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.
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?