A Gamer’s Perspective — Less Is More
I’ve always liked pancakes. So much so that whenever my mom whipped up a batch of batter, I would muster up every shred of charm I could find, don my Headband of Alluring Charisma and put my utmost into convincing her that she had worked so hard already, and why doesn’t she take a break and let me cook (fry? Who knows) the pancakes for a change? When I was successful in this line of persuasion, my first act as Spatula Master would be to implement my policy of ‘One out, one down’ pancake distribution. One out to the peasantry (my mom/brother/dog – whoever was ‘next in line’ for one of the doughy delights) and one down my pie-hole. Even with schemes like the aforementioned designed to maximise the amount of pancakage coming my way (there were others, don’t you worry), the margin of error of these schemes meant that I inevitably had to share the pancakes. This coupled with my pubertal metabolism and resulting insatiable appetite dictated that I was never truly able to eat my fill – and thus was always left wanting more pancakes.
It is in this context that one fateful holiday-day not too long ago I found myself once again begging my mom to make pancake batter.
“I’m going out just now, Duncan, but if you really want to you can get the recipe book and make it for yourself.”
This was a tactic I was quite well accustomed to. It usually proved quite effective for her, too, as frankly I usually can’t be arsed to put that much effort into something that I don’t really want. The difference was that on this particular holiday-day, I really wanted pancakes.
Begrudgingly, I took the recipe book and undertook my first forte into the world of the culinary arts. Four cups of flower, a litre of water, two eggs, six wooden spoons, four ideal case-studies for why teenagers shouldn’t handle accelerants and an industrial-strength Kitchen Cleaning Kit later, my first ever batch of pancake batter was completed.
Suddenly, for the first time in my life, I would have full control over just how many pancakes I would be able to eat. And I most certainly intended on making the most of it. One batch of pancake batter and at least three times my body weight in pancakes later, I had never felt so ready to throw up. My stomach felt so bloated that I was starting to give serious weight to the idea that it might explode (something I probably wouldn’t have complained about at that point, either) and I generally felt like I’d been dragged face first through copious amount of elephant faeces. By the elephant.
My mom, of course, would pass in and out of my room on ‘errands’ at regular intervals, smirking knowingly at my groans of discomfort. It proved quite a formative experience for me, as it was the first time I actually realised that you could have too much of a good thing.
Once I had recovered to the point that my pitiful human frame could once again facilitate rational thought, I began thinking about whether or not this – the idea that I’d enjoyed something less when I’d had what was essentially an excess of it – whether or not this applied to other areas of my life. The one we all care about, of course, being gaming.
At face value I dismissed the idea off-hand, as many of us probably would. Gaming isn’t at all like pancake-eating, after all, as 16 pancakes makes me fat and uncomfortably full, whereas 16 hours of StarCraft just makes me awesome. I decided to take a second look at the matter when I read an article about this guy, who died after playing StarCraft for fifty hours straight.
Clearly, then, we can draw a line where we declare that too much is too much – even for gaming. I haven’t ever really been as bad as that guy, though, and I doubt many people reading this have, so we need not go into why such an extreme case is bad. Nonetheless, I did look at my various forays into the world of marathon gaming in a slightly different light.
Personally, much of my marathon gaming experience is in the context of LANs and marathon StarCraft 2 sessions, and while I certainly enjoyed both while they lasted, I came out of most of them feeling like, for want of a better word, crap. Sitting in the same place for hours on end while piling my body full of junk food and depriving it of sleep left me more often than not with a pounding headache, a feeling of utter exhaustion and a profound lack of sleep, all of which I would carry with me for the next day or two. So in terms of the physiological effects it had on me, marathon gaming didn’t always prove to be all it seemed cracked up to be.
Wholly apart from that, I also found myself becoming – dare I say it? – bored of gaming. Eight hours of all but the most dynamic, immersive games can often become rather tedious and formulaic.
It took me longer than I would have anticipated to reach these conclusions – that I don’t enjoy every second of gaming all the time, and that it could have negative effects on me – and I think that’s largely the fault of the defensive mentality gamers adopt (stay with me here).
Seeing as we tend to come under attack from a multitude of angles for our collective favourite pastime, I think it’s really easy for us to get into an “us against the world” type of mentality, where we polarise so much to the side of preaching the positives of and defending gaming that we become extremely hesitant to criticise gaming. And I think that’s extremely harmful, because if we’re hesitant to criticise ourselves, we aren’t going to move very far forward very quickly at all.
So, let’s bring this back to what I am saying by analysing what I’m not saying.
I’m not saying that marathon gaming sessions are bad, or that we should stop having them.
I’m not saying that games are boring or inherently bad for your health.
I’m not saying that I think less of gaming or have a different opinion of gaming because of the criticisms I’ve made.
What I am saying is that gaming, like everything else in life, isn’t perfect, and there will be times when we simply don’t enjoy it, and that those times can often be the result of marathon gaming sessions. This doesn’t mean that we should all hang up our controllers and go frolick in the sun instead, but we shouldn’t shy away from admitting to ourselves that maybe we aren’t having the greatest time, and maybe the way we’re going about marathon gaming could use some improvement.
The reason we mustn’t be afraid to make these concessions is that none of the issues I’ve highlighted are insurmountable. Tired at a LAN? Grab a few hours of sleep. Feel like rubbish because that’s all you’ve eaten? Bring healthier food instead of buying junk. Ass going numb, or getting bored of the game you’re playing? Walk around a bit, socialise, read a book, whatever – take a bit of a break, and come back later.
The point here is that if we game a little bit less, we might get a whole lot more out of it, but that’s only if we’re willing to admit that the ‘little bit less’ might just be necessary.