Obsessive behaviour is a funny thing. When you’re fixated on something, isn’t it supposed to take willpower and concerted effort to give up? Me and computer games have enjoyed a long and happy relationship. I’ve cradled the control pad in my hands and together we’ve got lost for hours on end. Whole days could tumble by as a teenager without a second thought. We have seen the world, or at least many fantasy worlds, and all was well.
But it doesn’t work like that anymore. I very rarely fire up the PS3 in the corner of my bedroom, so much so that it is seriously in need of a dust. It’s my Netflix portal more than anything else and it’s been coming for a while I guess. Ancient history are the days of queuing outside Warp Nine, the long gone local independent videogames store, for the release of the likes of Metal Gear Solid at midnight. My dad drove me to the store that night and I bunked off school the next day to consume myself in stealthy missions as Solid Snake, tip-toeing around frozen landscapes and vast warehouses in a remote military base. Until then, I’d never known the joys of disguising myself under a cardboard box to avoid the detection of guards (virtually of course, it wouldn’t have cut it to play the game from beneath corrugated cardboard). So rewarding and captivating was Konami’s game, I played it through some eight or nine times.
Football games have been the biggest obsession, from the days of competing with two school mates on Sensible Soccer on the Mega Drive – versus bouts which always ended in the loser hitting the reset button and/or storming out – to ProEvo tournaments, including one at university where I outwitted a rival in the final on a big screen in the dorm’s bar. I may not be doing anything for my rep by sharing these moments with you, but know that I spent the winnings from that victory; £50 no less, on taking my girlfriend out for dinner. True story.
So, have I simply grown up? And is it just me? I’m newly turned 30, is that why computer games and I have become strangers? But then I don’t necessarily consider gaming a juvenile past-time. Playing games feeds the imagination and stimulates the mind, which is healthy. The only thing is that now, if I do stick a game on, I feel guilty. Guilty that I’m not spending my time in other, more obviously productive ways or in the company of friends away from a screen. I bought GTA V about six weeks ago and that weekend I played it for hours. For almost two full days it was like old times, but I haven’t played it since, and that’s not because it’s a bad game. Quite the opposite.
Whatever the current truth about me and my formerly obsessive hobby is, I’ve no reason to regret the countless hours of being glued to the screen. Personally, I don’t buy the assertion that videogames make people violent or stunt brain development, regardless of whatever study the Mail wants to quote from this week, because I’ve seen no evidence of it.
There’s an interesting article here, that makes the case for the benefits of gaming, some of which are highly profound for certain groups of people and many of which contradict the often-held beliefs of the non-gaming community. I agree with the article’s overall message – that there is a case that gaming makes us smarter and healthier. Games involve problem solving and they test concentration skills and encourage perseverance. Too much of anything is a bad thing. It’s time the vilification of videogames stopped, even if they’re not for me anymore.
- Here’s a blast from the past – the original Metal Gear Solid trailer, ‘the most anticipated game of 1998’. Wow I feel old! Oh the memories, sniff.