I have been reading a lot about video game addiction. I have also been mindful of myself and the effects of removing video games from my life. Video games is a nasty business. There is a lot of psychology around how to keep a player engaged that is downright disgusting. As I was reading I started to realize though, that this is not what was keeping me playing. My addiction is less to do with developers and their sneaky strategies and skinner boxes and all of that, but more, I think, it is all about disassociation. I do not handle stressful situations well, and have an unchecked anxiety which makes things worse.
Disassociation can be regarded as a coping or defense mechanism in seeking to mitigate or tolerate stress. I tend to “shut down” during stressful events. Like, when dealing with people and arguing, or if something “major” happens in life. Well, not always, sometimes I am on and it’s ok, but more often I shut down. I will forget conversations and details, and will really just not be there mentally. In the last few years I have noticed that during states of high anxiety or stress that I had a powerful urge to go play video games. I thought maybe video games replaced cigarettes for me, as there may be a correlation of when I stopped smoking to when i started gaming more heavily, but really I think there was a lot going on in my life and around me that was stressful and difficult. My way of coping was to escape and simply not deal with anything.
Some games were addicting, sure. I spent too much time with a few, definitely. But overall, it was simply me not wanting to face reality, ever. Gaming is just the easy way to ignore it all. I disappeared into gaming when my wife was sick, when her family was falling apart, when shit got bad with my family, when my work life got very bad, when our lifestyle got very bad, and so on. It was my coping mechanism.
It is insanely freeing to be rid of the games. I feel a bit more connected and calm overall. I have had some high stress high anxiety events recently and feel that I handled them a little bit better than normal. I have shied away from dealing with things and life for long enough. It’s only been like 3 weeks but it feels good man. A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I feel I can actually start to fix things in my life.