Video Games and Life Goals

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.

It makes us feel like we’re really doing something and going somewhere. In the ultimate reality, though, this “real life” is also a virtual world. The material gains that we make here might make us happy (or not) but they don’t transfer to Reality.

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.

My Main WoW Character

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • Jeramy Hansen

    I think structuring your thought process about your life in this fashion is a good and useful thing.

    Now … I just need to re-convince myself that the quest rewards of a couple of my quests are actually worth the amount of crap required to get there.

    • Ambaa

      I’ve been losing the thread of my quests lately. I’m on this baby quest path, but I’m just starting to look beyond it to realize that it’s partly just something to strive towards. Once I get it, I don’t know what to strive for next and that scares me.

      • Jeramy Hansen

        So, think of it as a quest chain. Having the baby opens up the “Raise the baby into a good person” quest line, which, as I understand it, is a frustrating but, ultimately, rewarding series.

        I’m contemplating the whole “Obtain a spouse” quest line currently. I mean, I sorely want the end result, but the misery I am, to an extent, still going through over my last failed attempt at this quest is making me question whether I really want to proceed with this quest line. I don’t have another break up like that in me.

        • Ambaa

          I was thinking about the “raise said child” quest too, but at some point that ends and they are on their own. You’ve got to be solid with yourself and find meaning in yourself so that it isn’t a devastating blow when that long quest ends!

          And what if Have a Baby doesn’t happen? What back up goal do I have?

          The “obtain a spouse” quest line is frought with danger to be sure. That may be the most challenging thing I do in my entire life.

          It seems to me that other quests take the pressure off a bit. The “become financially independent” is a pretty big quest too with a lot of opportunity for action.

  • dashifen

    And here I was, thinking you’re all cool and stuff. Then, I find out you play Horde side. At least Shivanni is a Hunter and not one of the support classes (i.e., the ones that support us Hunters).

    • Ambaa

      I ended up on Horde side by accident and discovered that I loved it. The reason Shivanni is only level 59 is that I get distracted and start new characters, so I have tried some Alliance but I really have a strong preference for Horde!