Metacognition: Guilt and Gaming

We’re back with our “thinking about thinking” series! If you’re interested in our previous deep thoughts, check out the Metacognition series.  Join us for some deep thoughts (and maybe the occasional not-so-deep thought) about gaming. If you find one you’d like to answer, you can either comment below or write a post and share the link so we can all read your fantastic thoughts!

Do you ever feel guilty about playing video games? What about during other hobbies?

The short answer to this is yes.

But Athena, you type. You have undertaken an amazing and fun Year of the RPG that ensures you play games consistently! You have a blog dedicated to analyzing the stuffing out of games! You have an encyclopedic knowledge of Dragon Age!

And yet here we are.

A while ago, I wrote a Metacognition post about defining being a gamer. More recently, I answered The Well-Red Mage‘s seventh Big Blogging Question, which also focused on defining being a gamer. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about more recently, with my job picking up, with aspirations to make a move and get back into academia as a professor, and as the weather warms and my attention is pulled back onto sailing.

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If only… *sigh*

Gaming is, admittedly, the hobby that gets dropped first when I need more time. I wondered at this for a while. I don’t like games any less any other hobby, with the exception of playing music.

So why are games the first to fall?

Guilt.

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I know I’ve talked about this before, but when I was growing up, gaming wasn’t discouraged. After all, my parents bought my siblings an Atari 2600 and, later, a NES and SNES, and I found a Nintendo 64 under the Christmas tree one year, and then a PSOne and, eventually, a lovingly-used but well-cared for Playstation 2. My dad would play games with us, and even my mother would join in, enjoying games like Q-bert and Super Mario Bros., Tetris and even Duck Hunt.

But there was always a feeling of “you could be doing something more productive” that hung around the idea of playing video games for a few hours. Reading for hours was fine. Even watching movies all day could be considered an acceptable activity, especially when one was home sick from school.

More recently – and I will take a moment to remind you that I am a fully-grown adult with a master’s degree, a job, and other hobbies – my mother commented that I should consider getting a subscription to Netflix so I’m not “just playing those video games all the time.”

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So… even watching television for hours was seen as a better option to playing games. After a while, that’s something that gets internalized, at least for some.

Add to this a general guilt that surrounds me when I do anything enjoyable for myself (yay depression?), and we are able to witness a nice recipe for disaster.

Personally, I’m in what is sometimes considered a “giving” or “caretaking” profession. We are expected to always put others before ourselves in the professional world and, let’s face it, folks who gravitate toward those professions tend to, you know, naturally be inclined to put someone else first. There’s a point to this that does not include humble-bragging, I promise.

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Skeptical Spock is skeptical

There is research that shows that, often, folks in helping professions don’t take care of themselves due to, you guessed it, feeling guilty about focusing on themselves. Things get messy when, like me, you also have the little shadow of depression living in your head telling you that you don’t deserve to do things that are fun, and then that is compounded by the niggling little voice that sprouted up from years of being exposed to the insinuation that video games have few, if any, redeeming characteristics in regards to how one uses their time.

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So, yes, I feel a certain level of guilt when playing video games. I constantly remind myself that it’s okay to spend my leisure time as I will, whether that’s playing a game, reading a book, or watching the grass grow. All leisure activities are, after all, valid and worthwhile even if they “only” (and I say that with the most enormous quotation marks possible) provide enjoyment or entertainment.

After all, I don’t understand other people’s hobbies sometimes, and yet they carry on as if my opinion on what they do with their spare time doesn’t matter.

Wait a minute…

Do you ever feel guilty about playing video games? Have you ever? Is there any hobby that you feel guilty partaking in? If so, why do you think so? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!
~ Athena

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11 comments

  1. I grew up with parents who initially supported gaming, but demonized it later on. It meant that I had to hide what I was doing sometimes, especially when my dad was around. When I finally moved out on my own and was able to actually manage my own time, that’s when I realized how much guilt and anxiety that I had stored up around gaming. It’s really not a fun set of emotions! I wonder why it is that gaming in particular seems to be such a villain. My parents never batted an eye if I read for hours! But somehow gaming was different and considered much more of a waste of time.

    Well, suffice to say, I love games and don’t plan on giving them up anytime soon. But I totally hear you- when I get stressed, games are sometimes the first to go! Even when they could actually help!

    Maybe over time I can retrain myself to better enjoy my leisure time and not feel guilty ! You too! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I definitely feel that from time to time, especially when I wasn’t exercising (but I have made time for it now). For me it’s the worst when you have a “backlog” and even though you’re playing games to enjoy them, you’ve almost turned it into a chore. It’s also social currency to be able to talk about the latest tv show or movie, but honestly I gravitate to games more than Netflix.

    Games provide more than mindless entertainment, they provide you with a form of adventure and challenge that’s much more immersive than passive media. The important thing to me is to play games mindfully. If I’m just doing it for the sake of doing it (back to backlog), it can be a bit joyless (also, those damn shards in Dragon Age which I gave up on). Play for the joy of playing and in my mind there is no need for guilt in gaming.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “It’s also social currency to be able to talk about…” This. I can binge watch with the best of them, so relevant Netflix content isn’t my issue. I’m surrounded by and interact with people who focus on activities that just don’t draw my long term attention though or otherwise conflict with my lifestyle.

      I feel that I have a broad range of interests and hobbies outside of gaming, but because I am most passionate about reading, gaming or playing music, I sometimes find it hard to relate to others. Therein lies the guilt. Should I feel bad about spending my time doing X when everyone else is doing Y or Z?

      Ultimately, I keep doing what I enjoy doing. Mediums like blogging, streaming and some social media have helped me connect with other like minded individuals, but every so often I catch myself wondering if I should be keeping up with the NBA playoffs just for conversations sake.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I do sometimes. It’s odd, but I too was never discouraged. In fact, way back when I had a crack at making some basic games, it was actively encouraged. For me, it’s mroe to do with circumstances right now.

    See, I tend to game now as a way to take a break from housework. I was made redundant a little while back and failed to get back into full time work with the ease I (naively) expected. It was all fine, for many reasons, but moving from speding near 16 years in full time work to a mix of part time work, income from my novels and a little from blogging … well, it was a real culture shock. Mostly, I dwell in the house and do housework and take care of the kids now. As a result, when I sit down to game, I sometimes feel a little guilt if there’s more housework left to do, even though it’s a break from doing lots of stuff around the house. I think it’s really all just because I’m used to being busy all day, so not being such still feels odd at times. I’ll get over it, i’m sure.

    For what it’s worth, even with the guilt, it hasn’t changed my enjoyment any.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. No. Video games have been a huge part of my life for a very, very long time. They are far more than just a hobby to me and I wouldn’t be alive without them. They are my coping mechanism – a way to escape harsh reality, a way to meet cool fictional people, a way to feel strong, and a way to vent painful emotions.

    Our time on this planet is finite. NO ONE should ever feel guilty about spending their precious time on a fun hobby that makes them feel better.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Likewise, no. Used to, but no. I grew up in a family that, to some extent, held the view that anything you enjoyed is probably bad for you in some way and you can always tough it out and do better, no matter what’s going on in your life. That carried over into a lot of the hobbies I held, that it was somehow wrong to do something I enjoyed and that if I took the time I spent doing that and did something more productive I could make my environment a great deal better.

    And I carried that with me for a long time. Video games were a guilty indulgence when I should be doing something better, much like you describe here. And I’ll spare you the narrative details of my journey from that, but that’s been turned around now. I likewise work in a caring industry, and I am an absolute champion there, and continuously get involved in things on my own time, but I’ve come to realize video games are part of how I’m able to do that. Having that time to release myself and be someplace else and find frequent success in something that I’m great at and enjoy is part of my self care. I’ve noticed I’m actually less effective at the important parts in my life when I don’t spend my nights playing. So there. Other people’s lives are better because I play video games.

    Now, if I could start talking about that publicly without fearing judgment, we’d all be better off, but that’s a topic for a different day.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lately I’ve found myself feeling guilty by playing, specifically when playing God of War. I would lose myself in the game and then instantly feel guilty that I should be spending my time working (researching, reading, writing) instead. This is more of a mindset thing than anything, as I’m figuring out balance between hobby and work.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is so relatable. I do often feel guilty but mainly because I have so many other hobbies that, before moving in with my other half, I was able to focus on more. Now though I’ll get home from work and he’ll be there playing something and the TVs have been set up so that we can both game at the same time… It’s so difficult to not sink down on the sofa and join in and I’ll usually give in. The problem is I try and give myself so much to do in my spare time as well, like for example, I’m supposed to be doing an online instructors course for pole fitness but I keep pushing it aside in favour of gaming for just that little bit longer. My blog’s been suffering a bit more recently as well, which is ironic what with the blog being about gaming!

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  8. A lot of this has to do with the way video games are still seen as a bastard medium. I think this is because they’re the newest one out there, and all of them go through these growing pains. Comic books used to be seen as a colossal waste of time, but they currently make serious bank at the movie theater. Even though the gaming industry itself is a multi-billion dollar one (probably?), people who indulge in it aren’t seen as productive, because it’s not quite an acceptable form of leisure. You rarely hear about “movies causing violence” anymore, but they’re still debating the whole “games causing violence” thing as you well know. Reading is cerebral. There are intelligent TV shows out there. Film critique is an art, but many lay people don’t see games in the same light even though there’s absolutely no reason they can’t be. There shouldn’t be any judgment about the medium used to tell a story and in fact many video games are more brilliant, better written, and in depth than many of the shows, films, and even books out there. Not only that, but there are shows, films, and books I’ll give a chance because they share paradigms with games, especially Final Fantasy VII, so video games are actually making me do something “productive” *massive eye roll* It’s irksome that nearly any other hobby can be looked upon favorably and if you say something like “Baseball saved my life/gave me a reason to go on,” people will give you support, but if you exchange that with video games, you’ll often get scoffs from not only those not in gamer culture, but gamers themselves, since there are still people who claim the title who don’t even consider that games could be art.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you’re right. Sure, there are games that don’t have a plot, but neither does throwing a tennis ball against a wall with your friends. Society has just accepted one over the other.

      Hopefully, as games become more accepted, we will see this start to shift! But we also have to make sure that we’re acting like the type of people the community at large would be okay accepting 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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