Hi. I’m Martin. I’m 23, and currently stumbling through a master’s degree in chemistry. I’m a technoholic. I’m addicted to technohol. I’ve been that way since I was a child, and it’s taken me a long time to wake up to the true damage I’ve done to myself. Before I get too old, too set in my ways, and while I still have a year and a half of developmental brain to work with, it’s time to make a few alterations, and restart to apply changes. All these changes are coming!
ACTION 1: Press Stop to Continue; Game Over
Sitting beside me right now is my Nintendo Switch. Bought it in anticipation of the new Super Smash Bros game which is coming out tomorrow.
My first action is to go as long as I can without playing it.
Shiny tech and fun games have kept me locked in place since the early days. Although calling it a video game would be a stretch, my favourite toy was the Fisher Price Smart Street, an absolute cacophony of learning. You need only look at it to know that this was the first thing to contribute to a life fueled by distraction. I feel a little dizzy just looking at it again.
A PC found its way into my home not too long after. And I immediately clicked with it (heh). My parents recount that they were shocked to see I was able to change the screensaver, background and more when they left me for a few minutes at three years old. This sparked a move into edutainment games. Adiboo and the Tonka games were the order of the day (Tonka Workshop came with a keyboard workbench. What a fantastic bit of plastic that was). Then there was the day my parents brought home a pair of Game Boy Colours for me and my brother. That sparked a lifelong addiction, sad to say. It quickly became a habit of playing more complex strategic games such as Age of Empires 2 and Stronghold. Since that time, leaving a lot of gaps, I’ve owned every Nintendo handheld console, most of the home consoles, and have gone through love affairs with AoE2, Civ (3, 4, and 5), Pokemon, Doom, Animal Crossing, Roblox, Minecraft, Stardew Valley, Overwatch, and a million other games besides, most recently Breath of the Wild. When I first came across Nosurf about a month ago, I re-installed RescueTime. Apparently in 84 hours of logged PC time I played Civ V for 22 of those hours. Oops.
The problem with games? Huge part of my identity. How could they not be? My formative years involved blasting demons on Mars or tearing down castles with a bunch of elephants. I was hooked, and still am. I’ve moderated game related communities since I was 12, and even when I got to college I immediately got involved with the Games Society and became a member of committee, only ending that involvement this year.
It’s a little unfortunate that it was games that hooked my little monkey brain right from the get-go. Smart Street was instant feedback. Call the number for the pet shop, the fish will talk to you. Do any one of the billion things on that toy and you’ll get instant feedback. Dopamine. Dopamine. Dopamine. Even the educational games had the same effect. Even an app I use right now called Elevate which is meant to be for brain training is a similar cacophony of stimulation.
So it’s time to unplug, for the most part. I didn’t mention one category of games here, puzzle games. Not the likes of Candy Crush. Tough puzzle games that make you ruminate and work on a problem until you crack it. Among the noise above, I played Professor Layton, and fell in love with the series. I also more recently discovered games like Shenzen I/O. Shenzen I/O is hilarious because to get the full experience, you must print out and bind a reference manual for use during the game. Welcome to the factory. Games that involve these elements of thinking and experimentation I will leave untouched. It might seem a little hypocritical to decry all games and then immediately declare that there’s a protected class, but it’ll be an experiment into whether having problem solving games alone to contemplate will improve my critical thinking. If they don’t, it’s a click and they’re gone. Thankfully, I have them as direct downloads or physical cartridges so I can make some important decisions.
- Steam is deleted. Good riddance.
- I’ve removed myself from any groups that I’m in that focus on games, at least for now. It’s difficult as a lot of my friends came from such groups, but I will adapt and there’s better ways to maintain friendships.
- The Switch is being locked up. The first part of my experiment is to see how long I can go without playing that game.
- Based on what I just realized while writing this, all my “brain training” apps which were just extra noise boxes are gone. In their place, I’ll leave room for games that focus on deeper, long-term thought as above. If they fail to serve me correctly, I’ll remove them too.
Step 4 touches on the first step of my plan to deal with the pesky mobile. However, if I stay here writing any longer, I’ll be late for work and have a lot of catching up to do. So I’ll pick that back up in the afternoon.
I’m excited. It’s time to fix a few things.