Too Into Gaming

The other day I crawled out from under my rock (by which I mean crushing avalanche of essay marking, reading and baby-wrangling) long enough to notice that 40k 6th edition is pretty much guaranteed to come out soon.  Actually it would be more accurate to say that Capn Stoogey dragged me out.  That is,  he sent me a text saying “6th is out in July”.

This is big big news for us 40k players of course.  I’m not going to insult your intelligence by pretending I have anything valuable to say about it.  I haven’t been following the rumours, I haven’t touched a model since my failed Night Goblins and I haven’t played a game in a couple of months – and that one had to be aborted half way through.

So what the hell am I writing about, you ask?  I just thought since Warp Signal is in part a record of my gaming habits, I should record the following fact:

BABY KILL GAMING

…Well, not just baby.  Baby plus grown-up job.  I think it’s really interesting how I feel about this though.  I just don’t really care.  Having my gaming habits broken forcibly has shown me that they were just that – habits.  I know this because I have broken a number of bad habits over the years, like smoking, drinking too often and too much, and er, laziness.  The thing about all of them is that once they are broken, you find it hard to see why you cared so much about them before.

I assume we all know the feeling of getting too into gaming.  Hell, some of us have probably lived our lives that way for years on end, and see nothing wrong with it.  I’m talking about obsession: constantly checking blogs, forums and other news sites for info, engaging in long-winded debate with the rest of the community, indulging in your gaming habit until it’s all that you can think about whenever you have time to think about anything.  This is how I’ve been for much of the time I’ve been writing this blog.  And I’m starting to wonder if it is healthy for me.  Like I said, the fact that a year ago I could not have imagined going a day without thinking about gaming, and now it barely crosses my mind, is a pretty good indication that I had an addiction.

So is gaming a bad habit?  The community tends to applaud obsession, and people compete with one another to be more hard core, or more dedicated, or more deeply immersed, or whatever.  But this doesn’t mean anything.  Any group of addicts is going to talk and behave as though their addiction is actually a good thing, and reinforce one another.  That’s just what they do.  So I guess to honsetly answer that question we need to look elsewhere.  Intuitivley I think the answer is “sometimes.”

I like to think I’ve always been a voice of moderation in the blogosphere.  I take pride in being a casual gamer, and I try to shoot down arguments that equate being “hard-core” with being a “true gamer” whenever I see them.  There are many ways to play and none are more valid than any other.  But even I have been obsessed.  I may not play constantly or compete to the death, but I did think far more deeply about games and gamer culture than was smart for me, considering I had other things in real life that were much more important.

And there it is.  Gaming is important, but for me, it’s not my life’s work.  It’s not the most important thing.  It’s important to me precisely because it’s not important, if you get my drift.  It provides a contrast to all the real, grown-up, totally amazing things I do in my life.  I have a beautiful partner and child.  I actually get paid to be a philosopher, which is a pretty out-there job.  I mean who does that, really? All of these things are things I should be thankful for, and things that deserve more attention from me than gaming.  Gaming is for when everything else is going smoothly and I think “hey, I would really enjoy playing Skyrim for a couple of hours right now, or going to a mate’s place to play some 40k.”

But that’s just me.  Gaming is not my job, and I don’t want it to be.  The thought of being a professional gamer fills me with horror, to be honest.  It seems like a bad way to spend your life.  Being a game designer would be better, but truthfully, there are a lot of things I’d rather be than that, including what I currently do.  And I don’t want gaming to be just a habit either.   That looks suspiciously like being a professional gamer without the pay.

So expect to hear less from me from now on.  I’ll update when I do some actual gaming, or when, like today, I really have something to say.

Have a good one, and remember – games are important, but not serious!

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9 responses to “Too Into Gaming

  • corbeau77

    I definitely have feelings like this at times, I think the nature of miniature wargaming in particular by its nature leads to approaching it in that near-obsessive way. To even play a game, you need to invest financially in the miniatures themselves, then time to build them and more to paint them – to get to the stage where you can just pick up and play, you need to have already made a pretty significant investment. The increasing prices, increasing army sizes and increasing expectations of painting standards only add to the demands.

    To be honest, my gaming is going more towards board games, you can take them straight out of the box when you feel like it. They can be played quickly, you can introduce new players, and they still have the same social aspect of physical tabletop gaming that computer games still don’t quite have.

  • James S

    Sounds like you and I are moving in the same direction corbeau77. I forgot, I actually played a game of Carcassonne with some friends a few days ago, and we finished the game while the baby watched and it was fun and easy.

    I think your observation about miniature wargames almost requiring an obsessive approach is very astute.

  • Cameron

    Great blog entry. It is a big time commitment to even get an army on the tabletop. Definitely moderation and balance is important. It is great to take time to step back from any activity.

  • Thor

    You make some very valid points. There’s no shortage of those who fall victim to obsession with a hobby, whatever it is. However, I feel there’s a very fine line between normal hobby behavior and full blown obsession or addiction. Does constantly wanting to be informed on your hobby, IE: reading blogs and seeking news, constitute addiction? The desire to spend the free time you have participating in your hobby, is that addiction? If you find your mind wandering to a hobby related project while your driving home, is that a sign of addiction?

    As someone intimately familiar with addiction, ultimately it comes down to the reasons and motivations of the person in question. Take alcoholism for example. Having a beer or two every day after work does not make you an alcoholic. However, if you feel you can’t function without those beers after work then we have a sign of addiction. If you have to rationalize your choices, I drink a lot of beer because…then that’s a sign.

    A hobby by definition is:

    “1) an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure: her hobbies are reading and gardening.”

    Regularity is an intrinsic aspect of a hobby. There is that line though between regularity and complete and utter time consumption. Even then, it’s not the time spent participating in the hobby that places someone in the addiction column, it’s the choices made in order to participate. If someone refuses to spend time with friends so he/she can get some painting done, that could be a problem. Choosing to participate in a tournament instead of attending a family BBQ, that’s an issue.

    So, while I feel you have some valid points, I do feel it’s too broad and encompassing. I know you were mentioning habits and I jumped to addiction but I feel that addiction was implied as habit is synonymous with addiction.

  • Joe

    I totally know what you mean, and can draw a lot of similarities with what you have written here. I started a hobby blog about a year and a half ago to help keep up my motivation to find hobby time in my already busy schedule, and found that it is very easy to get caught up in that activity or incessantly checking other blogs and forums. Before I knew it, I was spending all my hobby time on that and barely any time painting or gaming. Then 7 months ago my wife had our first baby, which has been a total joy but has definitely diminished any free time I had before. Now I’m lucky if I get one game in a month or every other month. I too am a casual player but nowadays find it easier to plan on attending the bigger tournaments and events to get my gaming in since I can plan those out further in advance with my schedule.
    I take it you’re a Philosophy Professor at a university? That’s definitely an awesome job! I always wanted to do that; I majored in Philosophy for my undergrad and it has certainly helped me land all of the jobs I’ve had since. Anyway, it’s all about keeping things in perspective. Great post!

  • James S

    Thanks for reading and commenting Cameron, and welcome to the blog!

  • James S

    Thor, thanks for your comment. I take your point, and I realize that my language may have been a little confronting. That’s because this is probably the most personal post I’ve ever written. I wasn’t really trying to do a proper analysis of the psychology of addiction, or judge anyone else, and I’m sorry if it came off that way. I was trying to make sense of the whole gaming-as-habit in my life.

    I did imply addiction, though as I said in the post, obsession is a better word. And one man’s obsession is another man’s hobby I suppose. But in answer to your questions, no I don’t think seeking news, spending all your free time gaming, and thinking about gaming a lot is necessarily addiction. Is it obsession though? In my case, yes.

    I have a very active mind (as I’m sure most of us do). For large parts of last year I would find unwanted thoughts of gaming intruding on me. They would ambush me when I was trying to work on my thesis. They would push up when people were talking to me. On more than one occasion my partner would be talking to me and then suddenly look offended and say “you’re thinking about Warhammer aren’t you?” And I was. Now that, I think, was a negative impact on my life. Of course my life didn’t spiral out of control like I was a junkie or a non-functional alcoholic, but when you can only half listen to people when they talk because Eldar list calculations are going on in your forebrain then something is wrong I think.

    I don’t think habit is synonymous with addiction. People can cultivate good habits, and addiction is always bad in the way we normally use the word. So a gaming habit is not necessarily negative. Mine was though, to the extent that I just couldn’t stop thinking about the bloody hobby! And that upset me.

  • James S

    Thanks for taking the time to comment Joe, especially since you have a little one yourself! It’s always nice to hear people understand where you’re coming from. When I get time I’ll check out your blog for sure.

    I’m not a professor yet! I’m a post-grad student doing my doctorate, but I have a full scholarship and I’ve been a tutor (what’s called a TA in the states) for the last few months. So I’m getting paid to do philosophy 😉

  • corbeau77

    I still want to play the games, I’ve been playing for close to 20 years, I grew up in Nottingham at the heart of it all. Now I’m largely indifferent.

    My reaction to 6th edition is very much the same – I’ve never been so indifferent. If the rules change drastically, I’m not really bothered. If there is something I really don’t like, I’ll carry on playing older editions. I’ve never been into tournaments so that’s not an issue. Fluff is something I generally tend to care more about, but despite the wild rumours circulating regarding this, I don’t care. Agan, I just have the option to ignore it. I’m not sure what this says about me and/or GW that a company and product I use to be almost obsessive about I’m now indifferent to. I don’t play any other sci-fi or fantasy, so I’ve not had my loyalties whisked away.

    I didn’t say before what a great post this is, and apologies for my earlier rambling post which I shouldn’t have written at stupid o’clock. What was it you were saying about obsessive blog reading again… 😛

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