How Video Games Give Us a Peek Into The Window of Ourselves

6 Minute Read

D o you find yourself playing video games more and more as social distancing and quarantines continue?

You’re not alone.

The Entertainment Software Association reports that in 2020, 214.4 million Americans played some type of video game. Furthermore, video games have become a central feature of people’s lives, especially since the start of the pandemic. According to Nielsen Videogame Tracking, the number of people playing video games increased 46% in the United States since the start of the pandemic.

Video games are a wide-ranging artistic medium created using computer software. In today’s world, it is easy to access games with action-adventures, role playing, puzzles, and more. Actually, the device you’re reading this on likely supports some type of video game.

Unveiling the false stereotype

The power of play, especially video games, transcend age, gender, and where we live. The long-held stereotype that only teenage boys play video games is no longer true. According to a 2020 study, more adult women endorse playing video games than children and teenagers under the age of 18.

video games
Video games and online gaming transcend age, gender, and where we live.

The benefits of online gaming

Playing video games can be entertaining, but there also can be psychological benefits to picking up the game controller or logging online.

  • Online gaming can be a great way to stay connected safely during the pandemic. In multiplayer games, you can jump on with friends who you may not have seen in a long time due to constraints on gathering and traveling.

  • It provides a chance to jump into an alternative reality, take a break from our own minds, and be in control.

  • Video games and online gaming teaches people how to learn and navigate systems within a virtual environment. They encourage and promote both private and social interactions. For example, Cyberpunk 2077 is an open world role playing game recently released by CD Projeckt Red. In this game, players can choose how they interact with the Cyberpunk world. From the groups they join to their appearance modifications, numerous choices and interactions are possible.

  • Online games can help us develop a wide range of skills including spatial awareness and critical thinking. For example, Call of Duty and League of Legends encourage teamwork, decision-making, and communication. The player’s success is contingent on the mastery and communication of the game’s timing and mechanics.

  • Video games and online gaming reinforce the playful process. Video games are a form of play, which is closely linked to creativity and education. When we play, we are able to develop and express curiosity and enjoyment. Donald Winnicott suggested that play was a way of reaching a person’s “true self”. This is the most authentic, creative, and vulnerable form of a person’s personality.

Taking a look into the window of our true selves

Today, it’s worth exploring our relationship with all forms of gaming. These relationships can be similar to our relationships with one another. Our relationships with video games can sometimes be beneficial and other times, it can be unhealthy or even start to impact our lives and our relationships with others. Gaming can support mental stimulation, and offer ways to connect. But when the virtual world begins to take over, it may be that it has gone too far.

the impact of technology
Gaming can support mental stimulation, and offer ways to connect. But when the virtual world begins to take over, it may be that it has gone too far.

How do I know if my gaming has gone too far?

If you’re finding yourself playing more despite your awareness of how it is impacting your work, school, and relationships, it may be time to reassess.

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Gaming can become a problem when it begins to disrupt your daily life. If you’re finding yourself playing more despite your awareness of how it is impacting your work, school, and relationships, it may be time to reassess.

It’s not uncommon to develop an unhealthy habit of wanting or needing to escape through online gaming or video games. The intense and growing focus on playing games may point to addictive routines that need support to help you find new balance.

Gaming addiction affects individuals of all ages and backgrounds. In fact, The World Health Organization added “gaming disorder” to the section on substance abuse and addictive behaviors in the International Classification of Diseases. There are several indications that you can look for in yourself to know whether your gaming has gone too far. If you are experiencing any of the items listed below, it may be time to seek support.

 

  1. Spending a lot of time thinking about or being preoccupied with gaming

  2. Feeling irritable, angry, sad or frustrated when gaming isn’t possible or others express concern about how much time you spend gaming

  3. Attempting to control the amount of time you spend gaming. For example, promising a partner or loved one that you’ll spend less time gaming but having difficulty doing so.

  4. Losing interest in previous hobbies and entertainment that you used to enjoy because gaming takes up most of your time now

  5. Experiencing problems at work, school, or home (such as arriving late repeatedly, procrastinating or missing deadlines, or generally having trouble finishing necessary daily tasks) due to gaming

  6. Minimizing the true nature of your gaming with family members, therapists, or others. You may experience feelings of guilt or shame and try to avoid discussion of gaming when others bring it up.

  7. Using gaming to escape reality, avoid confronting problems or responsibilities

  8. Individuals in your life have may have expressed concern or worry about the amount of time you spend gaming

  9. A job, significant relationship, education or career opportunity has been jeopardized or lost, directly or indirectly as a result of gaming

The bottom line

What’s most important is to stay aware of whether the virtual world is taking over your time and your life. This is important because we may be susceptible to using various forms of gaming as an escape during quarantine.

What’s most important is to stay aware of whether the virtual world is taking over your time and your life.

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You may have been looking for control in online gaming and now realizing it has more control over you than you do it. If you’re feeling like you’re online too often or it’s impacting your life, it’s time to take control and get the support you need to live the life you want. Therapy can help you develop a new healthy and productive relationship with online gaming. With support, it is possible to rebalance and discover a healthier relationship with online gaming.

If you’re not ready to commit to therapy or aren’t sure if your gaming is an issue, resources like Game Quitters is a great place to start. First, take their video game addiction test and then discover helpful tips that can help you quit gaming and begin to find new replacement activities.

You can lean on us and your support network for help. You’re not alone.

Your Turn: Is gaming beginning to disrupt your daily life? How have you found ways to rebalance? I’d love to hear what’s helped you in the comments below.

Justin L.F. Yong

Justin L.F. Yong is a Psychotherapist at Clarity Therapy. Justin draws on elements from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Affirmative Therapy and Multicultural Counseling to help clients regain their sense of purpose and identity so that they can live life with new energy.

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