that reacts to what we do. This possibility of interacting with it, trying different things and seeing how things turn out. Exploring different locations and being mesmerized by the level of detail put into them.

In a sense, I always found video games much more interesting than actual life and this is something that most non-gamers would not understand. The amount of constant fast-paced decisions that need to be taken, the focus and smarts required in some games made them incredibly fun and brought a lot of passion to my life. And the real world seemed often much easier to interact with and much more predictable than the experience I could have in video games.

Why Traditional Advice Does Not Work

One of the main problems in society today is that except for a couple of high-level creative, engineering or social jobs, most jobs are quite repetitive and lack complexity. This is why automation is coming in full force. A lot of tasks can be easily automated and do not require a high level of creativity or abstraction skills. As a gamer, you used to spend hours absorbing complex information and taking fast-paced decisions in order to make progress you could easily measure. One of the reasons video games are so addictive is that they are a constant fast-paced feedback loop. You are constantly exploring, thinking and taking mini experiments for which you get immediate feedback.

And society (not the real world, there is a difference) does not operate at that level of intensity, pace and creativity. And this does not stop to the world of work. You will face the same problem in other areas of your life. Society operates at a level of complexity and speed much lower than most video games. Moreover, things tend to require infinitely more patience than in video games. All of this may seem obvious and the solution would be to say that you need to adapt to a level of living that is at the level of the one society operates and that you were in a sense corrupted by video games. However, the problem is a bit more complex than that. There is a reason that as a child or teenager you were attracted to video games and not knitting (not that there is anything wrong with knitting).

Most video games in the RPG, FPS, simulation or MMORPG genres attract people with high levels of intelligence, creativity and drive. They are so addictive not only because they are fast-paced and satisfy us quickly but because they satisfy our need to live a fast-paced, passionate, complex and intense life that is not shared by the majority of people.

One interesting thing is that we are all unconsciously but even often consciously taught is that being an adult means leading a life much less interesting than we had as a child. There is this belief that being mature means not having fun and that if we are having fun in our life, whether in our job or in general means that either it is not going to last or that we do something that must be childish. This is why we are encouraged to let go of hobbies like video games and are being told to focus on our careers or families.

But what happens if we find elves and dwarves infinitely more interesting than most people in social gatherings? What if we find that managing a team of corporate employees is much less fun than leading a team of space fighter pilots? We are then led to the obvious solution of having to let go of a big part of our personality and interests and look for ways to make our life a bit interesting still but without the burning passion we had as children.

What Works Instead

The reason video games attract so many people is because they fulfill our need to flex our capacity for imagination and exploring possibilities. They require fast-paced decisions and to retain a large amount of information to be successful at. And the tragedy is that if you were particularly good at video games when you were younger, you probably are quite good at complex creative tasks and need that in your life. Where video games are limited is that they are like spectator sports. You get to play in imaginary worlds and experience the great passion and emotions that game designers put into them, but you did not get to create your own drive and passion. This was done for you and you just had to consume.

The solution could be to become a video game designer yourself or to create your own fictional worlds through books, movies or any other creative outlet. Fortunately, despite these options could fit you, it goes far beyond this. What you need in your life is the same level of excitement, intensity, passion and complexity you felt as a gamer. This means that it is not about working on video games but about finding things, occupations, relationships and hobbies that are of equal intensity, passion and creativity. If you go from managing a space empire to knitting and copy-pasting data all day long, it will probably not go well for your mental health but if you do things such as starting your own business, travelling the World or fighting for a cause you care about, you will probably be much more passionate about your life.

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