An act, almost by definition, involves a moment of externalization and self-objectification of the jump into the unknown. To pass to the act is to assume the risk that what I’m about to do will be inscribed into the framework whose contours elude my grasp. That it may set in motion an unforeseeable train of events that will acquire a meaning different from or even totally opposed to what I intended to accomplish. In short, it means to ensure ones roll in the game of the cunning of reason. Slavoj Zizek (paraphrase)
When playing a video game, you first have to drop upwards of $60 bones for that game. You are betting that the investment will be worth it. You are betting that the money you put into it will pay dividends, at least where it comes to enjoyment. Sometimes those games become our lives. You see, I played World of Warcraft for 4 years and across all my combined characters, I had nearly a year and a half of played time.
What does that mean? It means that as I log 24 hours of play time across however many days it takes to accomplish that, I now have one day of play time. 365 and now a year. I had one and a half years of play time. I loved that game and found the friends I made were some of the people I enjoyed talking to most. I philosophized, drunkenly stumbled over my words, and made great friendships where I even got tattoos and multiple road trips out of it.
To play a game that long is likely to be closing out the world and disengaging from everything; fully immersing oneself into the game and its culture. While I do not regret my play time, I do not regret the logged hours, I now understand that there are requirements necessary to be part of society. And what I mean by that is your city council, at any time, can change laws that may or may not disrupt your internet service provider (as an example). Perhaps they create a monopoly in your geographic area. When that happens and there is no competition, you could get charged an extra $20 or even $30 a month for comparable service elsewhere.
Maybe you play games because your life is something you would consider a miserable existence. That life is so hard to live that the only catharsis is playing with these in game friends and destroying pixelated monsters and bosses while equipping yourself in beautiful armor and weaponry. I will not argue that this is a waste like many will do. How often have we heard that we are wasting our lives playing games? That is not my purpose nor my role. I do think, though, that there are requirements to being a part of society, engaged or not.
Maybe your city approved an industrial site to open up right across from your house. The sounds of industrial machinery loudly disrupting your normally tranquil quiet in your house. The sound of jackhammers and pounding of metal on metal sets your teeth to grinding and puts you on edge. While on edge you can’t quite find that same sense of enjoyment you get out of video games because you can’t transport yourself to that tranquil place in your mind. The industrial sounds bring you right out. Add to that you are paying extra for access to your internet, something perhaps you can barely afford, further putting you on edge.
Often, I found, that when I hid away from society it is due some fear of rejection/judgement. I don’t want to even deal with people who will judge me for who I am comfortable with being while simultaneously thrown into a scene where I have to constantly justify who I am and what I do within my mind due to that judgement. And yet, like World of Warcraft, when I first venture into a new zone, I often get rocked. Mobs are multiple levels higher than me making it very difficult to kill them. The dungeons require better gear than I have in order to be competitive and keep up.
Is this really all that different? Maybe you aren’t someone who can run for office but I bet you could take a couple hours off gaming and go to your city council meeting and express your concerns about opening up the industrial site across the street from you before it even happens. If you are dealing with this issue there are likely other gamers dealing with it too. If one of your friends is on the verge of homelessness because they are literally working paycheck to paycheck and living hand to mouth, $20 a month doesn’t seem like much but could be exactly what is needed to push them over the edge into oblivion.
There are people who depend upon the collective fight of concerned citizens against legislative figures and frankly depend on us to show the way. Can you take a moment and think about how rewarding it would be to stop a friend of yours from being kicked out to the streets while at the same time forcing some corrupt politician to eat crow? Can you imagine the swelling of pride you’d have and how grateful your friend would be? That can come in the form of you running for office and displacing that politician via an election or even organizing outraged gamers to speak out, sign petitions, and force that legislative body to act.
I find myself, while gaming, going out of my way to help out my friends and even spend hours in game doing so. Imagine if you could also help their real-life situation outside of the game and help a friend who was set on edge to find that tranquil place again. That place where there is catharsis in gaming once again, and you were central to helping them find it. Isn’t a friend worth the investment of your time, in order to help bring them to a better place? Aren’t you worth that time to invest in yourself?
Be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people. – Karen Salmonsohn