150 days without videogames

As of today, I have gone exactly 150 days without playing a single video game.

This represents something of a minor miracle for me. This is almost certainly (I can’t say certainly only because of the addled memory I have from playing so many video games) the first time I have ever gone remotely this long without playing video games since I first touched the unholy blight that is a video game.

I used to read books as a kid. This was fantastic. My vocabulary, spelling, grammar, writing, and general language skills skyrocketed effortlessly. I probably became more intelligent and imaginative and creative. Reading fostered a fecund brain.

And then one day a flyer came in the mail, advertising a ridiculously cheap copy of Total Annihilation for whatever reason. My dad decided it couldn’t hurt to buy it for me.

How terribly, terribly wrong he was.

Really fucking terribly wrong.

But it wasn’t his fault, really. It was my best friend’s fault. I got the game, and promptly loaded it and began playing. Only problem was video games were so foreign to me that I couldn’t actually figure out how to move. And so the game was scary as shit to me - there I was, a tiny, helpless sessile commander surrounded by terrifying black fog of war on all sides, unable to do absolutely anything but wait for the enemy to inevitably chance upon me after an interminably long period of time and blow me to pieces.

The game sucked. I hated video games and decided never to play again.

But then one day, I happened to stop by my friend George’s house, and he decided to show me how to play Starcraft. It seemed reasonably interesting, but nothing that special. Pokemon was still a lot cooler. I mentioned off-handedly, however, that it looked somewhat similar to this one game I got back in the mail ages ago. George’s interest was piqued, and he asked if he could borrow the game. I readily agreed, since I hated that terrifying piece of shit.

The next day, he got back to me and told me that it was pretty much the greatest game ever. Highly confused by what he possibly found enjoyable about the game, I demanded he show me how to play. So he did.

And he was right. It was the best fucking game ever. So I immediately stole the disc back from him and that was pretty much the end of my being productive for the next decade or so of my life.

I couldn’t get off video games after that. I stopped reading. I stopped sleeping. I stopped doing my homework. I stopped eating. At one point, I even peed out the window because my soul belonged to video games and I was hiding from my parents in the wee hours of the morning playing and didn’t want to wake them up by flushing the toilet. God, life was bad.

I literally spent an entire summer doing nothing but waking up, playing Total Annihilation, eating and crapping only when absolutely necessary, going to sleep well into the wee hours of the morning, and repeating the process ad infinitum until summer was over.

The next summer and part of the school year I spent over 2000 hours playing this one online TBS clone of Advance Wars called Battalion. I’m actually not sure how I managed to log so many hours on this game, but I was highest ranked player out of thousands and regularly kicked everyone’s ass. Had every map memorized and knew exactly how much each unit could move and how much damage each unit would inflict on every other unit on every type of terrain.

RPGs were even worse. Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate II, Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment - everything under the sun absorbed my life.

MMORPGs were the worst of all though. Having no friends (possibly as a direct consequence of playing so many video games) made the desire to socialize with others while playing the video games that precluded me from having friends immense. Had a four week stint of Runescape where I got to level 56 and then decided the game was shit and I hated my life and never wanted to play again and gave away my account. Same story multiple times on Maple Story.

And fucking Dofus. I hate that game with a burning passion. The most vivid memories I have of high school are me procrastinating until 2am before doing homework because I just had to play Dofus all day until then. Well, Dofus and Gunz. Anyway, my life sucked balls and I wanted to die the next day at school. The next day being every day of my life.

Junior and senior year of high school I started to finally phase out of being a hardcore gamer, but the plague never fully left me. Instead I’d have relapses every now and then, which could be brought on by any small perturbation in my life, such as getting sick, or simply being hit with a trigger that gave me an unquenchable urge to play something, anything. And then I’d end up being stuck and playing a game for anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months, having it suck hundreds to thousands of hours from my life.

When I got an iPad, things got even worse. To date, I’ve actually found no other use for the iPad other than playing video games and watching movies. I fucking love the thing, but it’s fucking terrible (love-hate is clearly the only kind of emotion I have learned to develop over my lifetime).

I played Modern Combat so much I hit level 72, which takes killing I believe over 10,000 people with headshots. I was so good I could beat hackers at the game, with their one-shot kill and 10 shots/second and lightning speed.

Worst fucking thing ever.

Things finally came to a cliff 150 days ago, when I was hanging out with one of my best friends from high school. He was leaving the next day or something like that, and we decided the best thing to do was to find the original version of Civilization and play it on DOSBox.

Around 3 am or so, we finally wiped out every single starting civilization. But a few civilizations had respawned, and we didn’t know where. But we had come so far I decided we couldn’t just not have closure now. So we decided to build a shitton of transports and systematically search every single square inch of the map.

By 5 am, we managed to locate and wipe out every single civilization except the Chinese. But the Chinese! We had absolutely no idea where those bitches were. We’d covered every single pixel of water, and hit every major body of land except the tiny islands. They had to be on a tiny island. But that was just pretty much impossible to thoroughly search.

But we tried anyway. By 6 am, I finally decided to give up and engage in an alternate strategy - just end turns until the Chinese found us.

By 7 am, they finally found us and we wiped their sorry asses out.

But the damage had been done. The monumental waste of time spent doing absolutely nothing of value became the final straw for me, and I decided then and there that I’d never play videogames again in my life.

I made it a rule to myself that if I ever touched a video game again, I’d instantly have to pay $20 to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which I really didn’t want to do, being that I’m a vehement atheist and all.

This combined with the fact that I’m cheap as shit meant that as much as I loved playing video games, I could never justify paying $20 for the marginal enjoyment gained from a split second of playing a video game.

And so, miraculously, 150 days later, I find myself here amazed and incredibly grateful 150-day-younger-me decided to do this.

Video games are fucking worthless. Put against the opportunity cost, they have contributed absolutely nothing positive to my life and they have made me miss out on infinitely more valuable pursuits in my childhood, like learning how to code or write novels or start businesses.

I have a terribly addictive and obsessive personality. God forbid I ever start doing drugs or drinking alcohol.

Obsession is a wonderful boon when directed fruitfully - in the act of creation, for instance. Creating a business, a story, a work of art, a robot, a Science Island - wonderful.

When directed into an endless shithole like video games, it’s pretty much the worst thing that can ever happen. I’m glad I got out of that one.

Incidentally, it’s also been 150 days without TV shows for me. I find those mostly worthless too. Sure, if I had infinite time, I’d probably spend half of it doing this worthless shit and enjoying myself somewhat thoroughly (this is a tragic argument against immortality), but in the face of opportunity cost? Fuck no.

We decide what brings us pleasure in life. It’s a common argument that these things are not entirely bad and completely worthless, because they bring us happiness and enjoyment, and that is worth something. But for me, at least, it’s not. 1. Because the self-hate that comes afterwards totally cancels out any enjoyment I get while indulging, and 2. because we can choose what makes us happy.

Why choose the things that harm us? Smoking might make us happy. Heroin most certainly does. Alcohol as well. Gambling, perhaps. And video games and tv shows.

But we don’t have to be dictated by our present desires. If we decide they aren’t helping us become better people, why don’t we take on better pleasures? Working out and running, for instance. Reading. Building something. Playing with math and conducting scientific experiments :).

The world’s filled with an infinite number of things that can bring us momentary enjoyment. Some of them are harmful in the long run, and some are immensely helpful. Why not fill our time with the helpful ones?

If this post doesn’t make any sense or sounds like shit, it’s because video games destroy your mind. Boom. Point proven.


Now read this

That time I climbed Kilimanjaro (and got carried down in a stretcher)

So this is just a short recounting of the time I decided to go to Africa and climb Kilimanjaro. I may decide to flesh it out once upon a future, and I may not. I’m also not sure what the moral of the story really is. It’s either ‘don’t... Continue →