Ask Dr Mark

Ask Dr Mark
Long-Haul Gaming

Mark J. Kline | 2 Jun 2011 20:30
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The science of all this is in its infancy but fascinating nonetheless. If videogame play can be such a powerful experience that it creates a brain state that persists, for some of us, beyond actual play, it may have even more potent effects during continuous play. Not being a neuroscientist myself, I think of these potent effects as a kind of enchantment. It feels good to be enchanted and you want to do it as much as you can. If you have a flexible work schedule and few family obligations, it can be even harder to resist.

Why would we want to spend our limited hours on earth in an enchanted state? The answer to this probably goes beyond what I often hear from gamers--that it's fun or it feels good when they are playing. The attractions of this enchanted state are very powerful--gamers often report feeling irritated when they are torn away from it by some real life obligation. Some note that they only really feel good while playing. By contrast, real life can acquire a kind of humdrum dullness that can feel quite deadening--it seems replete with boring activities and tasks don't hold your attention and seem empty and disappointing.

Living in an enchanted world can help us escape pains and anxieties in real life, and it can also make us feel we are doing something special, important and magical. You seem to have found like-minded others to share this experience with, and these relationships may become significant and important as well as providing a kind of consensual validation for the habit.

When you spend thirty or more consecutive hours in this ensorcelled trance state, it's hard to imagine that you don't become deeply engrossed in it, entertained, stimulated, and relaxed all at the same time. Many serious gamers would sympathize with the attraction of such lengthy immersions, but you wonder if there is something wrong with this behavior. Do these long periods detract from other activities, priorities, and relationships? Are you able to enjoy life outside of the gaming world or does it provide your only satisfaction? Something is troubling you about these long stretches of gaming, and it's a good sign that you would take the time to reflect on it. If you can't determine for yourself whether there is a problem, talk to someone you trust, or perhaps even a professional. Getting this sorted out may help you arrive at a more balanced distribution of gaming, sleep, and other life activities, or you may end up feeling better about what you are doing and continue with it.

Dr. Mark Kline's spring allergies have been particularly intense. Luckily, Zyrtec has prevented him from sneezing all over his laptop. Have a question for Dr. Mark? Send it to askdrmark@escapistmag.com. Your identity will remain confidential.

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