I don’t care about video games (anymore)

I’ve played video games of one sort or another from a very young age. I remember when my grandparents bought my family an IBM PS/1, and I played some really basic games on that computer when I was around the age of 7 or 8. Even before that, at Christmas time I would go over to the grandparents and me and the other kids would play Track and Field and Duck Hunt on the NES that they had purchased, which I was only allowed to use on special occasions. My gaming life really took off when I finally convinced my parents to buy me a console, a Sega Genesis, a 16-bit system that included the greatest video game ever made in my opinion, NHL 94. Around that same time, as the PS/1 was outliving its usefulness, again my grandparents bought my family a Gateway 2000, with a beastly 75 mhz Pentium processor. I was able to play games like Mad Dog McCree and get on Prodigy or AOL and even play the occasional game online. Not long after, one of my best friends, who was also a neighbor, somehow managed to convince his mom to get him Warcraft II, and I also managed to get the game (I don’t remember if I just borrowed it from him or what), and we would tie up both our home’s phone lines as I would dial his modem and we would play head to head Warcraft battles lasting hours. These matches would of course get interrupted any time one of our family would pick up the phone to make a call. I really loved PC gaming as a kid, and it continued as I got older. I also kept up on console gaming as well… even while I was playing sports practically full time, I was staying up til 1 or 2 am on school nights playing video games. Outside of playing youth sports as a teenager, video games were my number 1 hobby.

I would call my relationship with video games obsessive or even addictive. This relationship continued all throughout my 20s and early 30s. As I got older, this relationship got more and more unhealthy. PC, hand-held, and console games were the primary way I filled my time, along with plenty of alcohol and drugs. I watched fewer and fewer movies and spent most of my time couch-bound. I’ve never exercised consistently since I got out of school and stopped playing sports. I would also smoke cigarettes fairly obsessively as I took part in this past-time. When I was unemployed for long stretches I would just play games most of the day and get wasted. Not exactly a productive use of my time, I know. Eventually, Hearthstone came around, and I started to play it obsessively. I was never that good at it due to the negative headspace I was in, but I played it for basically a year straight, non-stop, at the expense of nearly any other gaming experience. The only time I would pick up another game is if a friend was in the room with me and wanted to play a fighting game head to head, or something like that. Eventually, my relationship with Hearthstone soured, I had used it to fill a void in my life, and after spending far too much time and money with it, my play eventually tapered off. This happened because I got clean, and I got a good job that kept me busy 30 hours a week. Eventually, after losing a match in Hearthstone made me too angry one day, I dropped it completely.  I’ve now gone 6 months without picking it back up, despite the sunk costs I have in that game with hundreds of hours played unlocking a multitude of useless digital bullshit in that game. I’ve thought of selling my Blizzard account but truthfully I have no desire to use my Blizzard account ever again or even come close to playing Hearthstone ever again. It completely crowded out my enjoyment of video games and became a sick compulsion for me.

Since I stopped playing Hearthstone, I’ve only picked up one other game, Magic 2015, which I only play occasionally. I get more enjoyment watching others play it and comment about it on YouTube, personally. Since I stopped playing Hearthstone every day my use of other video games has still not returned to normal levels. I attribute this to getting clean, getting a good job, and attempting to be more social with people in person, rather than living 90% of my life in front of a TV or computer screen. Whenever I think of playing a game or picking something up I start to get nervous because I feel incredibly burnt-out. I certainly enjoyed playing games in the past and feel I generally got my money’s worth in terms of entertainment value, but on the other hand I’m starting to look at it as a massive waste of time. The joy I used to get from gaming is mostly gone. I look at the use of time spent gaming as a chore or a burden now, especially since I have found more interesting things to do with my life. I don’t know, it’s weird and somewhat hard to explain, but I’m trying to change my patterns of activity and thinking into a more positive direction, and one of the ways I’m doing that is basically by only playing games a few hours a week, if that. I just don’t care about video games any more.

Free Will or Determinism?

All too often I feel that formal philosophy presents arguments based on the assumption that two different viewpoints are necessarily opposed to each other. The idea whether human action is based on free will or determinism is presented as a binary set, with the thinking being that it must be one or the other. I know I’m not alone in saying this, but I believe the answer lies somewhere in between. Life isn’t black or white, or a set of absolutes dictating what we know to be true. There are shades of grey. The right answer is not always apparent. As we learn more about science we peel back another layer to get a closer look at reality. As we delve deeper we uncover even more mysteries and more unanswered questions. I think that’s exciting, the proposition that there is still so much to learn about the natural world. Back to the question: are we free to control our actions as we wish, or are our actions a product of deterministic forces in a universe completely beyond our control? I believe it’s too simplistic to say either or, I believe both arguments are partially correct.

It appears that we make choices. Decisions and choices are pretty much what life revolves around. As I experience my own conscious mind on a daily basis I feel I am presented with a set of choices in each encounter with the world that I’m involved in. The notion that I have free will is a very strong one, personally, because I feel it gives me agency. Yet as more scientific discoveries about the body and brain are made, the argument for determinism grows stronger, casting doubt on the concept of free will. The idea that we are largely influenced in our lives by our genetics has only really come about in the last 70 years. The concept that in many scenarios the brain triggers a reaction before we can even consciously process it is an even newer discovery. Is it arrogant to think we have free will? I don’t think so. I still believe we have free will, even if we somehow know physically before we consciously make a choice. That physical knowing that takes place in the brain is a product of our upbringing, our life experience, our personality makeup and our genes. Even though we still have a choice, we are largely unaware of all the forces that drive us into a circumstance where we are forced to make that choice.

Determinism also raises a host of legal issues as well. If it can be proven we really aren’t in control of our choices, how can we legally convict someone for murder if we can scientifically prove they are technically not responsible for their actions? It’s clear that the notion of free will is actually rather integral to most of modern society. The entire market economy relies on individuals making choices about how they are going to spend their resources. The entirety of criminal law rests on the principle that individuals must be held responsible for the choices they make. Interestingly, some nations make an exception in the case of insanity, and refer people to treatment rather than prison as a result. If it could be proven that no one is truly responsible for their actions in the free will sense, what happens to criminal law? I think as a practical matter, we must look at human action through the lens of free will.

Comfortable is bad

For too long I’ve been comfortable with failure. Comfortable with mediocrity. Comfortable with boredom. Comfortable with not taking risks. Comfortable with stagnation. An outside observer might call it laziness, but it’s more than that. It’s a fear based decision-making process. By putting off any and all decisions, I effectively decide by wasting time until the decision is made for me by self-created circumstances. I’ve avoided growth because I was afraid of change. I don’t want to live like that anymore.

In the last 9 months I’ve become much more focused on achieving goals and making progress in my life. I’ve changed a lot of things as a result, but confronting my own negative patterns of thinking and acting is the hardest part of this process.  These patterns have been ingrained in me over most of my life, so escaping them is harder than I thought it would be. I now appreciate how difficult it is to change my outlook and perspective, along with these patterns. My main mode for doing this has been by taking positive actions in my life to get me feeling better about myself. One goal has been to repair and renew existing relationships with people I care about, as well as foster more relationships with new people, to make myself more open and vulnerable. Getting to know someone isn’t hard, but letting someone else get to know me has always been a struggle. I used to be better at it when I was younger, but as fear invaded my thinking over the years it became more and more difficult. The barriers I’ve created for myself are pretty neurotic, it’s like an unfunny Woody Allen movie in my head all the time.

Another part of this process is catching the lies I tell myself as they happen and challenging them on the spot. This forces me to confront my own bullshit. One of the things I avoided doing for years was writing. I used to love to write. I would blog every day 10 or 12 years ago, and it came effortlessly. As I got further and further away from that, one of the lies I told myself was that I couldn’t write, that I had nothing to offer, that my creative spark was gone, so what was the point? I have made it a goal this year to write with something approaching regularity. I can’t challenge these lies I tell myself simply by out-thinking my own brain, I have to take action to produce the evidence that stands in sharp contrast to those lies. That evidence is now here on this blog, and by doing this I really have improved my own outlook and my sense of self-worth. Which might sound crazy to you if you are well-adjusted and already like yourself, but for me it has been a struggle and being able to write again is a big deal.

The goal with this blog is to just write about whatever interests me, or whatever’s on my mind. The goal is not to cater to an audience or even for other people to read this stuff. I’m working on improving and refreshing my writing skills and rebuilding my self-confidence in my ability. To be completely honest, I don’t care if anyone reads this stuff. If someone does and likes it, that’s just an added bonus. So far so good.