Today I told myself I’d had enough. I spent 20 minutes deleting the Steam client from my computer hard-drive. But I could not delete the entire associated game library even though all of those games could be re-downloaded later. What if I needed them? I have a backlog of material that feels larger than I can handle, and logging into Steam or looking at my Steam account to play a game only makes me feel worse, because it reminds me of games I have paid for and will never play. I can’t imagine ever allowing myself to play through all those games and typing that now feels like a weird release, even though some part of me has always known this. There isn’t enough time in the world.
It doesn’t feel good to play video games. It never feels good. The best I’ve felt recently was guiding the protagonist of Gone Home around her family’s empty mansion. A close second was choosing to save a boy on a tractor in a game instead of a man caught underneath the tractor. Zombies were attacking them, and even though I find zombies boring, in that moment I felt something that I have never felt from any other form of media—a feeling of responsibility, along with the regular feelings of sadness and shock. The main character in that game, The Walking Dead, walks around mostly with his eyebrows raised high as if he wishes to constantly convey his earnestness. He is a black man who committed a crime in a different life and as much as his character feels real and convincing his eyebrows are an extreme way of getting the player to empathize with the character.
The world outside is shocking constantly. We are all walking with our eyebrows raised.
There is a feeling I can locate inside that is the feeling of a boy, a young boy who wants to play inside a game forever, because playing games makes him strong. He feels he is learning things about life even if he is learning nothing about life or if the game has nothing to do with life. He doesn’t want to avoid life, because he is preparing for it, and one day he will be ready to face it. He is acquiring the tools to do this, whether they be real or digital. What he wants is for time to stretch infinitely while he’s playing the game, but time doesn’t work that way and so the game makes him lose time and causes him to feel less prepared the more he plays.
About the only thing he is preparing himself for is playing more games.
God, Gone Home is good. After I finished that game I downloaded albums of all the bands that are in that game, mid-nineties girl rock that made me want to stick up for myself even though I’m not a girl.
Games are art, but my mistake is how I play them. It is a problem of moderation as much as it is one of expectation or evaluation. Games must be balanced with constructive pursuits, if they are played at all. The feelings and thoughts and connections one experiences while playing games are worthwhile of course, but not if you go in so far there is nothing left to reflect upon those experiences. There is a hollowness I feel when I play too many games. When someone asks me what I have been doing lately I look at them blankly and try to call back to my life.
This problem of succumbing, really succumbing, seems unique to electronic media, but games are somehow worse than radio or television. It is a problem of privilege too of course. Not everyone can afford to succumb. Most people can’t.
The internet in many ways is a game, or acts like a game. Games came first.
Of course, it was a young boy who wanted to destroy the games, like taking a hand to a tower of blocks that has obsessed him and taken all of his time. The impulse to destroy is part of the impulse to control. I will destroy the games and take back my life. I will excise what I don’t like until I resemble what I do like. But over time no matter how positive the direction of this anger I hope for my own sake that these tantrums will eventually cease.