For those of you that don’t know my New Year’s resolution is to give up Video Games for a year. I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that I’m an addict. Don’t believe me? When not at work at my “day job” (I’m a rigger and a freelance carpenter/electrician/stagehand/temp/etc, and occasionally a paid performer) I’m playing video games. It got to a point that I’d be ashamed to talk about it. Not like oh I played some video games this weekend, but like I’ll forego sleep or food or physical activity or social events for video games. Like I’ll play for 12 or more hours a day for several days, sometimes even weeks if work is slow. As a freelancer and as an actor part of the job is always looking for a job, submitting for auditions or applying for more gigs, making calls, sending resumes, headshots, etc. I’ve been lucky as I’ve always seemed to make it by by the skin of my teeth, at the last moment someone has needed something, or a check has come in from god knows where. I’m terrible at the business side of running me, Michael Soldati Incorporated, because I sacrifice every moment not asleep (and I don’t sleep much) or at work, playing video games. And this isn’t a recent trend (although freelancing has been particularly enabling) but I’ve been playing video games on a very consistent basis since my dad first brought home the Nintendo Entertainment System when I was 3. Time and time again I’ve procrastinated, through school and through life, putting things off to the last possible moment because I needed to reach the next level, get that 1 item, complete that quest, beat my score or finish a game. I’ve easily worked a full time job playing video games nearly every week since I started playing them. I’m 29 now (30 in March) That’s 54,080 hours, that’s over 6 years of my life that was just playing video games. Sure that’s probably hyperbole, I don’t play 40 hours every week, and certainly not since I was three, but it’s pretty damn close. Even if it was just 5 years, which is probably more accurate that’s still nearly 1/6 of my life so far.
Now I am in no way saying video games are bad, obviously I have a great love for them. My first job out of college I got because I played video games. I was the Gaming and 21st Century Skills VISTA (Volunteer In Service To America, an Americorps program, though it predates Americorps actually by like 30 years, they’re great and you should totally check them out if you need a job and/or are into service Americorps.gov) I researched gaming from the newest trends in technology and gaming to the science behind it’s cognitive and social effects. It’s tremendously beneficial and there are very real practical reasons why everyone should play video games. Problem solving, spatial awareness, visual acuity, risk evaluation and management, trigonometry, logic, strategy, development of the prefontal cortex (IE: hand-eye coordination), socialization, bartering, the list goes on. It builds character in encouraging focus, determination, resilience and teamwork in it’s players. It’s the way of the future to be sure, it will be the corner stone of every child’s education, it is already dominating the entertainment industry and will only get bigger and bigger. You want to invest in something, invest in video games, they’re some of the most brilliant and talented artists in the world so it’s worth your money, and the ROI will only increase. If you want to know what video games of the future will look like read “Ready, Player One” a great book, a new classic to be sure, and while the picture it paints of the future is rather dystopian, the technology is totally in line with where we are headed and is rather insightful in it’s depiction of entertainment becoming the dominating force in our society. And I have no problem with that, it means a lot of cool things actually.
But I have to say goodbye. At least for now. I need to know that I’m in control, and I hope I can come back to it in a year and be able to play a little and put it down. But I’m not sure if that will be possible, at least it doesn’t seem like it to my game craving brain right now, that still thinks about Hearthstone strategy which I binged on the 31st all night instead of packing to move out of my apartment. I’m still thinking about cool jungler builds on League of Legends, or how I can create the most powerhouse character on Shadowrun: Hong Kong, I went with a troll adept which is totally OP but takes a little bit to make effective bc she’s a little too squishy until she get’s that +1 AP on kills sword, which is totally badass, and then she just mows down everything. Didn’t beat it in time for my resolution, didn’t make it to gold for Season 6 of League, and my Hearthstone rank is so low I can’t even lose stars. And that’s ok. Video games are important, and they are important to me. But I’ve sacrificed my first and greatest love on it’s altar: my art. Which if I didn’t have this love in my life, I’d be dead, or maybe I could spend my whole life playing video games. But I can’t, I’ve got too much shit to do. There are things I need to say, to perform, to create, to write, to direct, to dance, to sing. The world needs to hear it, and if I don’t the world will have missed out on something really important, and I’d have missed out on something even bigger: my life. I’m miserable when I’m not producing work, it lets me work through shit. Video games on the other hand were always like a good friend, a shoulder to cry on, an escape from everything, a fantastic escape, but at some point I stopped escaping harsh realities and started escaping my passions. And that I cannot abide any longer. I’m done with running away from my life, and about time I start running toward it.