Computer games can be an easy way to distract yourself from important things that you need to do, even causing real problems in life. If you use computer games as a reward instead of a distraction, they can help motivate you to get things done instead of preventing you from being productive.
Every computer gamer is likely to be familiar with this scenario. It begins with something important that needs to be done. This could be attending a meeting or meeting a deadline for work, a midterm or homework assignment for school, or even a backlog of chores that need to be done.
Of course, the things that must be done are rarely the things we truly want to do, so we procrastinate, dreading the task at hand, even if it’s fairly easy. If it’s the school midterm, we tell ourselves that we will start studying soon, just after we play this game for a few minutes. That’s where we make the mistake.
The Internal Struggle
Whether you’re into casual puzzle games, graphics-intensive RPGs, or top-down strategy games, chances are you will end up playing for more than just a few minutes. Once you’re engaged in the game, all thoughts of the important task to be done fade away, and your sense of real-world time is completely supplanted by in-game time.
By the time you look up, a few hours may have past. You’ll feel a pang of guilt as you realize how much progress you could have made if you had been plugging away at that work assignment over the past few hours. Then the internal battle begins: you could stop playing the game now and get to work. You should get to work.
But you’re enjoying the game so much, and (more often than not) you’re so close to earning a new badge, beating a boss, discovering a secret, becoming head of a guild, or whatever other goal is easy at hand.
Of course, the game will still be thereafter you’ve cleaned your apartment, but in the moment of internal struggle you manage to convince yourself that it will be okay to keep playing for just a bit longer.
Often, the reason the gamer in you wins over your more responsible side is because going back to the world of the game is the easiest way to rid yourself of that horrible guilt that washed over you when you finally took a bathroom break. Soon, you’ll be engaged in the game, and the outside world, along with all of its negative emotions, will fade away.
Computer Game Addiction
If this has happened to you, you know what a vicious cycle it can be. The next few hours pass, and when you lift your gaze from the game again the guilt returns, only stronger. The comfortable world of the game beckons you back, and soon you’ve missed your deadline or you’ve failed your midterm.
In extreme cases, this can become a form of addiction that extends beyond just one day. Feelings of negative self-esteem will drive you back to the world of games even when you aren’t necessarily shirking any obligations.
Luckily, most of us never quite get to that point, learning our lesson after the first couple of epic gaming sessions threaten to negatively affect our lives.
Gaming as a Reward
One way to ensure that you don’t get trapped in your RPG character’s life at the expense of your real life is to make gaming into a reward instead of a distraction or a tool for procrastination. How this works is simple: make a list of things you want to accomplish, and promise yourself an evening of uninterrupted, guilt-free gaming at the end of the day.
This allows you to use your affinity for computer games to help you get things done, instead of letting it hinder you. Behavioral psychology shows that required tasks are easier when there’s a reward associated with them.
Work, school, and chores all seem slightly brighter when a tangible benefit like gaming time is associated with them. If you love computer games, let them be the light at the end of the tunnel, rather than letting them derail your life.