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Why I Stopped Playing Video Games

This essay examines my gaming life; its rise, and its fall.
This article is over 11 years old and may contain outdated information

That was definitely a title I never thought I would write.  I have been a gamer from the first time I laid my hands on that little red plastic gun that could kill 8-bit ducks bouncing around against the borders of my cousin’s TV screen.  Duck Hunt was my first love.  I didn’t have much coordination back then, so the best I could do was put the muzzle of the gun against the TV screen, congratulating myself for being so clever.

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Gaming grew with me. 

At age 11, I convinced my parents that spending their frequent renter points from the Warehouse video store on a Sega Genesis was exactly the right choice.  I remember feeling the disappointment after realizing that the Vectorman 3D holographic green cartridge cost $60, and my elation at finding it in my stocking a few weeks later. In middle school I cried when Aerith died.  In high school I combed the crevices of Liberty City, searching for levitating white packages.  I remember LAN parties in family living rooms.  Cords and wires would snake through the house, over the couch, making a suspension bridge in the hallway, and streaking upstairs to the bedroom.  In college, all night Halo games hid flirtation with that cute girl from the senior class. 

But after getting a job, things began to change.

I moved across the country for work and was facing a steep learning curve, both in and out of the office.  It was an exciting time, the beginning of the internet as we know it today; fast, cheap, social, and infinite.  Life got complicated. 

But, what was the final nail in my gaming life’s coffin?

Maybe it was the transience.  I never planned on living so far from home for so long. Who wants to move a flat screen every year? 

Maybe it was the money.  I had other ideas for the small fortune I could save not buying a next gen console, accessories, games, subscriptions, and a decent TV to play on. 

Maybe it was the job.  I worked night and day.  I had less time to dream or less desire to add additional challenge to my life.  I was too busy to carry my desire for a new game like I once did.  After a few months, my interest would evaporate.

Maybe it was the frequent disappointment.  The games could never live up to the fantasy I had created.  I could never do as much in their world as I wanted to do, even when I could do nearly anything. 

Maybe it was the loss of value.  I remember how excited I felt when I downloaded my first seven Humble Bundle games.  I remember how excessive it felt downloading my thirtieth Humble Bundle game and realizing I hadn’t yet played the first.  I’m guilty of game hoarding.

Maybe it was all of the above. 

For whatever reason, I realized that I was missing out on the best video game ever: real life.  Seeking heroic challenges, meeting interesting people, solving complicated problems, traveling the world, and writing down my deeds are my games now.  And it feels really good. 

I still love games.  I always will.  One day my children will laugh at me for blowing into that palm-sized grey plastic cartridge.  But, at least for now, my thumbs will spend most of their time at the spacebar.

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Ben Falcon is a creative professional living in Brooklyn, New York.