I remember my first video game experience.
My family and I were visiting my aunt’s house. I was six years old so I left while the grown-ups were talking and found my cousin in his room. He was double my age, but he let me join him as he was playing Double Dragon on Nintendo.
I had heard of video games from commercials and my older siblings, but that was the first time I ever experienced it personally. I picked up the controller and was instantly drawn in.
I was in charge of the character. He did exactly what I told him to do. He jumped when I hit the button for jump and he attacked when I hit the button to attack.
It was the first time in my life that I felt in complete control.
We started playing and, though, I wasn’t very good at first, I soon got better. We were able to advance further and further into the game before losing all of our lives. It was exhilarating and I still can remember the feeling of almost floating as we went down to dinner.
I stayed up until 5:00 am that night playing.
As I have grown older, I am surprised by how many people have shared with me similar stories. A friend or family member introduced them to gaming and a euphoric high took root. They were soon chasing this feeling in gaming over and over again.
Which leads to a very important question: Should I stop playing video games?
Short answer: Yes. For a strategy on how to quit playing video games, check out our simple and quick guide.
9 Reasons to Put the Controller and Keyboard Down
It Stimulates Your Brain in Dangerous Ways
Playing video games gave me a strange, ecstatic glow. It wasn’t by accident. Games are designed to engage with parts of our brain connected to addiction.
More Screen Time, Worse Health
According to a report by Business Insider, prolonged screen time can lead to blurred vision, eyestrain, and long-term vision problems.
In the short term, it has been linked to insomnia as well as inferior quality of sleep.
The Further You Go, The Deeper You Go
A National Institute of Health study found that prolonged gaming resulted in the players suffering severe consequences. Even a few hours of engagement difference saw noteworthy differences in the resulting depression and social phobic symptoms.
An Exposure to Toxicity
Modern video games connect players from all over the world and provide a forum for exchange. Just like with any Internet medium, these often act as a harbor for adherent behavior. The Washington Post has an article about dangerous elements like racism, misogyny, and antisemitism that have led to traumatic outcomes.
It Damages Your Relationships
After work or school and our other commitments we can’t change, we have so few hours with the people who matter to us. In spending that time engaging with a video game, you neglect those relationships.
The detrimental effect gaming can have on relationships has been recorded. A recent study found that the popular video game, Fortnite, was responsible for hundreds of divorces.
They Change Who We Are
All of this subconscious bombardment changes our outward reaction as well. As Seneca writes in Letters from a Stoic with regards to the video games equivalent of his day,
“But nothing is as ruinous to the character as sitting away one’s time at a show – for it is then, through the medium of entertainment, that vices creep into one with more than usual ease.”“Letters From a Stoic” by Seneca
Damage to the heart and body. Playing video games results in sitting down and not being active for longer periods of time. A lack of physical activity and engagement results in a sedentary lifestyle. Another NIH study found that such a standard of living increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity.
Increase in Aggression and Anger
Violent video games are nothing new. My first game was based on vigilante justice over thirty years ago. But a study has now linked aggression and overly aggressive behavior in real life with the video games players compete in.
It Can Get Really Expensive
The game systems cost over $400 with new games that can run as much as $60. That adds up quickly. Even if you’re playing “free” games, those come with in-game purchases that quickly add up.
Missing Out on So Much More
Before you wanted to play video games, you probably had a dream. Maybe you wanted to learn to play the guitar, speak mandarin, or any of the other, countless skills and hobbies that people pick up. Playing video games takes away from time and energy to master your real-world passions.
Avoiding video games is seemingly easier said than done. With the advent of mobile gaming, they’re always with us, making them harder to avoid. Even worse, the games themselves have evolved to grab our interest in an extremely crowded, media landscape.
Over the years, video games have only gotten more sophisticated in snaring us. They are able to induce habit-forming behavior as Nir Eyal lays out in Hooked,
“A company can begin to determine its product’s habit-forming potential by plotting two factors: frequency (how often the behavior occurs) and perceived utility (how useful and rewarding the behavior is in the user’s mind over alternative solutions).”“Hooked” by Nir Eyal
By forming partnerships with professional, behavioral organizations like the American Psychological Association, gaming companies are able to determine both what is likely to get us playing as well as what will keep us playing.
In perfecting the formula, the industry has seen a growth base (over 2.5 billion players) and player commitment (more than an hour a day, according to Forbes) leading to an explosion in revenue to nearly $200 billion a year.
Which is a lot of gaming.
How much gaming is too much for adults? It depends. But with something designed to be addictive by nature, it’s hard to know. Limiting or eliminating something made to be addictive from your life is always a good decision.