Recently I've been asking for peoples experiences of the reality of gaming and there has been a lot of gold coming through.
Below is a guest contribution on one woman’s reflections of how video games played throughout her relationship with a partner….
I have never really considered computer games as having an effect upon my life, good or bad. When gaming consoles first became mainstream, I was lent one. Back then I was highly competitive and used activities as a means of measuring my worth. But after playing, I soon realised the time I needed to invest to impress was too great, especially as I didn’t really see the point or enjoy it. I already had other activities I was keen to excel at, and gaming was just too sedentary. Gaming became something other people did. But around four years ago the man I was with at the time was so into gaming that this became an integral factor in our relationship breakdown.
Of course, it wasn’t just the gaming, and I don’t blame him and not look at where I was at at the time. I also played my part in the situation. It was a stressful time for us and especially for him. He enjoyed all different types of games – strategy games, football games, fighting games, platform games. Games for him were fun and enjoyable; and they didn’t ask anything of him that he didn’t feel he had to give. They were a place he could escape to that had nothing to do with his real-world worries and stresses; a place his skills controlled, a simple equation of action and consequence that he could handle. He could also maintain a connection of sorts with people online. But this world he retreated to more and more meant I saw him less; it took us away from each other and from developing intimacy between us. Could I have jumped up and down more, waving my hands shouting ‘I’m here!’? Probably yes. Could I have developed more intimacy in myself and offered this to him? Definitely, yes. Could I have clocked all my expectations of him and stopped any impositions of what I needed from the relationship? Yes, that would have been a very loving and healing conversation to have had.
I know I did make steps towards him, towards us having a more open and loving relationship but the gaming brought in another energy: a barrier that boxed him away in his own little world. One he welcomed because it kept the world out but one which I saw take him away from him. My voice became a muffled noise from outside the box. I too entertained energies that I thought kept me protected from facing things I thought were too much for me to handle. But what I noticed was he changed when he played games for hours and hours. He became less able to see any of my attempts at showing the world beyond the console was worth engaging with more. The games seem to feed the notion that the world was too much to handle and the games became the most important thing. The beautiful, sensitive man I knew was disappearing. Nothing was taken seriously, what was there to be noted was dismissed, which included ignoring his gaming would eventually lead to our break up. On some level, he felt powerless, a helpless recipient of circumstance. Games was a world he had an instant effect on, and this was very rewarding and satisfying. He didn’t have to be responsible while playing games, and the energy of the games encouraged this denial of responsibility and greater immersion. But the more his immersion, the more it felt like he was erasing himself from the real world which included our relationship.
Our relationship did end. It wasn’t a question of whether we loved each other or not because we very much did. And it wasn’t bad timing or circumstance - we were just about to buy a place together in a beautiful part of the country and do it up. He had a very good job, and I had just been offered a full-time job after years of part-time work. Lots of people couldn’t understand my decision to leave, but I knew that I wanted to be with someone who was present, committed to life, to themselves, to us. And this wasn’t there while the lure of playing games as a means of taking the edge off life was there and so readily taken.
I knew I couldn’t judge because I had my own ‘get out of jail when I feel life gets too intense’ behaviours also. But I knew together we brought each other and the relationship down – we made it about feeling safe and secure, and not about addressing what was next so we could be more ourselves in the world, more loving and aware of the qualities we are here to bring. Separating was the necessary step. But why?
If games have an energy to them, if they had an agenda, what would that be? I could see in my partner the energy behind gaming cares not one iota for the person playing; I could see the more he played, the less he was himself. It was like little by little he lost his life force and fed it to the games– ironically just as depicted in many games themselves where the character’s life force is draining away. Only in the game, the character must continue to play in order to secure more energy. My leaving was a reminder of what is important in life: life itself and not withdrawing from any part of it in any way and appreciating the fullness of what committing to life brings.