Get more stuff to get stuff faster | Video games vs “productivity”

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That line always takes the wind out of my sails. I’m minding my own business, mindlessly playing my video games, and this bombshell of a line hits me. I stop in my tracks. I reconsider what I’m doing. ‘Is playing video games at 3am what my life amounts to?’ I turn it over in my head; I reexamine the statement. And I have nothing to say to it; no platform to argue for. All I can do is nod and smile, and go along my merry way.

That’s just the way that I do things.

That’s how I treat self-improvement. Like the smile a parent gives to their kid after they play “Variations on a theme – Hot Cross Buns” at their elementary band concert. Like ‘Yeah, that was nice. Half-proud, half-pitying. Look – self help books – I appreciate the sentiment, but I don’t appreciate it enough to give up my entire evening just to read through your pseudo-inspirational drivel. Just like how I don’t really care about an elementary band concert. I don’t shy away from it, but I’m not drawn to it. There’s meanings and purposes to goals – there’s a dimensional kind of emotion hidden in them. I just don’t particularly care about that emotion. Sorry, I’m not buying your book. Yeah, I’m aimless. Yeah, I know that you can fix that. But I don’t need to be fixed. I like “aimless.”

Am I getting too obscure?

The act of completing a goal is beautiful. It gives you a nice, warm feeling in your chest. It’s a good feeling. Some would argue that the whole point of life is to get “that feeling.” And I would agree with them. But I just don’t think I’m that type of guy, y’know? I mean, I’ll take the feelings as they come. I’ll celebrate the little victories in life, but I won’t actively look for goals, per se.

I’d like to – for the sake of bragging to my friends, for the sake of comforting my parents’ anxieties, and for the sake of my ego – I’d like to.

And – before you say anything, I know that it’s not something “purely natural.” Goals – yeah, you can force a goal. You can force goals to be made, and you can force them to be completed. The only difference between “goal-oriented” people and non-goal-oriented people is the amount of pleasure they derive from completing goals. That’s it.

I don’t like self-diagnosis. I think it’s dangerous to assume things about parts of your body that you can’t even see.

But I’m pretty sure that I’m… not goal-oriented. At least, not in the conventional way. And at least, not anymore. A decade and a half of video games later, my dopamine tolerances have gone way up. If it’s not instant, it’s not fast enough. I’ll get withdrawal within five minutes. “Normal” activities – working on a project, finishing up an assignment – these just don’t do it for me anymore. It’s not that they’re bad sources of dopamine – it’s just that they’re too slow.

If there’s no dedicated “support squad” cheering me on at every quarter-mile, I’m not running. I’m not even getting out of the house. In fact – I’m not even getting dressed.

Video games solve that problem. The logistics of actually completing a project – preparing, working, working, working, working, sulking, working, and finally completing – gets pretty hefty. A lot of it is in your mindset, I know. You can reward yourself along the way, you can seek encouragement from supportive people, you can make mini-goals – you can do a whole lot of stuff to make the situation less painful.

But my question is: why bother? When you can just play video games, when you can just listen to music, when you can just read shitty articles, when you can just eat cake all day – why bother making your own stuff when everything is so readily available?

Why would I try to keep everything in moderation when I can simply give in to my gluttony?

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