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Gaming Abstinence

My husband gave up playing video games for Lent (he’s not only Catholic, but crazy it seems) and during those 40 days he didn’t receive any zen-like epiphanies or curb any murderous thoughts -because, for the last time…video games do not make killers.

What did happen however was that the absence made him appreciate gaming even more than he already did. I guess there’s a reason that the clichéd proverb “absence makes the heart grow fonder” often rings true.

When I was a kid I only had one console and a handful of games that I subsequently played to death but nowadays with multi-platform releases and my own money to purchase multiple consoles, I can access the best gaming experiences and play most new releases.

So, I can’t help thinking… if I were the one to cut out gaming for any period of time, what would I miss about gaming the most?

It’s something I don’t think I’m able to answer with certainty unless I actually go without games for a period of time. Do I really know for sure that the things I suspect I’ll miss will actually be the things I miss the most? I’d argue it’s only when you are in that very real situation that you are able to define the factors you genuinely like about games themselves; rather than a superficial guess or supposition.

Would it be the camaraderie of online gameplay I’d be longing for?

My answer is a definite ‘maybe’ here. A few years ago, this would have been a much higher priority on my list of gaming experiences. But as my friends and I have inched ever closer to death, many of us have been through life-changing events, such as adopting or birthing new humans, marriage, big promotions or generally having mental breakdowns, so we’ve all had to reassess our extra curricular priorities.

In addition to the constraints of adult life, our free time has quickly evaporated, leaving our schedules out of sync and little room for late night raids or online gaming. This suggests that I probably wouldn’t miss online gameplay immediately. I might long for it nostalgically now and then, but if I had to give up games tomorrow, I’d probably be okay without the online multiplayer aspect.

With less downtime on my hands, perhaps I would miss the convenience of handheld or mobile games. The kind of games that kill time on journeys or can be played in-between commercial breaks, while waiting for the kettle to boil or my bath to run or some other menial task. Often I find myself booting up mobile games like Pokémon Go or one of several Otome games, as a means of bitesize escape. Subsequently, they have become something of a habit – many of us reach for a phone when unsure what to do – so I feel I would instinctively miss that; like a restless ex-smoker.

Though, I think I’m more likely to miss solo gameplay, the games I spend 3 or 4 hours a time on; single player games with a decent story, such as The Last of Us. The type of games with defined characters, story arcs that change the narrative or play out like films. Stories with real emotions, even if those emotions are anger and frustration at something like Mass Effect Andromeda for making all of my crew members so dull and therefore unromanceable, for example.

I wonder though, if the actual thing I’d pine for, would be the unique ability to explore huge expanses and open world sandboxes like I often do with Fallout 4. Losing myself in another world or universe, experiencing something other than my own mundane life. Its fair to say I’d happily wander the Wasteland and I’ve been doing so since the games release in 2015. I mean, I could go outside but who wants to go outside?

Personally, there’s also a chance I would hate to miss out on staying current or up to date. There’s nothing worse than losing out on precious XP/gamer score and falling behind my friends, never able to catch up to their level and missing out on cool new weapons and armour. Being without games would make me less inclined to keep current with the games industry news too.

On reflection, maybe there’s something else more important to me.

Like the familiarity or nostalgia I’d crave for those games that I know inside out and could play blindfolded, or the ones I play that make my heart sing with joy. One of the main reasons I think video games resonate with me is because I’ve always found them cathartic. Without them I’d have no mental outlet with which to cope with life and adversity. After all, there was a time when video games literally did save my life and I genuinely believe I wouldn’t be here without them.

It’s difficult to really put a finger on just one element that I think I’d miss, games have been in my life forever and as such, there would no doubt be multiple things I could list.

But the internet is littered with lists (including many of my own) and when you have to think about these things and I mean really think about them, when you’re faced with an ultimatum like absence, or perhaps illness or simply lack of time, only then are you truly in a situation where you can learn about yourself.

For example, often when people play FPS games, on some level they believe they’d be fine in a real warlike scenario but I’ve played paintball, laser quest and been on zombie survival role-play experiences and from those alone, I can tell that the reality is literally unfathomable. You really have no idea how you’d fare in a genuine war or how you’d cope in a zombie infested apocalyptic world. Fortunately for us gamers we don’t have to (although I do acknowledge the many military personnel who play games), with games we get to experience many different worlds, scenarios and lives.

While I don’t suggest you give up games for a month (or 40 days like my husband), it would be an interesting challenge and could reveal a lot more about you as a gamer than you think. So, if you want to give it a try…go for it.

Just don’t expect me to join you on that fool’s quest. I like games. I’m practically an addict.

And I need my fix.


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