You have permission to play video games. In fact, you should feel free to do anything that makes you happy.
In my early-20s-bachelorhood I could easily play computer games for 8 hours straight, un-showered and in my underwear on both Saturday and Sunday, quitting only for long enough to go out and party. I stayed a bachelor for a long time.
When I got older and collected responsibilities and set goals I didn’t feel good about this habit. I wanted to accomplish more with my life, so I cut way back on gaming.
"Your perception of reality can be more harmful than reality."
Last year I found a game called Starmade – basically Minecraft in space – where you build giant spaceships out of 100s of different kinds of blocks and battle strangers online. Yeah I'm a nerd.
I spent 2015 somewhere in the middle ground between uncontrolled binging and rigid self-deprivation. I would go to gaming to relax for an hour or two a night, but felt incredible guilt for not spending this time on my business, or at least on practicing guitar, reading, or doing “something productive.”
In reality, my perception of my habit was killing my self-esteem. “Games are for kids,” I told myself. I’d only squeeze in a gaming session when my girlfriend was out of the house, so she wouldn’t think the same. My self-esteem took a dip.
I gave serious thought to my situation because I was tired of feeling bad. I needed to make the decision to either quit gaming entirely or quit the guilt.
I remembered that since my childhood obsession with Lego I’ve loved the idea of “sandbox” play – activities with very few rules and no limits. I acknowledged that I’m happy when I’m lost in a creative activity like this.
Examining this habit, I discovered that I love designing and building things. I reaffirmed that I’m a highly creative person, and need an outlet for that, even if it might seem childish to some people.
"Since I've given myself permission, I don't feel guilty"
The bottom line is I feel great when I play (in moderation). For a long while I thought this was escapism at work, but now I see that I’m in flow, in the zone.
I changed my beliefs and reasoned that making art is not childish. It has incredible value and many musicians and painters get paid boatloads for their work. I may never get paid for my spaceship designs, and I don’t consider myself an artist, but every human is entitled to his or her own creative outlet.
Since I’ve given myself permission to game, I don’t waste energy on feeling guilt. My designs are getting closer to art and I enjoy sharing them, even with a small audience. Maybe I’ll face ridicule for sharing this with the world, but that’s ok. My dirty little secret makes me happy.
“If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.”
– Sheryl Crow
Nobody can say for sure if we get another life after this one. We’re all in control of our own time and actions. Do what you love.
Activities that you love can help you discover your values. My gaming taught me about my creativity, and my love for design and building.
That in turn showed me that when I bring these values into my business, work feels more like play, and people start responding better to my product.
My gaming is starting to sound less wasteful.
I’m sorry but you still have to go to school. Or work. And get exercise and socialize. Everything I’ve said above does not relieve you from your responsibilities, and it’s not a suggestion that you go play World of Warcraft for 40 hours a week. That’s not healthy, man, go have a shower and get some sunshine.
In this situation you need to apply common sense and be honest about how much of your favorite activity is too much. A creative outlet is a positive thing, but letting it become an addiction that causes chaos in other areas of your life is something to be avoided. Use good judgment.
How do you know when you’re out of balance? Ask yourself, when I do this activity, what else am I not doing? Learning to surf? Saving money to buy that motorcycle? If you feel bad, it might be time to reevaluate how you spend your time.
The world is full of amazing activities to enjoy, hobbies to collect, and ideas and places to explore. You get to decide how you spend your days, no matter what anyone else expects from you.
If everyone did a bit more of what they love, rather than what they HAD to do, our world would improve. If everyone brought the values at the root of these habits into their work – whether it’s creativity, humor, or compassion, less people would feel blah about their jobs.
Take your passion and use it for good. A better world starts with you.
I’ve shared my story, what’s yours? Let us know in the comments.
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