Semester has begun, and we’re all no-doubt going through the
motions of convincing ourselves that we’re going to study time
around. Some of you may have already failed in this resolution.
But, we have to break our shitty holiday habits and create some
new ones. Some of them will be easy to get rid of, others will be
During the holidays, I found that convenience leads to
addiction. There’s nothing more convenient than living between two
service stations. It’s a mere 30 second walk either way to a plethora of
lollies, chips, and slushies. The advantages are
also however, the disadvantages. I buy more
than my wallet or body can handle..
But it’s not just sugar that has been dicking my pleasure receptors all Summer long.
Recently, I cracked the 200 hour mark
on first-person shooter, Counter-Strike: Global
Offensive (CS:GO). I bought it late last year
just after it came out of the Beta (testing
stage), and I can safely say that any activity
that has taken up 200 hours of your life in a
relatively short period of time successfully has
It takes around 15 seconds to load the
game and join a server; even quicker than my
walk to buy junk food. Obstacles to playing are therefore practically
non-existent. When faced with watching that lecture I missed, it is far
easier to quickly jump into a server and start playing. And when I’ve
started playing, any motivation I might have had towards my work
begins to evaporate.
Living with a bunch of 20-year-olds means that at any given
moment any number of TV shows or movies could be downloading..
Having cheap internet means that if someone in my house is
torrenting, my ping (how quickly my computer can reach the server
the game is played on) is just too high to play CS:GO. It’s not a huge
problem, but it does lead to intermittent reinforcement, one of the
strongest forms of behavioural conditioning.
The effect this has on me is similar to the urge to check
Facebook every few minutes. Counter-Strike is like that friend asking if
you want another drink, or another hit. If the internet has destroyed
my attention span, Counter-Strike is the enabler of my procrastination.
Should I try and finish that damn column I was writing, or just
play a few minutes of Counter-Strike?
Video games are addictive. You won’t find a TripleA title that
doesn’t have some sort of achievement system.
Some people argue that using simple reward
systems is a cop out – a cheap substitute for
creating an engaging game that people will
choose to play independently.
We are constantly faced with choices and
decisions as to how we should spend our time.
We have people telling us we should read
more, that we have to watch this TV show or
that we should spend time every day exercising
or playing an instrument. Game studios try
every trick they can think of to make sure we
spend our time on their games, sometimes to
an unhealthy degree. They don’t care if they
are causing serious harm to their audience,
they just need to make sales.
Universities aren’t applying cheap psychological tricks to try
and get us addicted to the material (for the most part). Studying is a
decision every student has to make, again and again and again.
I have to choose not to spend all my of my time playing video
games. This year I won’t be spending time that I should be studying
Or at least… I’ll try.