I want to preface this post by addressing how we are breaking it up into three different parts. Part 1 will deal with our decision to give up gaming for a while and what prompted it. Part 2 will deal with some of the social, physical, and psychological aspects of what excessive gaming can do to a person. Finally, Part 3 will focus on what healthy gaming looks like and how to incorporate it into your family without causing issues.
The decision to take a break from gaming came on our drive to church back in March. It was something I was feeling prompted to do internally for a while but never took any steps to make it happen. I casually mentioned to Kelsey that I wanted to sell our gaming PCs. I could almost hear her jaw hit the floor. She was surprised that I would take such a drastic step but was extremely supportive of my decision to remove the single biggest distraction in my life.
We gamed together for a few months after I built her a gaming PC and had a lot of fun together. We would team up with my clan-mates on multiplayer shooters and considered it a shared hobby. It was, however, becoming a bit more than just a hobby. We would dedicate hours of our nights to this joint hobby after putting Little Dude down to bed. It was getting in the way of our relationship even though we were enjoying it together.
“What’s the big deal? You guys found a hobby you enjoyed together? Isn’t that good for your marriage?” These questions are very legitimate and it may seem no different than enjoying watching sports or movies like some other couples do. Our problem isn’t with video games…it’s with excessive video games. We find quite a lot of enjoyment in the games but we also found ourselves losing sleep and many of our home projects were being put on hold to accommodate our gaming.
I began playing video games very early in my childhood. Started with the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) as a 5-year-old. As I grew older I would find that video games were my go-to hobby. Through the years I would acquire the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo Gamecube, Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, multiple custom build PC’s, and random handheld systems in the mix. I would have dozens of games for each system (hundreds on the PC). I would spend thousands of hours throughout my childhood (even into my 20’s) would be sitting in front of a TV shooting bad guys, leveling up characters, and completing every side-quest.
Throughout middle school and high school, I would ignore family and further isolate myself in my room with my gaming systems. I used them as a way to deal with my social anxiety and fear of making new friends. I wasn’t very athletic and I found video games to be a great way to feel successful and see progress. We will talk more about the reasons for video game excess in Part 2.
Taking a Break…Yea, That Didn’t Last
It wasn’t until I hit college that I took my first break from gaming. It was when I was living on my own and my roommates helped break me out of my shell. I was finally socializing and wasn’t afraid to make new friends.
For a couple years I had managed to focus that time and energy on Kelsey as we dated and later got engaged. It wasn’t until our 2nd Christmas as a married couple that she bought me a new PC case and with it the permission to build a gaming PC. Little did she know of my excessive gaming past and my troubles with managing time on the device.
When I finished the build I had a lot of time in the mornings to dedicate to this hobby. I was working second shift at work and Kelsey was working first shift. I had the entire morning to myself and would spend most of those hours glued to my screen completing every side-quest in Skyrim and driving tanks in Battlefield 3.
Kelsey started off slowly by playing puzzle games and we would occasionally hop on Minecraft together. It was a fun way to kick back on a lazy weekend. She started to play Rainbow 6: Siege (team based shooter that relies heavily on tactics and communication) and that prompted me to build her a PC for her own gaming pleasure.
Back to the decision to rid our household of games. It was not that we thought video games have a bad effect on our minds or that they are evil in any way. We realized that we had lost control of our time and simply unplugging the systems was not going to work. I realized that my ability to control my time in front of a game was lacking and until I have better self-control, I can’t be around the games. It is similar to someone who has problems with controlling alcohol consumption, they would benefit from not being around a beer.
It took a couple weeks for my brain to acknowledge the fact that I wouldn’t be gaming anymore. I had to focus on other activities and projects throughout the house to distract myself from thinking about it. The decision was made four months ago and I don’t regret a thing.
“I don’t play video games. They are such a waste of time. I don’t get why people get into such nonsense.” – Me Before Gaming
I’m not sure how or why but I got sucked into playing console games, which was followed up by PC games later. Growing up I had a PlayStation and PlayStation 2 which only played sports games; basketball, baseball, hockey, and snowboarding. Once the PlayStation 2 was obsolete I just stopped playing games altogether…until year one of marriage.
We were poor college students and would play Minecraft together for fun. I didn’t think there was a problem, but there were nights that we would play for hours. I also played a puzzle game called “Da Blob” while Nick would play shooting games. I mentioned to him that I wasn’t a fan of the violence, but that shifted when we moved into our house and I started playing Battlefield 4. Then I got into Nick’s favorite game, Rainbow 6: Siege. I’d play Siege during Simon’s
Then I got into Nick’s favorite game, Rainbow 6: Siege. I’d play Siege during Simon’s nap time every single day. It was made worse when Nick made me a gaming PC of my own. Ugh…it took away our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun and loved chatting with the people we were playing with but I realized it was sucking too much time – it just wasn’t fun anymore.
I told Nick that I didn’t want to play anymore and I needed to find a healthier hobby that I could have control over. I was in complete shock a month later when he sold both PCs.
Gaming isn’t inherently bad, just like any other form of digital entertainment. It is bad when it is abused. In our next couple blog posts on the topic, we will talk about the depression, bullying, and isolation. We’ll also dive into how parents can talk to their kids about the games and why it is important to know what they are playing and who they are playing with.
P.S. – I’m not feeling well. I was struck in the face with a softball during my co-ed game yesterday. I have bruises, bumps, broken teeth, and a concussion. I’m on some killer meds and I’m sure it will be apparent in the podcast.