How Video games Destroy my focus and long-term thinking

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For my 5th birthday, my auntie gave me a Super Nintendo SNES with Mario Brothers on it. I’ve been in love with video games ever since, and I pledged to never stop playing them.

I’d be loyal to my passion because there’s nothing in the world like video games. Movies, series, even books pale in comparison to a really, really good video game.

They can be colorful, engaging, mind-opening, interactive, challenging, entertaining, frustrating, peaceful. Most importantly, they can feel real.

That was before I started growing old.

I’m 27 now and, on average, I’ve lived one-third of my life. I’m still young. But now my brain is fully developed (which happens at 25 or so), and it doesn’t seem to be able to cope with video games like my immature brain could.

The more I learn about the world and the more I grow as an individual, the more I notice a horrendous side-effect of video games in my psyche.

Whenever I play an engaging, and especially competitive game, my mind becomes blurry to the other priorities in my life. I become somewhat lazy, my priorities don’t seem as important anymore, and my ability to see straight diminishes. Like alcohol but for long-term thinking.

When I play too many video games life becomes easy. Easy to forget that I want to do more, that there are so many things to try, to learn, to produce, to create, to explore, to be amazed by. Instead, all I want is to play one more match.

I start to be easily tired and pulled towards easy entertainment. My ability to focus decreases and so does my grit , but the worst part is my delayed gratification mechanism gets completely fucked.

I’ve noticed a strong, undeniable correlation between competitive video games and my compromised ability to delay gratification.

Delayed gratification is one of the most important things when you want to create good work or do things that matter. Working hard right now won’t give us any pleasure so we must force ourselves to wait to create something worthwhile that maybe will give us some gratification.

Video games are created with the sole purpose of gripping our mind as strongly as possible without letting go. This is the aim of every form of entertainment, but in video games, you are a free agent in what happens around you, so the effect is much stronger.

Especially in competitive games, where a dopamine hit solely depends on your skill and losing a game only exacerbates the need to try harder. “One more match”, “Can’t leave with a losing streak”, are common excuses we tell ourselves.

I’ve read enough about gambling addiction to notice the similarities between gambling addiction and what I’ve described above.

I’ve been without playing video games for months while doing worthwhile work without issue and no signs of withdrawal, so I’m not worried about selling my house to buy loot boxes or whatever, but the grip certain types of game have on my mind is unmistakable.

Life would be sad without good entertainment though.

However, story-based games don’t seem to have these side-effects. They’re like a movie you’re moving about in, sometimes even more enjoyable than competitive matches but somewhat not as gripping.

I play them on the couch while chilling. I’m alone in a world with no dopamine hits, a world designed for me to succeed, there’s rarely the need to try harder, right now.

Our brain is a finely-tuned piece hardware, perhaps the most complex in the world as of yet. Every input has a consequence.

Your body is what you eat, and your brain is what you entertain yourself with.

That’s a big reason I don’t do social media or read the news (apart from Twitter, which I distill carefully), they’re like what I described above ten fold, but social media also causes depression.

It makes me sad to know that there are certain types of games I better stay from. There’s too much I want to do for me to let an external factor mess up with the wetware I rely on.

As a side note, I’ve noticed the exact opposite happens with books. The more books I read the more I want to do and the better my focus, long term thinking and delay-gratification becomes.

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May 30th, 2020
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