Wednesday pondering – on playing

My children stayed at home for two days in a row because they were coughing and their noses were running, so I didn’t take them to kindergarten. And what better thing for them to do than play? One of their favorite games is an Xbox car race thing. And while my elder son plays a race from time to time, my younger son proves to be awfully attracted by this game, and taking him away from the console becomes more and more difficult with time. To put it straight, he is frighteningly addicted to it, up to the point of starting to cry when I told him to pause it and to come to lunch. And upon seeing his reaction, I became scared, because I suddenly realized how little it takes for someone to lose their sense of reality. It’s not normal. It’s not right. I’ve seen similar reactions in adults, when someone tries to prevent them from playing their favorite game, and it’s even worse.

Many people think that playing games is a matter related to childhood, but then again how many of us spend time playing “serious games” or “adult games” or “society games”, simply for having fun? Let’s just admit it, we all play a game or another, no matter if it’s a physical game or a mental one, and we all like to win in that game. Normally it’s about recreational stuff, meant to take our minds off the daily problems, meant to relax us, but did it ever happen to you to look at a game in a much too serious manner? To let it in your blood maybe a bit too much compared to how you should?

The question is – what does a game (whatever that may be) provide the player with, in order to trigger such an addiction? What sort of satisfaction? What “buttons” does it touch inside us that make us want more and more of it?

Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a particular answer to that question. Biologically speaking, it all comes down to a hormonal release in our blood. Psychologically though, it’s about much more. And it’s different in the case of each game and each player. Besides, the problem is never the game itself. The problem is the toys with which you play it. The stake that you put “on the table”. The thrill you feel is often the bigger the more you think you could lose but don’t. What we don’t realize is that the main stake in all situations is ourselves. All the feelings involved, all the relationships touched by what we do, one way or another, all the time and eventually money, are related to us.

Games, as a method of having fun and learning and developing new skills can be a beautiful tool. But games that are played only for the sake of “the thrill” are dangerous – from my point of view at least. Because “the thrill” is temporary, and usually it’s never enough. And even if we say that “we can quit whenever we want”, we only quit when we come to the part where we hurt others and lose something or someone. That’s when the game isn’t about “playing” anymore and it stops being a game.

I’m still not sure how long will be life of the Xbox in my house, considering what I told you at the beginning of this text, because ultimately there’s always the solution of me removing it and thus banning Gabriel’s access to it. But I’ll consider it a great thing if my son will understand to treat it for nothing else than a game without me turning to such an action. After all, it’s never the game’s fault – always the gamer’s.

© 2014 Liliana Negoi

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