Over the weekend I spent about 10 hours total shopping, hiking in the North Carolina woods, jogging, cleaning house and socializing. Looking back on those hours, I feel a justifiable sense of accomplishment. My pants fit better, my cupboard is full, I've logged three new geocaches and I had a lovely conversation with two of the writers of the fabulous The Tick comic book. These are things worth leaving the house for. And yet, all weekend I couldn't wait to get back home to play more Puzzle Quest. I suppose this makes me, as an older generation would say, "a functioning gameaholic." To all outward appearances, I'm leading a normal, full life. And yet behind closed doors, I'm mainlining Julie Andrews.
So, according to some, I have a problem. Again I ask: So what? Games are addictive because they generate happiness. Not by introducing chemicals that fool your brain into believing you're happy - like nicotine - or by stimulating endorphin production - like sex - but because playing them is actually fun, and you are happy when you do so. In this respect, games are as dangerous as puppies and cotton candy, going to the fair or your first, timid kiss.
They say if you live long enough, everything you enjoy will be proven to be bad for you. Newsflash: No one lives forever. Doctors and psychologists are obsessive about your health. They're like IT professionals for your well-being; the perfect system is one the user never gets to use. If you were to walk into your doctor's office tomorrow and tell him you've decided to eat nothing but protein mush, exercise for an hour everyday and stay away from anything that might injure you or cause you pain, he'd probably faint with joy, because that's the only way to ensure you won't die more quickly than you absolutely have to. But you can't live like that. That's what we call a "joyless" existence.
As humans, we need challenge, we need a little suffering and we need our pleasure. We need to sit around doing nothing every once in a while. We need to become addicted to things. We need play. If that's a crime, sue me, not the game makers. I'm the one holding the controller.
Russ Pitts is an associate editor for The Escapist. His blog can be found at www.falsegravity.com. Smile and Nod appears every Monday.