If you’re anything like me, gaming is more than just a passing fancy or a general hobby. Gaming is a lifestyle, a passion, and an escape from the everyday rigors of the world around us.

When I get stressed, anxious, or worn down, I love being able to escape to a vast array of different worlds. I enjoy being thrust into the driver’s seat of someone else’s life. It’s a way for my brain to temporarily detach itself from the things that are forcing it into overdrive and allow it to take a break.

A lot of people in my life worry about this type of gaming. They say that I have no reason to be unhappy with life or wonder what it is that’s causing my depression, and they have a hard time understanding that this is just how I unwind. It’s my “me” time. A lot of us are like that, I think. I don’t always want to binge-watch shows, read books, go shopping, or go for a run as other normal people do. 

While I still do most of those things, video games are always going to be my #1 go-to activity for “Josh’s Brain Shut Down & Vegetate While He Grinds” time. It’s just what I do. It doesn’t mean I’m unhappy, depressed, or anything else. It’s just how I like to destress my mind, soul, and spirit.

However, and if I could increase the font size of that word to 150 pt in this article I would, over the last year I have found some very dangerous and concerning pitfalls to games as my escape outlet.

At some point during the past year of quarantines, unrest, and natural disasters, I have let myself be more consumed with video games than at almost any other point in my life, much to the detriment of my physical and mental health. Within the last few weeks of introspection and self-evaluation, I have found that my need to escape has become more prevalent. It has turned into more of a “desire” to escape than anything else.

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The only other time I’ve been this obsessed with gaming at every waking moment was before I had kids. I was grinding and raiding World of Warcraft while trying to help my guild get Server First on the Lich King in Icecrown Citadel and was playing an unhealthy amount.

I think this happens to all of us from time to time in our gaming lives. Although, this last year is a time when self-evaluation and self-reflection are crucial. As the sky begins to open up and the world starts to return to some sense of normalcy, so must we.

We can’t forget to make sure to take care of ourselves physically and mentally. Even if it means postponing that Destiny raid for just one night. Long gaming sessions and passions turned into unhealthy obsessions can lead to anger, strained personal relationships, and a state of mental happiness that becomes completely dependent on how our time gaming went that day. It’s a tough place to be in.

If you find yourself falling into one of these holes, you are not alone. Talk to someone, reflect, and find ways to mitigate the behavior.

There was a point three weeks ago where I realized I hadn’t gone outside a SINGLE time in over two weeks unless it was to go to work. I’m normally outside playing with my kids, fixing something, playing ping pong in my garage, or going for walks with my wife. I realized I was completely and utterly out of sync with the reality around me.

Now that I’ve made changes and started doing some of those things again, I’ve seen a wild improvement in not just my physical state, but my mental state as well. Finding myself back in a gym a few times a week, wondering what method of torture I’ll inflict upon myself that day, has been a huge help as well.

We love the worlds that games let us explore and sometimes it can be hard to let ourselves leave those worlds even when we aren’t playing the game. Our realities can become split between our passion and our lives, but it is ALWAYS important to take care of the state of YOU before anything else.

Whether it’s gaming, streaming, work, etc., make sure that you’re taking time for yourself mentally and physically.

Now as I end this, I’m going to get my rear end up and go play some basketball instead of jumping into Valorant like I really, really want to.