Cartoon owl holding up a controller. Pixelated red background. Text: Play games or real life?

While I was scouring ye old Tubes of You, I came by an interesting interview.

Chris Broad is a successful YouTuber with his main channel, Abroad in Japan, having almost 3 million subscribers at the moment. He has made his fame by filming and introducing various locations in Japan.

I found a video where he is being interviewed by Dogen, who is known for doing comedic skits in Japanese and teaching Japanese phonetics.

Dave in Japan Chris Broad being interviewed by Dogen.
(video starts at 9:12, with the question “What inspired you [to make videos etc.] and continues to do so?”)

Oh, look! Chris mentioned something about video games. That’s always interesting! This is what he said:

I used to play video games a lot, but I realised that life is like one big video game, like an RPG, right? […] It always surprises me when I see people play like Skyrim or GTA and they’re like… I don’t know. The things that they do in those games, I think, you can do that in real life. You could build a business in real life, you could travel to places, meet people. […] Just by meeting you here today I’ve unlocked a quest – the Dogen quest! The rewards were free pizza.

Chris Broad

Well, Chris certainly isn’t the only celebrity to think that you should be doing something other than playing video games. It’s been quite a while, but I also wrote about Joe Rogan saying a similar thing in the past.

Now, there’s a fundamental difference in how both these men worded their thoughts:

Joe Rogan said that “games are a problem“.

Chris said that “life is like one big video game“.

Which wording is better?

Depending on what kind of personality you have, you may find one of those statements dismissive (and therefore label it as untrue), and the other statement empowering (and therefore, something you might be willing to accept).

Or you may think that both statements are stupid. (This is what we tend to do when something we like is criticized.)

But I don’t think either wording is necessarily bad – there’s something to be gained from both of them.

If we want to understand what the actual issue is (with playing games, in general), it’s necessary to acknowledge both statements.

The easy answers

There’s an instant problem with what Chris said: “You can do that in real life.”

Obviously, you can’t sword fight dragons in real life… or cast magic… But for the sake of the argument, let’s ignore those.

Once again, it’s very easy to dismiss both these opinions with arguments such as:

“Gaming is my hobby. Who are you to say that my hobby is worse than any other hobby?”

“As long as I’m working and making money, why would it matter with what I do in my freetime?”

“Not everything I do needs to make money. Relaxing and enjoying life is important.”

“You can make a ton of money and become very successful by streaming and making videos about games.”

And these are all true!

So if they’re all true, why not just ignore these two dafts and move on with our lives?

Because that’s the path of non-improvement.

We naturally drift towards ignoring or fighting opinions we don’t agree with: to protect our mental health or just to avoid feeling bad. But what I personally hope to gain here (and also give you, glorious reader), is insights on how we can improve our lives.

The merits of these men

When I wrote my article on Joe Rogan, I said that we shouldn’t dismiss valuable opinions.

I believe that to be true even if those opinions are coming from someone that I may not personally like. And it is true even if that person isn’t necessarily someone with great merits.

But more than anything, if the person giving those opinions does have merits, then we especially should pay attention.

According to their own words, Joe Rogan and Chris Broad both have played quite a bit of video games at some point in their life. Joe Rogan has even admitted to having a gaming addiction, getting stuck playing Quake more than necessary.

Both men have accomplished a ton of things and are pushing out quite a bit of content on their platforms of choice.

And there’s something about their decision to stop playing games that has had an effect on their success.

I don’t think we should ignore that.

Chris Broad is a YouTuber

I know a bunch of entrepreneurs, and I’ve noticed that there is one thing that they all have in common.

They do a lot of work.

The former CEO of the company where I work entered retirement somewhat recently. Or, that’s what the idea was. We found out that he had made a new website to show he’s still for hire… There’s no stopping someone who is used to working long hours.

Chris Broad is no exception. He is a YouTuber and an independent entrepreneur. When he did his original Journey Across Japan series, he later mentioned being physically ill at the end due to cycling long distances every day and then editing videos all night. (And you can see that in the last videos of that series.) I’m sure he has realized not to overwork that much since then, but don’t think for a moment that he isn’t still working hard on his videos.

When you do that much work, there’s not that much time for hobbies. You need to pick them carefully to make sure they compliment your work-loaded lifestyle. (Or you will suffer the consequences.)

Secondly, games are condensed success simulators. They’re especially good for when you want to challenge yourself and feel accomplished. And that’s the perfect thing if you’re still in school, forced to study things you don’t necessarily care about. Or if you’re not working in your ideal job.

But if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re already experiencing those challenges, failures and successes in real life.

Is gaming a bad hobby?

Certain things are undeniably true in life. One of those things is that you need to fill your time with something.

And it’s always better for you and everyone else if that something is something constructive.

There’s an old saying that goes “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” Meaning that if you have nothing in your life you will eventually begin to despair, hate life and despise other people and their happiness. This in turn leads to evil ways, even terrorism.

To avoid falling to such a state, you need something to give meaning to your life, or at least to keep your mind off of things.

So, here’s some options you can do to avoid that:

Drinking: Effects depend on how alcohol affects your body. May help you relax, but can also make you and the people around you suffer. Always damages your body.

Reading: Can increase your knowledge, but also make you learn disinformation. Can let you experience worlds and stories you normally couldn’t.

Playing games: Can teach you many things, help you relax, feel accomplishments, and experience strange worlds. But can also make you addicted or stressed.

Exercise: Improves your health and physical abilities. Can also permanently damage your body.

Meditation: Helps improve your mental state and sort out your thoughts and feelings. Can be extremely difficult and boring.

Work: Can bring you extra income or at least a sense of fulfillment. Can also increase stress and cause burnout.

And those are just some examples. All of them have their good and bad sides. And even the ones that seem like they’d be “better than the others” (such as exercise and meditation) do have their problems.

Considering all the options, gaming isn’t exactly a bad choice. I’ve talked in length about the benefits of gaming on this blog. But as with any other hobby, you also need to consider the drawbacks, such as: if you’re already feeling successful and accomplished from playing games, is that keeping you from doing other things to make you experience those feelings?

What should I be doing?

The social norms of our society like to push certain expectations on us:

“You should strive to be successful, famous, accomplished and make a lot of money.”

I’m getting on in my years, and while I do agree that financial stability is one of most important things to have, I’ve also learned that if you want to pursue a good life, then the aforementioned things are not necessary for what will get you there.

Also it’s true that not everybody can be a super star or an entrepreneur. For every celebrity you need thousands of fans, and for every company you need thousands of consumers.

But it is good to stop every now and then and give it some thought about if you’re using too much time doing something, and not enough time doing something else.

You don’t necessarily have to change anything right now.

But it’s good to stop and think. Every now and then.

And also, be aware that waiting to do something is a slippery slope. It’s what I’ve done for most of my life – every now and then I get tired of not doing anything productive, and that gives me a boost to start creating again.

I feel that sometimes you just need time to start being productive again, but it also means that there’s long periods where you don’t get much done. And looking back at those times can be a bit painful.

So instead, it is usually better to take action immediately.

That’s easier said than done. But you should strive to find the things that motivate you, so that you don’t get stuck looking for that motivation for too long.

So, should you play real life instead of video games?

“Sure, if it makes you happy,” is what somebody else might say.

I don’t, but it’s not because I don’t think you should do it. It’s just because happiness is a misleading word.

Happiness can be temporary. And it can be false. You can do things that make you happy now, but compromise future happiness.

You may not feel happy doing something right now, but later you may surely regret not getting it done.

And as weird as it may sound, you can’t and shouldn’t be happy all the time. You need to struggle every once in a while to appreciate happiness.

Instead of thinking how you feel right now about doing something, think how you feel right now about something you did in the past.

Some days ago, I read through all the articles I’ve written here on this blog, and… there’s many small things about them that I’m not happy about.

But at the same time, I’m super happy that I wrote them. That’s the feeling that helps me keep doing more.

So instead I say, “Do it, if it’s what makes you tick.”

And even more so, I’d like to say, “why not both?” As long as you’re not playing the wrong games, you can very well enjoy playing both real life and video games.

Keep experimenting and seeing what works for you.

Bonus

I also remember watching an interview where a professor mentioned tamagotchis. (Sadly I can’t link the video here because it’s no longer available. Plus it was only in Finnish with no subtitles.)

He mentioned that the microbes in our body are like tamagotchis in that we should take good care of them. But unlike tamagotchis, our microbes have a huge impact on our health. So instead of playing a virtual creature, it’s better to think of our microbes as real pets and do our best to take care of them.

And that’s a good point. But now I wonder if someone could make a game that teaches us about perfecting our microbes. Hmm…

Gheralf H. Swiftwar

Gheralf H. Swiftwar

Crazy owlmister. Eternally attemps to find ways to prove that his thousands of hours put into video and computer games has not been just an utter waste of time.

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