Being a gamer isn’t a dirty word

I write this post as a high-functioning game addict.

In the show House of Cards, when Kevin Spacey isn’t trying to take over the White House, he’s gaming.

Kevin Spacey, relaxing with a video game. (House of Cards — Netflix)

Video games have always had a bad rap.

From Season 1 of House of Cards, the main character’s wife and another congressman have this exchange:

Claire: “If anybody knew he came home every day to [video games] — it’s embarrassing.”
Peter: “There’s worse secrets to have.”

Really?!

As I’m writing, to the left of me is my phone. It’s turned on, with an app on the screen. I’m currently playing a game that plays on it’s own, and I come back every few minutes to press a few buttons. The game industry calls this genre ‘idle games’. Essentially, the game plays itself, and the player goes, “Alright! I’m progressing!” and gets a pleasant dopamine kick from letting the game crunch numbers.

The game which I’m idling is called ‘A Dark Room,’ which the New Yorker called ‘The Best Selling Game No One can Explain’.

The Android version was released recently, after racking up millions of downloads on the Apple Store.

My Symptoms

With the advent of app stores, gaming became even more accessible. I no longer had to park myself in front of a TV to play. Nor did I have to pull out a giant brick of a device and suffer embarrassment in public.

With my phone, I can now stare intensively at it and go, “Damn it, Stacy! I needed that email last week!” while in actuality, playing a round of Ridiculous Fishing.

I game in the bathroom.
I walk outside and collect points in games.
I load up games between bites of food.
I lay in bed and fall asleep to the glow of digital worlds.

I even thought about buying a plastic case so I can play while showering.

What else am I going to do in the shower? Be alone with my thoughts?

I can hear the voices now — the criticism of being a game addict.

*Gamers are Unproductive*

I had an individual tell me that they didn’t want to work with me because I played video games.

There’s a weird double standard with Gaming vs. Anyone using technology. That gamers are unproductive at work.

At work, if you’re scrolling through your Facebook News feed, no one bats an eye. It’s the “norm.

But load up Gem of Wars on your phone, and suddenly, there’s a problem.

Why are you gaming instead of working?” they ask.
Why are you looking at your ex-wife instead of working?” I retort in my head.

For someone who is unproductive because of gaming, I still manage a full-time job, work with half a dozen of happy clients, and write meaty blog articles.

*Video Games Are a Waste of Money*

Being a gamer is cheap because of the frequent sales (shout out to the awesome folks at /r/patientgamers), and many are even free-to-play, supported by in-game purchases or ads.

I’ve probably spent a thousand dollars a year on video games. That number is not so scary. When you take the time add the numbers — how much do you spend on shoes in a year? Or movies? Or junk food? Or cat clothes for your fur-babies?

Yet, out of all my habits, dining out is my most expensive. (Maybe I have a dining out addiction?)

The most expensive game I’ve purchased — Bethesda’s Fallout 4, gave me 200 hours of entertainment and an additional 250 hours for my girlfriend, who played with her character. This $90 game ($60 game plus the $30 Season Pass) provided entertainment value at less than $0.17 an hour.

The current game I’m playing cost me $0.99, and I’ve been playing for about six hours.

*Video Games causes blah blah blah*

If you’re still blowing the ‘Video Games are bad’ trumpet, why?

The average gamer guy is 35, and the average gamer girl is 44. (source)

Heck, your grandmother may secretly be a gamer.

The best part is at the 1 minute mark.

How do I deal with this Gaming Addiction

I’ve wondered how others deal with their gaming addictions. I’ve emailed Polygon journalist and super-awesome guy Phil Kollar about how he manages his time, especially with a child and a family.

He responded:

Thanks so much for the kind words, Rocky! Between writing and having a two-year-old son, it’s definitely hard to find a ton of time for gaming. I’m lucky enough that playing games is at least part of my job, so I can spend some time during my work days doing so. Another thing I do to help is set aside scheduled time where certain nights I have set that I’m going to play for X hours before bed or whatever.

Gaming addiction has bad connotations: the biggest being violent outbursts, aggressive behavior and escape from responsibility. It’s cute to paint addicted gamers as introverted man-children with hallowed out eyes and pale skin except for the tan from their computer monitors.

On destructive behavior — I have a mentality of “Yeah, that’s never going to happen to me.”

To find more information about Video game addiction, I Google’d it (Because I’m a professional blogger!). After skimming the top 5 search results (again — professionalism), I wondered— who are these articles written for? The mom fearful her son is going to go Rambo one day because he’s a Major V in Battlefield? The husband who is worried about his wife, who is procrastinating on their love life with another level of Candy Crush?

I’m not faulting the articles. Surely, they must have attempted to come at the subject with real integrity. (I dunno — I skimmed them.)

But then I did a search for other topics. I searched for ‘food addiction,’ ‘exercise addiction,’ ‘TV addiction’, and even ‘porn addiction.

All of those searches had the same level of intensity: articles about warning signs, how to handle it, and even quizzes to test if you’re an addict.

Well, this research is bulls#$@.

Just for giggles, I even googled ‘gardening addiction.’

“Son, come in the kitchen. Your mother found a shovel between your mattress.”

With these results, gaming addiction doesn’t look so bad. Maybe we’re all addicted to something.

Maybe the writers of these articles are all addicted to trying to change people. Whatever.

I Can Still Adult

While it sounds intense that I’m catching up on gaming between meetings and while waiting in the bathroom, I’m not so bad.

I’m an adult with a full-time job and clients who depend on me for their livelihood. I have a girlfriend, rent and bills, and three cat-babies that frequently need fresh litter to put their poop in.

My gaming addiction is in check.

I’m okay with that.

I’d love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment, or tweet it to me via Twitter at @rockykev. My name is Rocky, and I’m the founder of the Serious Game Devs Only community. Indie game developers looking to improve their marketing chops, get the Quickstart Marketing Guide.