It’s been a bit since I posted something retrospective, and I have been thinking about this for a little while. I grew up as a gamer, it’s part of the reason I spent the first 26 years of my life overweight and then obese, treading into morbid obesity. Now, I am not simply blaming video games, that is like saying video games cause violence – the key word here is cause. A variety of environmental factors combine to “cause” an effect in a persons life. Rarely are our pathways defined by a single objective habit or condition. WIth that said, research has shown that those who spend more than 2 hours of “screen time” (video games, tv, movies, etc.) eat 25% more calories, on average. When you multiply that over a lifetime, the effects can be both dramatic and alarming.
Now, I still love video games. You saw that one of my goals this year was to double my trophy count for the year, but if you are a gamer, you have to deeply analyze your relationship to why you are gaming. Growing up, it was a classic case of escapism. Dealing with video games was easier than dealing with school-life, home-life, and everything surrounding me. Luckily, I still kept up with my academics and was able to give myself opportunities in education, but my relationship was unhealthy for both the reasons I played and the amount of time I spent playing them. Even now, with fitness being such an integral part of my life, I love playing video games. Video games, I believe, are one of the greatest forms of storytelling, those that are interactive. I still love movies as well, but I don’t spend nearly the same amount of time. Even though I love the storylines, I would much rather be creating my own. It is interesting that over at www.nerdfitness.com a niche has been found to identify those like me (although I found the blog a little late), to integrate fitness and the progression of Mario, Frodo, and robots. This is the reason I love this blog, the more relatable you can make one thing to another, the more susceptible to idea penetration consumers will become. At this point, I don’t need that alluring magic, but it is still fun.
So, what changed? I honestly spent very little time playing video games last year aside from Skyrim (although I did put a considerable amount of hours onto that little gem!), as I was focusing on school and fitness. I was busy white water rafting and ziplining. This year, I will be busy continuing my fitness, strength training, running, focusing on my business (www.wavinghand.com !), and spending the first year of my life as a health human being. I still imagine myself in front of the screen, playing Final Fantasy 7 for hours and hours and hours, while the sun outside was shining, kids were playing in the park, and life was going on. Although life in Midgar seemed pretty great, I missed out on a lot of opportunities by distracting myself from life. At the time, maybe I needed that to stay sane in my house, and to forget about feeling like a social pariah at school. Regardless, despite the poverty, the bullying, and all of the other factors that drove me to play Karnov and Secret of Mana until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore was, day-by-day, making the last year of my life harder and harder. Although I learned more about myself in the last year than I have ever learned about myself before, I could be in a very different situation now. This post isn’t about regret though. Although it is sad that it took so long to wake-up for the sugar coma that I was in, one of the greatest things I learned from growing up the way I did was adaptability and perseverance. Without those skills, I wouldn’t be nearly as successful as I feel today.
Like I said though, video games are not the cause, but a contributing factor to my lifeline of unhealthiness. The research is out there to support the negative effects of television and video games on physical activity – it just makes sense; if you are inside watching movies, you cannot be outside running a half-marathon. One of the pet peeves I have developed in the last year has been people who say, “I am just not into fitness”, in the same way people are “not into politics”. The subversion away from those things that matter is something we learn at a very young age, and seriously is contributing to the downfall of health and engagement in this country. In the last 30 years, childhood obesity has TRIPLED. That means we are doing something very very wrong. Is it video games? Partially, yes. Even if it is only 1% of a contributing factor, the amount of time playing video games could be spent making the world a better place. Now, I am not going to even get into the psychological effects of spending that much time in the glazed-eye syndromic state, but I know when I was growing up, I would sometimes spend easily 5+ hours a day playing video games. Even if a child is a “thin geeky gamer”, the effects are no different, health and nutrition is not soley about obesity. I also know when I gamed, pizza, soda, and candy were always by my side, just stuffing it in my face without even thinking about it.
But video games are not the problem. Like I said, I still game, yet I still lost 100 lbs. this past year. Video gaming is about entertainment, and the lines between escapism for entertainment purposes and escapism for any other reason is thin and dangerous. When we spend more time in virtual space than we do real space, what is the quality of our life? Maybe some people feel completely fulfilled spending 10 hours a night in World of Warcraft, but we only have so much time here, so shouldn’t we be making the most of it. I know that the polygons in front of me can only do so much, and although I have had emotional reactions to games, I have never felt the same type of accomplishment or happiness I have felt this past year achieving things in real life.
In closing, PLAY VIDEO GAMES, I think they are fun, but be sure you are doing it for the right reasons, keep your water bottle nearby, and take a break once in a while, the characters in the game are not going to miss you.