The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent
The Science of Addiction: Doing things that you want

The Science of Addiction: Doing things that you want

December 17, 2020

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Out of the thousand hours, I spent in my youth playing a single-player video game, a relatively small number was spent having fun or doing something interesting or difficult. It was mostly all boring grinding against helpless enemies on my overpowered Pokemon (and other RPG equivalents) so that I could be even more overpowered against them.

Fortunately, I grew out of it but it is a serious issue for many millennial men I know to be consumed by the pursuit of simple digital approximations of real achievements, to the point where it impedes more challenging pursuits of the real thing in the real world.

It has become clear to me that this form of video gaming is very much the equivalent of ‘doomscrolling’ for young men of my age, as stated in other comments, and is typically very dangerous. I have so many friends who have changed their lives by taking the mocking advice to turn the game off and do something else.

Are games the brain-killing-rotting rotten life predictors of the society that our parents made them out to be? No, it is really not.

Are they the epitome of entertainment and development that make them out to be places like Reddit? No, it is really not.

Much as before. There’s a reality in the nuance.

I wonder if a proxy for honing skills was my urge to grind and or min/max in video games during my teenage years.

Maybe it's a stage of growth where you just appreciate the repetition because you're expected to develop an ability and a trade-craft. But I have little or no interest in such endeavors now that I'm older.

Surely the point is that FPS is expended on this developmental potential to persist? You should have learned a musical instrument or had some other life-long achievement made. The real issue is the cost of opportunity, i.e.

You should have learned a musical instrument or had some other life-long achievement made.

In my view, these 'classical' hobbies are greatly over-valued. I spent nearly a decade learning to play the violin, and although the love of music was valuable, it was largely pointless to ever be able to play the violin. I also left when I wasn't forced to play for school anymore, and I probably can't read any more of the sheet music. It's not a life-long talent at all like riding a bike.

In other words, I don't see anything that validates the ability to play a musical instrument as more important than being good at a certain video game genre. Music has existed for much longer, so as a long-standing feature of our society, it has a certain degree of prestige. Music can be shared with others while Twitch seems to suggest that there are a large number of individuals involved in watching video games played by others.

There is numerous research on the tangential benefits of music, and there are video games as well.

I don't know why one is obviously coming out ahead. Video games are more likely to offer you abilities in the real world. When more and more of the world moves online, it can be useful to pick up skills that you try to get games to work or try to make them run faster. Another thing you tend to understand is web etiquette (hopefully, instead of just being toxic).

It is also not without pain to learn an instrument. I was focusing on committing a piece to memory, or practicing a piece, or doing exercises to work on my finger strength or flexibility when I played, possibly 75 percent of the time I played, I wasn't really doing something fun. I don't feel like it's less "grindy" to master an instrument.

For a substantial amount of time in my youth, I both played video games and played music (band, church groups, self-study) as a counterdote. Today I still play music and my only regret is that I don't spend more time on it before, though I regret wasting so much time on video games. Music collaboration and sharing are unparalleled; I can communicate with people and really produce anything that is an expression of myself and my collaborators, and even people who have never picked up an instrument can enjoy music that sounds nice. For video games, to understand the success of someone else, you just need to know the dynamics of a particular game, and very rarely do the effects of a video game show themselves in the real world aside from the consequential skills you might pick up.

The question of stopping music until it is no longer mandatory is endemic, and I think pedagogy is more ingrained than the music itself as a medium. I remained off it because I was mostly self-taught for theory and the instruments I currently play (piano, guitar), while once they were free to graduate, people who were coerced into classes or just did it to fill an elective spot in school. I've had months of stints without dedicated practice, but it's closer to an unforgettable talent for me than riding a bike (because I don't know how to ride a bike).

Since the dawn of humanity, music has been around. Are video games about 20-30 years old?

I'm not going to be shocked when video games would be an appropriate hobby for 100 years from now while playing instruments will seem as quaint when you can just change some parameters to produce good music in some AI models.

This argument, if anything, is a testament to the stamina of music as an expressive medium. Video games, as others have discussed in this discussion, are mostly consumable media with items that do not reach beyond the computer.

A broad can of worms is the entire AI-replacing-creativity controversy. Yes, generative music models already exist that can produce pleasant-sounding music, but the process is more important for many practitioners than the product. There is an explanation of why individuals still perform live in front of crowds while performing lossless recordings at home would be more appropriate and convenient.

Video games, as others have discussed in this discussion, are mostly consumable media with items that do not reach beyond the computer.

And the same thing has been said about television. What the mainstream will never be.

My contention is that video games are in their infancy. It has the potential to be an art form, particularly if once we get powerful enough hardware, VR/AR takes off.

There's a reason why individuals still perform live in front of crowds when performing lossless recordings at home would be more fair and convenient.

And there is a reason why even though people stigmatize it as a time drain, people still love playing video games. It isn't about production or quality.

Why not then extrapolate to non-video games this argument? Why have card or board games not usurped music as a dominant hobby in the decades that they've been around?

I would not argue that video games have no value as creative media; some of my teenage favorites have had positive effects on my world view and self in the same way as works in TV and film have and I cut my teeth on advanced video game music piano arrangements (specifically Kyle Landry's). I assume the issue lies in the fact that video games are a challenging medium that often rewards mindless grinding and non-transferrable abilities. It's a hot (demanding) medium in McLuhan's terms that only has the advantages of a cold (passively consumed) medium[1].

To say that music will finally cede somehow to video games when music has been around for literal eons, is flippant.

I grew up with the usual piano lessons as a child, dabbled with guitar, but never really got competent at anything. Suppose I wasn't a singer. Before they picked up the banjo about seven years ago.

Some music is about success, but that needs a degree of commitment that I don't have. Bluegrass is music intended for a bunch of people to get together and have fun. The guitar, upright bass, mandolin, washboard... were picked up by some of my mates. And all of a sudden, we meet a few times a week just to play and have fun. It was never grinding at all.

Kid, startup, moving away from my bandmates, and Covid got in the way so I'm out of practice, but when life returns to "normal" I'm really looking forward to getting back to it.

I guess what I'm saying is - you may have played the wrong music? There's a lot of genres of music that seem to concentrate more on entertainment than grinding. Perhaps the classical violin isn't one of them. Old-time violin on the other hand.

Video games are more likely to offer you abilities in the real world. When more and more of the world moves online, it can be useful to pick up skills that you try to get games to work or try to make them run faster. Another thing you tend to understand is web etiquette (hopefully, instead of just being toxic).

This is more than a declaration of the true reality that begs the question.

What's valuable in the real world about magical fighting against imaginary enemies, opening treasure chests, and completing collectibles? It is practically possible in the real world to at least learn to play a musical instrument.

One may argue that when given a set of strengths and weaknesses, video games can teach someone to solve puzzles or to strategize towards an end, but if you just wanted functional logical thinking from puzzles, you might be better off grinding away at LeetCode and HackerRank. The specificity of the context often involves strategizing for some goal, and the environment in video games is often very far from actual.

And besides, if you really believe in video games, are you willing to raise a child, instead of learning new skills, to waste his youth and energy

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