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Life And Video Games

I'll admit it: I'm a nerd. I think my nerdiness is mellowing out in my old age, but I used to play games, watch movies and TV, 24/7. I was the quintessential lonely bachelor. For a long stretch, perhaps 2 years, I played an MMO called Ultima Online. For the uninitiated, an MMO (Massively-Multiplayer Online) is a game where many, many players can log on to a virtual world and fight monsters, and whatever else, while playing together. It's a mix of a social community and your typical old-fashioned game. My experience in this virtual world lead to some feelings on real life that I'd like to share.

In Ultima Online you create a character and this character can increase various skills (like sword fighting, weapon making, or even cooking) and stats. But, more importantly to the point I'll be making, you can collect items and own a house and amass a small fortune in in-game currency. And there are a lot of items. There's weapons and armor and potions. There's food items. But there's more, much more, that don't really "do" anything in terms of the game. There's furniture for your house. Statues. Flowers and plants. All forms of crates and boxes and treasure chests to hold all this stuff. There's clothes. There's dyes to color various items. There's rare items. In short: there's a lot of stuff to collect. And there's skills for characters that allow the creation of these items. There's blacksmiths, furniture makers, miners, stone workers, chefs, tailors, and more. All of these are players, and they run in-game shops, and spend hours of real life time crafting and selling in-game items.

After awhile it seems like a real job. For some people it practically is. They have a daily routine of gathering supplies, crafting, checking their stores. But for what end? What's the point? Do you think there is no point? That it's ultimately fruitless work?

Like I said already, I played for quite awhile. I still have my account, I think. Not really too sure anymore as it's been a long time since logging in. But I couldn't bring myself to just end my account because of all the virtual stuff I had amassed. If I just get rid of it all, wouldn't it have really and truly been pointless? All of that time spent in that virtual world meaningless?

It was some time after I stopped playing that a very pertinent point began to emerge in my mind. I believe it was spelled out explicitly during a conversation with a friend. One of us, I forget who exactly, proposed the question: are some of the things we do in life game-like? Or is it the other way around, that some of the aspects of games are life-like? Is life a game? Either way, it was true in Ultima Online. Some people had in-game jobs, a livelihood, a house, and possessions. Some people were living virtual real lives. I began to think of my own time spent in the virtual world as an alternative real life that I had lived. And quitting was essentially the same as dying. And after "dying", so much of what I did seemed pointless.

And that brings up one of the most important questions I've ever asked myself: given those parrellels, is there much of my own life that will have turned out to be pointless after death?

From a Christian perspective this seems pretty obvious, but living a virtual life solidifies the idea in an unavoidable way for me. This life is temporary, and most of this stuff will not matter anymore. I amass a collection of goods, such as movies, games, whatever. I work at some job just to pay for these things. But ultimately it won't have mattered. This "virtual" stuff will simply be gone when I "quit".

I guess what I'm saying is that for me I want something more meaningful. I want to "store my treasures in Heaven". Because life is either a game, or it's something much more, and much realer. Maybe everyone should strive to conciously avoid living life as if it were a game.
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6 Comments On This Entry

Think of quitting the game and finding something to do in the real world as going to Heaven. It's not really dying. It's finally living.*pops over to play Scrabble on Facebook*
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Bob - what an interesting topic! I can certainly relate. There have been times in my life where I spent much of my time in very similar fashion -- at one time, it was "Oblivion" on X-Box 360; more recently, it was "Farmville" and other similar games on Facebook. I recall getting to that point where it felt stressful not to be keeping up with the various tasks, skill improvments, etc., and then asking myself, "Why?! Why am I spending all this time and energy in a virtual world, when there is so much to do in THIS world?" So I stopped. And began focusing my attention and energy on what is real. (FWIW, I think I probably know the answer to that question, but that's probably a separate topic.)Yes - there are still times when I question what the point of much I do in my real life is. I look to my faith at that point. I do believe God has a purpose for me, and though I stumble frequently in trying to serve that -- heck, to even understand what it is -- I take comfort in that knowledge. Maybe it's something I wrestle with a bit less because of my daughter. Trying to make sure she's safe and happy and healthy tends to color how I view everything else in life. I think that's sort of a rambly response to your blog, but, anyway, thanks for posing some interesting questions!
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Jax, on 20 January 2011 - 11:54 PM, said:

Bob - what an interesting topic! I can certainly relate. There have been times in my life where I spent much of my time in very similar fashion -- at one time, it was "Oblivion" on X-Box 360; more recently, it was "Farmville" and other similar games on Facebook. I recall getting to that point where it felt stressful not to be keeping up with the various tasks, skill improvments, etc., and then asking myself, "Why?! Why am I spending all this time and energy in a virtual world, when there is so much to do in THIS world?" So I stopped. And began focusing my attention and energy on what is real. (FWIW, I think I probably know the answer to that question, but that's probably a separate topic.)Yes - there are still times when I question what the point of much I do in my real life is. I look to my faith at that point. I do believe God has a purpose for me, and though I stumble frequently in trying to serve that -- heck, to even understand what it is -- I take comfort in that knowledge. Maybe it's something I wrestle with a bit less because of my daughter. Trying to make sure she's safe and happy and healthy tends to color how I view everything else in life. I think that's sort of a rambly response to your blog, but, anyway, thanks for posing some interesting questions!
Thank you :)Oh, yeesh, Oblivion. I, too, was sucked into that game. Way too many hours logged. Xbox 360 Achievements hold the same questions: does it ultimately matter if you get them? Which goes even further: are there some accomplishments that earn fame that are just ultimately meaningless?I doubt God will note the years spent training in some niche talent to earn a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records, for instance :P
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Bob the nobody, on 21 January 2011 - 12:27 AM, said:

Jax, on 20 January 2011 - 11:54 PM, said:

Bob - what an interesting topic! I can certainly relate. There have been times in my life where I spent much of my time in very similar fashion -- at one time, it was "Oblivion" on X-Box 360; more recently, it was "Farmville" and other similar games on Facebook. I recall getting to that point where it felt stressful not to be keeping up with the various tasks, skill improvments, etc., and then asking myself, "Why?! Why am I spending all this time and energy in a virtual world, when there is so much to do in THIS world?" So I stopped. And began focusing my attention and energy on what is real. (FWIW, I think I probably know the answer to that question, but that's probably a separate topic.)Yes - there are still times when I question what the point of much I do in my real life is. I look to my faith at that point. I do believe God has a purpose for me, and though I stumble frequently in trying to serve that -- heck, to even understand what it is -- I take comfort in that knowledge. Maybe it's something I wrestle with a bit less because of my daughter. Trying to make sure she's safe and happy and healthy tends to color how I view everything else in life. I think that's sort of a rambly response to your blog, but, anyway, thanks for posing some interesting questions!
Thank you :)Oh, yeesh, Oblivion. I, too, was sucked into that game. Way too many hours logged. Xbox 360 Achievements hold the same questions: does it ultimately matter if you get them? Which goes even further: are there some accomplishments that earn fame that are just ultimately meaningless?I doubt God will note the years spent training in some niche talent to earn a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records, for instance :P
Oh, I dunno - I imagine He notes it all. Something tells us He wants more than that for us, though. :P
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I've watched video games and the "online life" {includes cell phone stuff} ruin several peoples lives...I should say I guess the people themselves allowed these things to wreck their lives and marriage's by spending so much time at the comp or on the cell that the real world becomes a very depressing place where anything of real value requires effort whereas the virtual world is there for the taking with just a lot of time and some mouse clicks...google internet and or video game addiction and check it out...another tell is when you bring this addiction up in a public forum all the addicts will rise to the occasion to justify their addictive behavior...sounds like a twelve step meeting.Kestrel...
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Although there are positives to such gaming… (developing social/emotional “intelligence”, team-building skills, hand-eye coordination, etc)… it is essentially entertainment… which means that it is essentially ESCAPISM. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… in moderation. So the trick is to balance such pursuits with RealWorld® skills and responsibilities… and for folks with compulsive personalities (gambling addiction might be the most relevant “gaming” metaphor)… that’s the hard part. Unfortunately, the creators/hosts of the fantasy universes have very little motivation to discourage participants (i.e.: customers) from overdoing it. I think it’s great that you’ve had this moment of enlightenment… that gaming has catalyzed in you a desire for legacy… “How will I be remembered (if at all)?”… “What will I leave behind?”… “How shall I make my mark?”… “What will be my epitaph?” “Obsessive Gamer” is not likely to make the cut.
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