The Golden Cup
Nothing you see has any meaning, save for what you give it. A cup, for example, does not contain some inherent "cupness" that defines it. We remember filling it with orange juice in the morning. We remember drinking from it while we read the paper. We remember holding it in our hands, washing it. If you take what we call a cup and break it into its component parts, and break those parts into their parts, you will not find a molecule that is pure "cup." It follows then, there is no inherent "cupness" that defines the shape. We see our past experiences, and so we pour meaning into possessions, often making them desirable.
Millions of people have discovered a new way to fuel desire, turning their attention to the most intangible objects in the world. Virtual items. Zeros and Ones. Things that cannot hide their lack of inherent existence behind our usual senses like touch or smell. We know that the sword with the impressive strength modifier doesn't exist in any meaningful way, but we buy into the fantasy with the most precious currency we have: our time.
If a virtual pair of chain mail pants with a 400 armor rating had any inherent meaning, I would be just as excited about them as the person who spent twenty hours working to acquire them was. If someone mailed me the pants in a game, I might give a polite "thank you" and get on with my day. My lack of overwhelming appreciation may stun them, and for good reason.
Through all the time we pour into games, yearning and striving for new things and experiences, we build bigger and better shrines to the virtual objects of our desire. In doing so, we give them power. We experience the joy of getting a highly sought, rare item, and we worship it for giving us that feeling. We fill it full of our experiences and our efforts, poured from our own sweat and tears, and we drink it back down thinking that sweet nectar is other than ourselves, thinking it's the cup that gives us this wonderful feeling, thinking that anyone who sees this cup would experience the same.
Dissolution invariably follows, because as sure as we pour meaning into the objects of our desire, we expect the pleasure we experience to last, thinking it's the object that drives it. Without the need to pour all this meaning and desire into something we already have, it loses the power we give it to please us. We forget about it, and we latch on to the next thing on our list, once again grasping for more good feelings. And so the process begins again. The sweat and the tears, the temporary joy. It cannot be sustained. We are insatiable, and the more we get, the more we want. We experience this cycle over and over again, until it becomes more than just an experience, it becomes a belief in the power of virtual items. It drives our thoughts, it narrows our search for happiness and meaning outside of ourselves, never satisfying our need.
Look around your virtual world. Everything you see, including the avatar you've worked so hard with over the years, means nothing on its own. Every item, every quest, every step you take, is willed by you. Everything you cherish is entirely dependent on your willingness to do so. The people who make these games do not give us a world full of meaning, with objects worthy of our attention. They give us a shell; a big empty cup waiting for someone to fill it up until they are dry, and then to slake their thirst with their own sweat, praising the vessel all the while.
These objects of our desire are not the source of our happiness, they are a catalyst. The trigger we put in place to release these good feelings within us once we acquire them. To enjoy a game without becoming obsessed, we have to see it for what it is and accept that it does not have any inherent ability to make us happy. Our minds are powerful; we create the world we want to live in. We create our golden cups.