I was playing video games before Ronald Reagan was president, before the space shuttle was first launched and before disco was finally dead. When I first put controller in hand, MASH was still on TV, John Lennon was still alive and there was no such thing as Star Wars. The internet was science fiction, phones had dials and coke cans had pull tabs. These were ancient days.
Gaming has clearly held a secure chunk of real estate in the neighborhood that describes my life, and yet every few years my well runs dry. The neurons and tissues that motivate my game playing, a chunk of fleshy matter that I assume is well developed, will from time to time simply go dark, and suddenly I am staring at virtual worlds displayed for my entertainment purely out of inertia. As odd as it may sound after 30 years, right now I just don’t feel like playing.
This is a troubling situation for a lifelong gamer. Though I’ve experienced the phenomena now a half dozen times, and each time I simply wait until the reserves of joy-inducing endorphins kick back in, I feel left adrift in the calm seas that I usually know only as a maelstrom. What is a gamer supposed to do when he doesn’t want to game?
Does this happen to heroin addicts? Do they jam that syringe in deep, only to think, “ugh, not this stuff again?” Do alcoholics ever get to the bar and say, “you know, I’ll just have a Sierra Mist?”
I usually try not to think about my gaming habits in terms of addiction, partly because of the ramifications of such thinking but mostly because I think the term addiction is used too casually to justify poor decisions. I am always very conscious of how I game and how that gaming affects and diminishes the time I spend doing other thing. There’s a whole article here about personal responsibility and managing your life, I suppose, but that’s not the particular high horse I’m trotting astride today.
Despite my careful measure of game time, the truth is I play a lot. Too much? And, usually, much of the time I spend not playing, part of my brain is thinking about playing. My enthusiasm for gaming is a mostly constant companion, so you would think it wouldn’t take me very long to notice when it is gone.
The truth is something different. Looking back I realize that my excitement for the games I play has been on the down-swing for a season now, finally culminating in the realization that if I don’t play another game this month that might just be fine with me.
And here’s the thing: I think this is a critical part of being a gamer.
In a strange way, I think it is these occasional downtimes that keep gaming fresh for me. I think being able to step mostly away from gaming for a while is a fantastic opportunity to gain perspective on the whole endeavor, and when that familiar urge begins to rise again, I will come back with fresh eyes and rejuvenated excitement. I make this claim with the authority of experience.
I don’t know whether this is a result of some kind of gaming overload, of being a new father with an infant or part of some other environmental factor. I suppose in truth it is in part because of all those things, and probably just a natural defense mechanism that allows me to carry on with this third decade of being a gamer. I don’t know whether this happens to everyone, or it’s my own mechanism. I don’t know how long it will last or what game will finally drag me back in.
Odd as it may seem for a lifelong gamer, it’s a nice, if brief, reprieve. I actually cherish these occasional releases from the compulsion. Sometimes, the best way to keep enjoying something is to stop for a while.