Ask Dr Mark

Ask Dr Mark
A Disordered Life

Mark J. Kline | 4 Nov 2010 13:00
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I've noticed that everyone I know who plays computer games, no matter what genre, lives in some degree of disorder. This doesn't always affect every aspect of their lives, but one significant area is usually involved, either domestically, their room/house, clothes on the floor, sheets of work with no mind for later revision, or their time keeping: they're late or don't turn up. Obviously this opinion is subjective, and might be unique to my circle of friends, but I was wondering if you've got any evidence to the contrary?

I have known some folks who play video games intensively and are extremely well-organized. I've known others who were disorganized but were fortunate to have wives, parents, or friends helping to keep their lives together. A far greater proportion of gamers fit the profile you describe. It can range from specific areas of their lives, as you describe, to a more global type of disorder that seems to affect all areas at once.

Why do so many gamers have at least part of their life in a big mess?

Many hard-core gamers are males between the ages of 15 and 25, and this group is not well-known for organizational skills. These guys often live in relative squalor, with inconsistent planning and effort, missed appointments, and general unreliability. Even the non-gamers keep late hours, indulge too much in various enthusiasms, are often intoxicated, and might seem impulsive. Many of them just need to grow up, and most of them do, though often on their own timetables, which defy the exhortations of parents and significant others.

There may very well be something about intensive gaming that contributes to this kind of dis-order. Serious gamers view their hobby as something between an alternative vocation and a religion. Some devote a majority of their waking hours to thinking about or playing games; others even dream about it--provided they sleep long enough to enter the REM phase.

With all this time and energy wrapped up in gaming, corners inevitably must be cut. It's easy to talk yourself into thinking you can get away with less sleep than truly necessary. You tell yourself you don't mind if your room is a toxic waste zone. Handing in a first draft seems like a worthwhile compromise--some teachers and professors don't seem to notice, and bad grades often seem acceptable when the focus and energy are in a thrilling alternative universe. What it really comes down to is that many gamers are able to neglect the activities of daily living, and the people immediately around them, to make room for a place where they would much rather be. Over time, this is bound to create lots of disorder back on Planet Earth.

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