How did this happen? Is there a correlation between my childhood raised secondarily by videogames and my reality where much of it involves tempering my overexposure to reality to avoid finding myself in a drunken stupor? I doubt the hours I spent playing games like Mario, Final Fantasy, or EarthBound caused this. Encouraged an addictive framework? Perhaps. Spend another 10 minutes to level up, throw yourself to the mercy of inebriation, only to rinse and repeat?
For me, it’s the extreme focus.
I once played EarthBound for 8 hours straight. I figured out the intricacies required to get the Sword of Kings, twice, and by that point I intuitively knew how to increase my odds of getting a third. I stopped only because I ran out of time.
Yet EarthBound also nurtured my interest in literature and exploring reality itself, because after bumming around Fourside long enough, exploring the city has only minor differences. Instead of Mad Taxis, they’re distracted drivers.
I’ve played over 1,000 hours of Final Fantasy Tactics.
The counter stops at 999 hours. I still haven’t done everything I can do in the game, leaving the inner depths of the optional dungeon like leaving one last bottle stowed away for an emergency. It’s an excuse: a reason to return.
Yet it also taught me the value of strategy, research, the value of being prepared before going into battle, with perhaps the isometric framework helping me prepare for other logical frameworks abroad. Other RPGs helped, as well.
How does Mario factor into this?
Mario is not without guilt. On the surface a seemingly innocent mascot for a family-focused videogames company, Mario invites us down a rabbit hole of fun, psychedelic adventures with mushroom, anthropomorphic creatures, and more.
The Mario series contain harmless enough stories, and these analogies might be a bit of a stretch. Are we Mario’s tripsitter, guiding him through adventures to overcome his biggest psychological adversaries, and save what is most precious to him?
I think it’s worth considering, because while Nintendo plays the family-friendly angle of the videogame market, they are a for-profit business. What better way to keep customers coming back than by subconsciously enabling addictive behavior?
Videogames are an innocent-enough form of gambling. While there isn’t a direct reward like with slot machines, there is a more ingrained desire to win. How do you increase your odds of winning any videogame? Time, money, and effort.
The more time, money, and effort spent away from reality, the more likely you can gain a rewarding gaming experience. It’s not all bad. There are moments in EarthBound that will always stay with me.
Still, just like anything in life, moderation is key. If I spent all of my time writing, I wouldn’t be able to experience a balanced life. Replace writing in the previous sentence with videogames, inebriation, or anything, really.
You should be in control of your life, so when any game subtly encourages you to continue, ask yourself if you want to continue playing.
If not, stop there.
|Sources: I took this photo of my EarthBound save file years ago.
Inspirations: My overly-intense life