It’s that time of year again, when hardcore gamers from around the globe will descend on the Los Angeles Convention Center to go at it on the big screen of Virtual Reality Gaming.
This year, an estimated 15,000 bots, spammers, first-shooters and campers will attend the event, beginning June 13.
And the big boys will be there to deliver.
Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild creators Nintendo, are excited to showcase their new Switch console—hailing it as the company’s fastest-selling device to date.
Not to be outdone, Microsoft’s code-named ‘Project Scorpio’ is slated for release before the end of the year. It’s expected to be more expensive than Sony’s PS4 Pro, but should still give Microsoft a credible and competitive edge.
So a bonanza of games, gizmos and visual wizardry awaits the faithful pilgrims from around the globe. But how clued in are they to . .
The Dark Side
When video game players don their VR headsets to inhabit fantastical landscapes or face off on VR battlefields—what the heck is going on?
In a word: sensory-overload that can reach fever pitch in seconds.
We’re talking adrenaline-pumping, hyper-stimulating, real-time responses to the immersive scene the player is engaged in—often with several other players (“opponents” or “friends”) from around the globe.
As noted in The Washington Post’s ‘The Screen Age’ column:
Every movement, every shot fired, every victory within the game is accompanied by real-life physical and neurological responses: The gamer’s muscles tighten, the pulse pounds, and the brain’s prefrontal cortex — its pleasure center — is activated.
Although not all video games involve first-shooters on an eerie, blood-soaked battlefield, today’s eye-popping, ultra-definition, sophisticated brands share one compelling propensity: an alarming ability to lure impressionable gamers (particularly preteens) into compulsive, addictive, anxious and violently disordered behavior.
A new Internet Gaming Disorder has emerged in our midst. And is a modern malaise that is eminently deserving of our attention —whether we are parents or not.
A Way Forward
From where I stand, I believe a little inventory on the amount and type of cyberspace activity we immerse ourselves in, is something we owe ourselves—not just in terms of personal and spiritual growth; but in terms of authentic relationship with the human and natural community we are a part of.
In my new book, Do It Anyway: Deep Spirituality Meets Real Life (Patheos Press). I reflect on our modern-day dilemma:
“. . . although we are socially connected through multiple social networks on the Internet and have instant access to information, we are simultaneously disconnected.
Overidentification with and addiction to our virtual cyber world can lead to severe isolation and loneliness. Enslavement to our digital devices and pixilated reality is energy-depleting and disorienting. We negate the spiritual essence of who we truly are. We are so over-stimulated by the barrage of information tumbling at us that the natural inclination to rest in quiet, in nature, and in meditation is severely compromised.
Noise, busyness, restlessness, over-stimulation and distraction are the hallmarks of the urbanized and socially isolated world we have created for ourselves. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest won’t cut it. We need nourishing, meaningful and compassion-filled companionship in our lives, in real time with real people.
More important, we need to recognize our moments of existential loneliness and anguish for what they are: the necessary moments of spiritual centering that, if we can subdue the compulsion to fill them with more techno gadgetry, will make all the difference in the world. When this spiritual awakening is lacking, it is because we are pandering to a disintegrated human community that has technologically stripped us of our capacity to be alone.”
~ Chapter 11 ‘The Transhumanist Age‘
As noted earlier, it is the young and most impressionable among us for whom we need to be most vigilant and protective.
As I note in the same chapter from my newly published book:
“Too many children today are nature deprived because their playground is the pixilated screen of a tablet. I want my kids to grow up knowing and savoring the wildness, biodiversity, and rich abundance of the natural world. When the artificiality of computer gaming supplants the wonders of nature, we have compromised our innate curiosity and turned off the intuitive wisdom we share with the earth. By insulating ourselves in virtual cyber communities, we lose all sense of what it means to be contingent, finite, and interdependent beings.”
~ Chapter 11 ‘The Transhumanist Age‘
The proliferation of gaming via consoles, smartphones, PCs and tablets, is not going away anytime soon. Nor am I advocating this. I am simply appealing to the designers and psychological consultants behind the scenes, to consider refining some of their latest creations in ways that promote rather than hijack the most vulnerable of human sensibilities.
Failure to do this is both tragic and morally misguided. What say you?
Cover Photo: Pixabay
Image Insert: Pixabay