Pop Culture 180, Part 3: I Told You I Could Quit… But Now I Dislike People.

This is the third post of the Pop Culture 180 experiment, in which I will give up video games and replace them with reading for more than one week. For more information, read this introduction post.

I am pleased to announce that as far as I can tell, in the midst of my endeavor I have not found myself to be a video game addict. Though many anticipated typical withdrawal symptoms, I have suffered nothing of the sort. I haven’t even found myself beginning to pick up the controller out of habit. I just stopped. Just as I made clear on the podcast: I can stop if I want.

But do I want to stop? That’s a question for part 5 in this series, in which I’ll lay out some more conclusive thoughts. In the meantime, I am full of thoughts, concerns, and experiences to share with you about what it’s like to give up video games and binge on reading.

It has been four days since the beginning of the experiment, and there have been a number of effects this sudden change of medium has caused. As far as I can tell, almost all of them come from the positive initiative of reading for great lengths of time rather than the negative initiative of giving up video games. If I am feeling the effects of going without video games, they are all wrapped up in and affected by the constant reading. It’s the great flaw of this experiment, but it makes the whole thing a bit more interesting.

First, I should point out that the first major feeling I was aware of as I spent most of my Labor day weekend reading was a distinct sense of being cut off from society. Reading is a highly secluded and anti-social act, which is hilarious since this is often the charge leveled against video games instead. I spent my entire weekend staring at pages that only I was aware of on any level. Even more shocking, I was completely and totally invested in a world of fictional people which bore no real relevance to anyone else around me. At one point early on in Howards End, I attempted to tell my wife about something that was happening in the book. She did her best to care, but her response was tepid in light of my feelings about the whole situation. Later, missing the ability to know what on earth I was so invested in (or perhaps just excited I was reading so much and wanting to support me), she asked me about the book. But I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t find the right words to do the story justice, except to say that she needed to read it. We could discuss it afterward.

This frustration is honestly something new to me, and it’s the one thing I miss about video games. If someone were asking about Splosion Man, or Left 4 Dead I could simply say to them, “come over, let’s play it.” But I can’t do that with this incredible book I just read. I am doomed, at least for a little while, to simply enjoy it on my own.

But is “doomed” the right word? After all, if there’s one thing this culture needs (and by culture, I mean “I”), it’s some medium that forces them to sit and reflect on themselves and on other people without distraction. To be wrapped up in themselves, and in God’s conviction and guidance, and to simply think. In other words, to be thoughtful. I believe strongly in community, relationships, and people. But they are serious business, and I hate to be unprepared for it. After reading Howards End, I feel a bit more prepared. No, that’s not right: a lot more prepared.

Now Ben has me reading some book about clocks and the moon and sundials, about which I must say I am struggling to care. Even more frightening, I am being forced to care about them above and beyond people, at least for a couple hours out of my day.

Four more days to go. This is going to be interesting.

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