6 Signs That You’re Playing Too Many Games

December 20, 2012 — 9 Comments

In my last post, I talked about how busy my fall has been. During these past few months, I’ve used my busy schedule as an excuse for why I haven’t written as much as I’d like. But there’s more to the story.

This game is massive

This is what has been making be busy lately.

Right around the time when I “got too busy to write for a few months,” Borderlands 2 for the Xbox 360 came in the mail. Since that time, I’ve beaten Borderlands 2, Batman: Arkham City, Halo 4, and started Skyrim, a game I’ve been waiting over a year to play.

Out of all four of these games, the least I’ve played for one of them is probably about 20 hours.

I’ve played Skyrim for about 33 hours and I’m nowhere near the end of it.

Now before I sound too much like a guilt-ridden-game-hater, I just want it to go on the record that I don’t think playing video games is wrong. At all. But like many good things, video games can be abused.

When I consider the hours that I’ve spent playing video games over the past three months, I think of all the reading and writing I could have done if I spent even just 25% less time playing video games. If I were playing through my third game, instead of my fourth.

Before I get too down on myself, thinking about missed opportunities, I want to highlight a few warning signs that might be telling you it’s time to cut back on the video games a bit.

1. You lose sleep because of playing video games. I realize this is subjective. We often stay up a bit later to finish reading a chapter of a book, talking to our family, or watching the end of a movie. But there’s a difference between staying up 45 minutes later because you had to watch the next episode of Lost and staying up three hours later because you had to finish a quest. There have been days when I have not been the best husband and father I could have been because I was too tired. In those moments, whether I admit it or not, I’m choosing video games over my family.

2. You’re feeling extra stressed out. I’ve noticed that I often play video games the most during times in my life when I’m feeling stressed out. I come home from a long day of work and I feel too tired to read a book, hang out with Sara, work on the house, or write something, but I don’t want to go to sleep. So I sit on the couch and play video games. During those moments, I’m using video games as an escape from the pressures I’m facing in life. Our church has been going through a time of significant transition this year, and I’ve begun my DMin. These have both involved a lot of stress. It’s no coincidence that my Gamerscore has improved so much.

3. You spend most of your time playing video games alone. When playing games with others, whether online or locally, there are more social queues that help you consider the amount of time you are playing. By yourself, you lose many of the indicators showing how much time you are playing.

4. You are embarrassed to tell somebody how much you play. I think it’s helpful to trust your gut on this one. If you feel sheepish telling somebody that you stayed up until 2am on Friday playing Halo, enough said.

5. Other responsibilities are falling through the cracks. This can sometimes be hard to figure out. I’m great at coming up with excuses. So I can say that I’m too busy to clean the cat litter because all I did was get up, go to work, and go to sleep when I got home. But when I think about it more, the reason why I only had time to go to work was because I stayed up late the night before, gaming, and then slept in the next day. If my house in Skyrim is more organized than my house in Fort Dodge, it’s time to take a break.

6. You constantly want to game when you aren’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing a game that’s so cool, creative, or immersive that I find myself thinking about it while not playing it. At the same time, Jesus wants us to live life free from bondage to anything. One way to make sure that our heart is in the right place is to see if you can go a day without playing that awesome game. If that’s harder than you thought, consider taking some time off from the game.

Now look, I don’t want to sound legalistic here. I’m not saying that playing a lot of video games is a sin or anything like that. I love playing video games. However, I also love many other things in this life, too.

Sometimes it’s helpful to make sure that we aren’t using video games to fill a void they’ll never fill. There are many good things with which we can gorge ourselves. Gaming is one of those.

So what do you think? Are any of these warning signs bogus? Am I being too lenient on games? Too tough? Are there any other warning signs you can think of?


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I'm a pastor, writer, speaker, husband, father, and follower of Christ, to name a few titles. You can find my contact information in my About page.
  • davro

    7: When your first blog post in months is about how hard it is to keep up with your blog, what with all the games you’re playing.

    I kid, I kid. Oh before I forget, the grammarian in me has to correct “social cues.” Unless you’re talking about waiting in lines.

    But really, it’s good to have a new post, and it’s appropriate with games (as with anything we enjoy) to take a step back occasionally and examine what it’s costing us to enjoy them. As per our conversation this week, you could add a whole bunch to that list that we only seldom consider: sports, alcohol, fantasy lit, powerlifting, or whatever. The point not being that a meaningful life abandons everything we like, but that a meaningful life is one where we actually look at what we truly hold to be meaningful and why. And then invest appropriate amounts of time toward that, possibly at some cost to where we had been spending it before.

    I think point 4 can be a little subjective, since we have differing sensitivities to guilt. Also, because of the continuing arbitrary stigma of games, we still calculate and adjust to expect more shaming for the 2am Skryim session than for staying up that late to work on our model ship. Neither one ultimately creating anything of great and lasting social worth, but shipbuilding simply being a more socially acceptable past time.

    Point 2 is also interesting. The common assumption is that playing games as escapism is a coping mechanism for stress. Your level of play and your level of stress do seem to correlate in your own anecdote there. Is it helping, though? I imagine there are some folks for whom the game relieves stress from real life. I’m sure there are others for whom the game inadvertently ends up adding stress. It’s helpful to know which situation you’re in.

    So there’s my thoughts and such for now. First post. Whee.

    • All good points. Your number 7 is spot on..
      I totally agree about filling in the blank with any hobby or passion. If I spent all of my free time write a book, at some point, I’d need to step back and remember that I have a family, physical fitness, etc to consider.
      That leads to the idea of escapism. I definitely think games get a bad rap as “just an escape from daily pressures of life,” but the same could be said for reading, watching sports, and pretty much anything else.
      As to whether or not they relieve stress, that’s difficult to tell. I think, more often than not, especially when played alone, they have a zero sum effect. Where there are certain other activities like physical exercise, daily prayer, or time in Scripture have a more positive impact in reducing stress and anxiety. Though it’s a joy to trounce around in Skyrim for a while, I don’t go to bed with a better feeling about that upcoming paper, or whatever the stressor might be. While spending some time on a walk might inspire some new thought about an upcoming sermon or paper idea.
      In the end, I think a lot of it comes down to the youth of the video game medium and that we haven’t been trained to see some of the value in games yet. So we feel more embarrassed to say we stayed up late playing video games than reading a book. However, both have the potential to be rewarding or problematic.
      I think your overall point about periodically stopping to reflect upon the impact of what we enjoy is a wise way to view games, and other pastimes as well.
      Let’s keep the conversation going over a game of Magic!

  • Logan

    Great points! A thing I have been personaly working on is making videogames a reward to the day. Get the things done you feel like is reasonable to do in a given day then reward yourself. When you are comfortable with what you have done and feel like you have accomplished the day give yourself some reward time. This reward will be worry/stress free and you wont be guilt gaming. It does not even have to be video games just something that you feel.is rewarding!

    • Yeah. That’s a good idea. Even something as simple as “do an hour of reading before I turn on Skyrim” will net me 7 hours of reading each week that I might not do otherwise.

    • James Rodriguez

      Typical adult. Putting boundaries, and setting everything fun up as a reward for something harder.

  • scrhill

    while video games are great, I think you and your brother Dave had a good point that if they’re keeping you from doing even better things, then they’re a problem. Saying no to the good to say yes to the very best. 2 years from now you could have 5 completed video games that collect dust OR a completed NOVEL!

    • James Rodriguez

      what if the best thing you do is game? Jesus. Script a game like minecraft, and your filthy rich for LIFE. Make a book, you’ll get 500 bucks max from it before getting another one. See, a game is editable, you can update it, put it on new consoles, and market it. A book? Sure, famous for some time. but thats it. only one book. One. No second versions, no money, done.

  • James Rodriguez

    Hmph. I feel no shame in saying that all I want to do with my life is GAME. Thats it. Make, script, design, play, and buy games. GAME. GAME. GAME. NOTHING else. No GF, no friends, maybe a dog, but nothing but GAME. I play 24/7 now. I Have B’s in some classes, and I don’t want to go to school no more. Just GAME. Maybe start a gaming youtube Channel. But thats it. GAME GAME GAMMMMMEEEE

  • James Rodriguez

    I don’t want, or need friends. I haven’t talked to my friends in MONTHS. Just doing school forced by mom, and GAME. I feel no effect though. I don’t need a social life. I haven’t had one in months, and im perfectly happy. No effect. Perfectly happy. with. my. games…