Another aspect of my life is that I am a geek gamer. I play a lot of new-style board games, computer games like MMOs, and video games.
Game makers are very clever in how they design games. They understand the psychology of the human brain and they know exactly how to tap into what motivates us. We know, for example, that humans have a tendency to like to collect things (as I spoke about recently) and so in a lot of games collecting things is an important element. Find all five of the hidden gems, or collect all the gear, etc.
Another thing they do is quests. You feel this amazing sense of accomplishment as you complete the task. It releases feel-good chemicals in the brain!
There are times when I nearly lose myself in a game and I can use the feeling of accomplishment within the virtual world to substitute for a feeling of accomplishment and productivity in real life. The games are designed to make you feel like you’re really doing something.
I can only occasionally get so far into it that I really believe I’m being productive. There’s usually some part of my brain that’s telling me the whole time: This is all fake. None of it means anything. You’re wasting time.
(I try to remind my brain that having fun is a valid way to spend time)
I was talking to Brad about this the other day when I realized that these games are a real metaphor for life. We keep ourselves moving forward with quests and goals that are created by society or ourselves. We strive for things like Get Married, Have a Child, or particular goals and achievements in our jobs.
So in a way, video games are teaching me how to view life. How to enjoy achieving things but remembering that in the ultimate reality there is no striving, there is just peace and stillness.
I find it a little difficult to deal with “not doing.” I distract myself a lot with projects and plans. I write these blog posts, I write books, I craft things, I’m a whirlwind of DOING. When I lose the thread of feeling like I’m being productive, that’s an opening for depression. It’s hard to face that in the real long term, none of the things I’m creating will last forever. What I really need to do is be still.
Striving is good in a way because we do need striving and motivation to reach for moksha, but in the final stages what is really needed is to stop striving and to be at peace.
Video games remind me that fun is okay and the purpose of my life as a human is not to do the most or make the most or get to the most possible milestones. Achieving things can be fun, but “real life” is actually only another form of virtual life.