Most everywhere you go today, you see young and old alike incessantly playing electronic games or flipping through screens on a phone. Electronic games have become an addiction for tens of millions of people. In the past the older generation wanted nothing to do with computers, especially video games. Now even senior citizens can't seem to get enough. In this essay we'll refer to cell phone games and computer games simply as video games.
Consider someone who spends just two hours a day (a conservative estimate) playing video games or flipping through cell phone screens. This totals up to 730 hours/year in a non-leap year, or 30.4 DAYS/YEAR. That's equivalent to one month out of the year spent doing absolutely nothing useful, productive or educational to improve your life. Over 12 years an ENTIRE YEAR of someone's life is completely wasted. Yet if you were to ask anyone if they would like to die a year early no one would agree to it. But wasting a year of one's life playing with video games and smart phones is doing exactly the same thing.
Why the sudden change of attitude toward computers and cell phones with the older generation? Is it because they grew up on Atari's and Nintendos? Looking at the ages of people I've seen obsessed with playing cell phone games and endless twiddling with smart phones, it's clear many of these people are too old to have grown up with any kind of video games as children. It is well known that many video games create an adrenaline rush. Is it possible video games have people of all ages addicted to the effects of adrenaline they generate within themselves as a result of intensive visual immersion in a fake reality? Are adrenaline junkies really any different than addicts who shoot up with illegal drugs purchased on the street? Video games have become the electronic equivalent of drug addiction.
Electronic games, internet surfing and internet dating have another common denominator. These activities inherently isolate people from other people physically. Whenever people interact face to face with family, friends, acquaintances or strangers, a complex involuntary silent dialog takes place. A fundamental need of the human psyche is to have physical contact with others. There is little doubt society is becoming anti-social and more violent. Films with more blood and guts than ever before in theaters support this idea. Effects of video games on the human mind has not gone unnoticed by scientists. Various universities are now quietly studying the psychological effects on relationships as a result of our electronic society.
FIVE DIMENSIONS Vs. TWO ON A SCREEN
When two or more people physically meet they will have a five dimensional experience. (I'm not talking about new age theories here.) There are three physical dimensions in our physical world (length, width and depth.) Time is the fourth dimension. A fifth dimension consists of reactions from a simple handshake, kiss, casual contact. There are also real time facial expressions, scent, sound, visual impressions and body movements. These subtle cues can only occur when we physically meet with others.
The amount of time we are together combined with all these subtle cues and messages are what comprises the fifth dimension. Like the intangible properties of time, the end result of a in-person experience with others is a fifth dimensional experience which is almost intangible. In a way, this fifth dimensional experience we walk away with exists outside of space and time since it is non-physical. Video conferences and video calls are severely limited with a two dimensional screen experience. Having audio with live video does very little to help the matter.
A computer screen does not have the third, fourth and fifth dimensions. Emails and text chats are even worse when people create a completely fictional persona of themselves.
Why are so many business travelers still flying to meetings on airplanes in our multimedia, electronic age? Smart business people know there is little substitute for a face to face meeting and fully utilizing the benefits from it such as closing a deal.
Websites, on-line dating and social networking websites like facebook only create limited two dimensional interactions on a computer screen. The third dimension (depth) and fourth (time) along with the fifth dimension end product from physical interaction are all missing, even if people use real time video conferencing or webcams during private chats. A webcam image is only two dimensional which cannot possibly fulfill the requirements for normal human interaction. Even with a 3D webcam the remaining five senses are still not present. Missing senses include smell, touch and taste which are required aspects of the human interaction experience. Absence of these senses causes a loss of the fifth dimension, the complex end product from in-person human interaction over a given amount of time.
When people walk away from face to face meetings they carry away in their minds a fifth dimension end product. This may be a more important benefit of the meeting than all the paper hand-outs, speeches, reports or multimedia presentations. Social networking websites should be more accurately called anti-social websites. These dry interactions often inaccurate representations of interactions between human beings, and can result in malformed relationships. One expression about the internet dates back to the web's earliest days- anyone can present themselves as anything they want to be.
So what does all this have to do with video games and cell phone games? Social networking websites and video games are helping people create cocoons around themselves.
WHERE WILL YOU SPEND THE REST OF YOUR LIFE?
We must consider daily the amount of time we spent in front of a cell phone screen or computer screen. Consider this: When some people are told by a doctor they are terminally ill, they begin to suddenly appreciate family, every sunrise and sunset, the oceans, rivers and lakes, birds which sing and even passing clouds in a blue sky. Suddenly jobs, computers and cell games no longer have any real value in their lives. One thing that many of terminally ill people value is spending more quality time with family and friends for the rest of their time left on Earth. How many millions of people have substituted pointless video games for relationships with family and friends?
Will people wait for bad news from a doctor before they stop playing video games? Most likely most will not stop until it's too late - when their time on Earth suddenly comes to an end and it's too late to change habits and lifestyles. They are just as addicted as a crack addict. We will leave this planet either suddenly, peacefully in our sleep or very slowly and possibly painfully. Will everyone's last days on Earth be filled with nothing but regret from the foolishness of playing video games against a processor inside a phone or computer?
A game that no one can win in the end? A game which the processor LETS you win?
Will the pinnacle accomplishment of their time on Earth merely be a high score in a meaningless video game? What a waste of life that would be.