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    Video Games: Escapism and Seeking a Sense of Achievement

    Written by: Preston Chapin Soriano

    Video games are constantly adapting and evolving overtime. They are becoming incredibly realistic, and the stories involved in them have gone way past “pass the square pixel” and “save the princess”. Kids and adults alike find themselves sucked into other worlds, getting emotionally attached to characters and plots, investing hundreds of hours into their games. When around other gaming friends and family, the topic comes easily and all parties involved go into deep discussions about their progress in these games; when questioned by a non-gamer, a sudden social anxiety and almost defensive response comes from most gamers. Being a gamer myself, I can tell you that trying to explain the appeal of video games to someone who just “doesn’t get it” is like trying to explain astrophysics to a third grader. Not that they are stupid, mind you, as any time talking with a third grader will tell you. They just can’t possibly wrap their brains around what the big deal is.

    So now, in the most fundamental way I can, I will try to explain the big deal.

    Escapism.

    When most hear that term, negative notions usually follow. In most cases, those notions are correct. With any creative outlet this is the case though. Some people spend their time in video games, others read books, some might find solace in involving themselves more with their community. In other more harmful ways, some will drown themselves in alcohol or drugs. The end result is the same, however. Their life—the one that they live day to day—is mundane, boring, predictable. Sometimes in more severe cases it is depressing, and these outlets are the only way that they know how to feel even the smallest amount of happiness.

    Achievement, even in the smallest of forms, is very much a drug. The sense of achieving increases the levels of endorphins in the brain, and for someone who might feel that they are stuck in loop will feed off of these accomplishments to sustain these levels of “feel good” hormones. This, unfortunately, is what leads to addiction.

    Now, addiction is a tricky subject. When most people think of addiction, they think of the thing that causes the addiction. Really this is not the case, which is evident in the fact that not everyone who does x will be addicted to x. Think of happiness as a scale of 1 to 100, 1 being the lowest possible point and 100 being the highest. Now, let’s use the hypothetical people Brittney and Steve.

    Now, Steve is a relatively happy person. He wakes up in the morning without dreading his day, sees the silver lining in everything. Now, he’s not at 100, because most people aren’t. Let’s put Steve at about 80/100. Steve is at a party with his coworkers after work, and after finding out that he has never tried thing x convince him that he has to at least once in his life. So he does. X brings Steve to about 90/100. This 10 point boost is nice, but Steve doesn’t really need to feel that throughout his week, because his scale is already high.

    Brittney, on the other hand, is on the low end. She can’t keep a job, she’s constantly moving from apartment to apartment trying to survive, and her car just got repo’d. Brittney is at a pretty low point in her life, so we’ll put her at about 20/100. She decides on a whim to try to make a home for herself in New Mexico, because California is just far too expensive. On her first week there, she comes across a store selling y. She’s never tried it before, and has a few dollars to spare, and curiosity gets the better of her. Y brings Brittney up to about 60/100, which is still lower than Steve but still much higher than her started point of 20.

    This is where addiction starts. Addiction isn’t about the thing, it is about the feeling that the thing gives you. It’s about having a sense of control and happiness in an otherwise unhappy, chaotic, or boring life.

    Now, not everyone who enjoys playing video games, drinking the occasional glass of alcohol, or even smoking a bit of marijuana is addicted to that feeling. A good number of people really just enjoy it. Be it nostalgia or just a good end to a good day. Knowing the reason behind an interest is the most important. Accusing your husband for being “addicted” to video games while you yourself are playing Candy Crush on your iPhone is very likely not accurate in the least. If you do think that someone you might know is addicted to something, the first and most important thing you should do is be curious. Don’t just accuse and dismiss, ask them why they enjoy it so much. Some signs of addiction do include things like procrastination of tasks and/or chores, skipping out on important events or even work to do the activity, withdrawal and agitation when they are being kept from the activity, insomnia, and an unhealthy obsession with the activity.

    For those of you reading this, just remember this important (but probably harsh) fact:

    No one will remember you for your interests. Your tombstone will not say how much you loved cats, or your millions of food pictures, or how many Xbox achievement points you raked in “capping n00bs”. Live your life, but live it fully. If you enjoy things (that aren’t physically or emotionally harming others) that other people might find silly or childish, so what? Enjoy the heck out of it! But don’t let that be your whole life. Push yourself to fulfill real achievements. Push yourself.

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