Ask Dr Mark

Ask Dr Mark
A Disordered Life

Mark J. Kline | 4 Nov 2010 13:00
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On the other hand, some gamers can practice a kind of efficiency and organization in the course of their play. Some games provide great incentives for managing tremendous complexity efficiently. When I played WoW, I had some really enlightening lectures on how to keep my bank slots and bags neat and tidy from players who were totally disorganized in real life. Could gaming help people develop strategies for managing disorder in their lives? It seems dubious, but I can't rule it out. At very least, gamers who are able to play intensively and manage their lives in an organized way are likely extremely efficient!

Disorder in one's life may also be a symptom of a difficulty with organization already present before gaming. Such difficulties may actually lead a person to embrace this hobby. If you have trouble staying on top of very basic things in your day-to-day life, and you frequently meet with failure and disappointment in school, work, and relationships, fleeing the scene into a game would be a great way to escape the problem. I could well imagine that hardcore gaming would attract many people in this situation. Unfortunately, it is one of those vicious cycles that is easy to get trapped in.

A significant number of these folks may have problems with attention, focusing, and task persistence which can lead to a diagnosis of ADHD. Many of these people are actually better able to focus when the intensity of stimulation is higher, and others are capable of relentless activity (and likely very high actions per minute), making them great candidates to be proficient gamers.

Getting organized and being responsible in real life requires executive functions that can be developed with practice and guidance. It involves acquiring boring life routines and rituals. At the heart of these is an awareness of what is healthy and of how one's behavior affects others, as well as an appreciation of the long term rewards and consequences of certain behaviors. In short, it requires a kind of perspective that can be difficult for folks who naturally resist the reality principle anyhow.

If you care about the disorder in your life--particularly how it affects others and your ambitions outside of gaming, there are many things you can do to deal with it. I can't deny that at least a part of the solution will probably involve reduction or management of your gaming life so it doesn't affect your sleep, nutrition, and health, and so you can be more effective in managing the rest of your life. I'm sure many Escapist readers have had to confront this dilemma. Have you found a way to game without disorder, or do you simply choose to live with it?

Dr. Mark Kline spent the weekend organizing his son's Magic the Gathering collection alphabetically and denies that this is in any way obsessive. Have a question for Dr. Mark? Send it to askdrmark@escapistmag.com. Your identity will remain confidential.

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