Mental Meanderings

Monday was my day to post, but since Break posted his
announcement, I decided to let my mind’s energies collect and post twice today.
Now, that might seem to be a greedy land-grab for front-page real estate, but I
have my reasons. We have a couple of topics to talk about today, and both of
them need to be addressed before they became dated. First is the initial review
of Mario Kart Wii, which preceded this article. Second, and you’ll have to
excuse the blog-like nature of the beast, is this very write-up, which covers
the LAN party, and all of the thought trains that spring from it.

 

To quote Mario, “Here we go!”…

First off, I want to again congratulate Break on his
entrance to USC. I’m a huge movie buff myself, and have been well trained in
the art of script writing, so having one of my friends admitted to THE film
school is an extreme excitement. I share Break’s enthusiasm, and as his friend,
I’m very proud of his accomplishment. This reminds me; it wasn’t long ago that
Break and I announced an upcoming mystery project that we were going to debut
on BMX. Unfortunately, his need to depart over the summer for his upcoming
classes nixes this project. I’ll let you in on the secret; Break and I were
going to do a series of short film collaborations together. Since he’s moving,
I’m flying solo on the particular shorts, but Break and I have already
discussed future projects for when he’s done with school. One day, one day…

 

We’ll miss you around town, Break, but we know you’ll find
success.

 

The second order of business around here is to thank
everyone who came out to the BMX LAN party. And for those of you who couldn’t
make it out, I hope you enjoyed the broadcast and webcams, hopefully we’ll see
you at another event. But for those of us who were there, man, what a blast.
Its been a long time since I’ve been able to spend the entire night gaming, let
alone with a room so full of friends. And having up to four players available
on every system was pretty amazing too. Rock Band, Smash Brothers, the debut of
Mario Kart, X-Men the Arcade Game, all played to their fullest potential. And Q
did a great job making staff Magic: The Gathering cards. My only regret is that
I didn’t get to team up with Richie to blast zombies in House of the Dead 2
& 3. We still need to get down on that.

 

Of course, our 11-hour binge of gaming does make me think
back on our broadcast topic: are you a gaming addict? And yes, I’m well aware
of the irony of following up that topic with an all night game party, some
people falling asleep in their seats with plastic guitar still in hand. (A hint
as to whom: he’s moving to California
in a month).  But as listeners will
recall, there was a twelve-question list I was supposed to post here so that
you could check it against your own habits, and test for an addiction.

 

From Scholastic
Choices
Vol. 23/ no. 4, Are You A
Gaming Addict
?:

  1. You
    tell yourself you are going to game for only a few minutes, but you
    frequently lose track of time and play for hours.
  2. You
    have repeatedly tried to quit gaming and failed.
  3. You
    have a sense of euphoria while you game.
  4. You
    crave more gaming time.
  5. You
    neglect your family and friends to game.
  6. You
    feel restless, irritable, or unhappy when you’re not gaming.
  7. Gaming
    is causing you to have problems at school.
  8. You
    feel guilt, shame, anxiety, or depression as a result of gaming.
  9. You
    sleep patterns are changing (like staying up all night to game, and
    sleeping all day).
  10. You’re
    developing health problems like backaches, weight loss, eyestrain, and
    carpal tunnel syndrome.
  11. You
    withdraw from [non-gaming] hobbies and social interactions.
  12. You
    lie to family and friends about your gaming.

 

A panel of addiction experts, who say that if you can answer
‘Yes’ to five or more of these questions, your gaming may have developed into a
problem, constructed this list. Happily, my game habits seem to be healthy, as
I can only answer ‘Yes’ to two of them. Of course, if you were to change the
word ‘gaming’ to the word ‘masturbating’, well, I’d be guilty as charged. I
imagine most guys would be. Right? Back me up guys. [Crickets chirping]

 

I was just going to post this in the forums, but I decided
to make this a front-page endeavor when I was driving to work Monday. All over
the radio they were talking about Grand Theft Auto 4’s eminent release. That
was yesterday, by the way. And one radio station had a discussion about the
game’s addictive qualities, one host going so far as to say that he would
probably not leave the house, bathe or eat during the weekend while he was
playing the game. He said he’s lost girlfriends over his game habits in the
past, which then sparked a series of call-ins from people who have had
relationships end over the amount of time spent gaming.

 

So let’s take a moment to talk about responsible gaming.

 

I love video games. I can understand why other people love
to play video games, and put much more time into them than I do. But when
callers are talking about neglecting friends and girlfriends to play games, I
have to question this. When the desire for virtual experience outweighs your
desire for real world experience, then I would say that you have a problem. An
example from the radio show:

 

“So would you turn down sex to play Grand Theft Auto?”

“Oh yeah, absolutely.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“No. What? Sex will be there later, but Grand Theft Auto… I
just need it now.”

“What in GTA can you do that’s better than sex?”

“Well, my favorite part is going out and getting the hookers
and…”

“Hookers? You’re passing up sex so that you can make your
character have sex in a video game.”

“Well, I guess so, yeah.”

 

To me, that denotes a problem. You’ll have to excuse me for
sitting in judgment here, but when you would prefer to pretend to have a positive experience rather than go out and have
the actual experience, I think its an issue. This may seem like a crazy notion,
but rather than dropping $50 on a fishing game, why not drop it into a rod
& reel, and actually go fishing? Why not get together a real game of
football? Why not… okay, so you can’t (or shouldn’t) actually beat a hooker to
death, but you can go out and seek the sex part personally. Why not take a
breather from epic fantasy quests once in a while and seek out real adventures
of your own? I believe it was Teddy Roosevelt who said, “You should always seek
out adventure. I never say ‘No’ to an adventure.”

 

I think that part of the reason people get so lost in video
games is that it gives an immediate sense of accomplishment. Lord knows I play
Guitar Hero as opposed to picking up guitar lessons because its about a million
times easier, and I can immediately pretend to sink into my life of cheering
fan girls and drug abuse rather than doing the years of labor it would take to
get the real thing. But after the power button has been shut off, so is the
feeling of success and accomplishment, and I’m just another guy sitting on his
couch with a toy guitar.

 

It’s the reason I could never really get into watching
sports. So many other people shout and cheer and jump when their team wins, but
I could never get really pumped about it. “We did it!” they cry. But, they
didn’t really do it. The guys down on
the field, or court, they did it. We
just watched. And we hope to stand on the shoulders of the mighty, sharing in
their victory, living off of the glories of other people rather than finding
our own.

 

With video games, it’s much the same thing. We try to find
emotional connections online that we lack in our day-to-day lives, or
accomplishments through the actions of our characters. And it’s easier to feel
like we’ve really done something, because the character can only be moved
because of our actions. But we shouldn’t forget that we didn’t really save the
world from a terrible Necromancer, or what have you, when the power goes off
you’re still the same person you ever were. But rather than just popping in the
next disc, we should be seeking to find a way to accomplish something in the
real world. A goal that won’t fade away as soon as the power goes off, because
no matter how much you accomplish in Azeroth, as soon as you log off, its like
you never were.

 

Going back to our first topic, I think Break is the perfect
example of someone who has a healthy balance. Break has a great game
collection, and plays a pretty good amount of video games. He’ll readily admit
he got all teary eyed during Lost Odyssey, so you can’t say he doesn’t get into
his games. But at the same time, Break is a doer. He does a lot of things to
reach out to other people in the world. He woke up one day and decided it would
be neat to run a website, so he did. He worked up the nerve to ask a pretty
girl out on a date, and now she’s Mrs. Break. He’s going to a good school. But,
he still has time to game, and that is balance. That’s a healthy life, and what
no gamer should ever lose sight of. Because when we have a blackout, the things
Break has accomplished are still there.

 

So get out there, learn some real martial arts, play some
real sports. You can’t slay dragons, but maybe you could go on safari. If you
really want to save the world, join an ecological society. Go meet people and
have some real sex. At the end of the day, when you come home from the real
adventures, Liberty City will still be waiting for you, along with all of its
freakish looking, digital hookers. Endless. Digital. Hookers.

 

We at BreakmanX care about our audience. We want you to
enjoy video games, obviously, and share that joy with others. But don’t forget
that there’s more to life than just games. There’s a rich, full world out
there, the inspiration for all those games, and you should go be a part of it.
I’ll end this with one final quote from educational reformer Horace Mann. Upon
his death bed he uttered, “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory
for humanity.”

 

Damn straight.