To put it simply, I don’t play games any more. In fact the date of the last podcast closely coincides with the last time I played a video game. Now I know what you’re thinking: “What in the zarking fardwarks?” I suppose it is hard to imagine. Me, who spent so much effort to carve out time to play video games. Me, whose childhood and high-school years are largely dominated by what games I was playing at the time. Me, whose normal conversation incorporates similes involving obscure video game characters.
First of all, as for the reason I stopped playing: I’m not going to tell you. At least not right out, lest you think “Well, if that hadn’t happened, he’d still be playing.” All I’m going to say is that “something” happened, which I will refer to as The Incident. Within days of The Incident, I had sold most of my games. Within a couple more months I had given most of the rest of them to my younger brothers. The only things I’ve played since then was one level of Donkey Kong Country Returns that my brother got for Christmas and a little bit on his 3DS right after he got it. As far as playing games at home for recreation or any other purpose, it doesn’t exist.
“Gee, you must be miserable,” you say. “You must really miss games.” Not really. My life has become less stressful and far more enjoyable since then. I used to worry about finishing games, how I was going to keep up with all the games I wanted to play, how I was going to write about all the games I played, how much the new systems were going to cost, not to mention paying for games, plus I had to keep up with the latest breaking news and trailers.... It was as if I was a slave to the very thing I loved.
Now I barely notice any of that. E3 passed last week. I watched a couple of trailers, read a couple of articles. Skyward Sword looks cool, I’ll give you that. Zelda was always my favorite series. The Wii U, PS Vita... meh. (Of course a lot of other people feel that way too, so maybe that doesn’t mean anything).
So what do I do instead? I spend time with my wife and kids. My relationship with my wife has improved indescribably. We used to split up in the evenings and she’d read and I’d play something, or else we’d watch TV together and I’d wish I was playing a game. Now we talk a lot more, and we’ve started to go on dates again. Last week we went to see Eisley at the House of Blues, and it was the best time I’d had in as long as I can remember. In the past I probably would have declined because I wanted to stay home and play a game. Just being in love with her is amazing, and it makes me feel stupid that I wasted several years of our relationship trying to make time to play video games.
I used to get annoyed at my kids because I wanted to play games but they were bothering me or whatever. Now I actually play with them, talk to them, enjoy being their dad, and it’s so much more fulfilling than a video game. One of the factors in the decision was, do I want my kids growing up and remembering that their dad was always around, but playing video games? No, of course not. I want them to remember fondly the times we wrestled on the floor together, the times we went to the park or the zoo together. The fun little things I did for them, like how I take them for rides around the yard on the front of my motorcycle when I get home from work. I never had time for that kind of stuff, and even if I did, I was far to focused on myself and my hobby to see the joy that was right in front of me.
Am I saying that video games are evil? Of course not. I have lots of fond memories of playing, from childhood on, and some games are nothing short of a work of art (Shadow of the Colossus, anyone?) Also, my conversation still carries weight with its video game references. I have learned a lot from playing video games, and they’ve inspired me to greater things. Only now those greater things have left no room for playing around. Real life requires engagement, and I’ve chosen to engage.