Video games helped me lose weight.
That sounds like the start of a Wii Fit informercial. Let’s start over.
Ding! Level Up
There is a special monster in the Dragon Quest series called a metal slime. It identical to the iconic regular slime, except colored a steely gray instead of a sky blue. That’s the only point of intersection on the Slime Venn Diagram. The regular slime is a monster you encounter early in your adventures. It’s weak, it takes no time at all to take down, and it has a goofy smile painted on its face. Child’s play. On the other hand, the metal slime has the defenses of a Sherman tank, and it can throw fireballs at your party to boot. Even if you do manage to hit it, you are only able to chip away at its HP. On top of all that, the cheeky little thing has the option to run away whenever it wants.
Be lucky enough to beat it, though, and it showers you with enough experience points to level your characters up several times over. Watching those +1’s pour in, justifying all of your hard (and frustrating) work, makes the hunt for the metal slime worth it. The Dragon Quest games demanded a heavy investment of your time, and a healthy portion of that was spent grinding monsters. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as seeing your character go from dealing a measly 3 or 4 damage per hit to the late-game destroyer of Toriyama-drawn monsters, serving up destruction in the triple digits.
And I was doing this all day long. When I was a kid, if I didn’t have a book in my hand, it was a controller. Or a Game Boy if I was either out of the house or in the bathroom. I had neither when my parents took us to church, but that’s a different blog post. I digress. My days were spent in front of the T.V. screen, defeating digital threats, saving virtual worlds, and riding on the shoulders of the grateful, digital masses. Add this to the fact that I was a bookworm, you might wonder where physical activity came into this equation. It didn’t. I took enough kickballs, softballs, and dodgeballs to the face to figure I wasn’t going to be the next Junior Seau.
What Was I Really Enjoying About This?
Eventually, the day came when I was going to get shipped off to college. I wasn’t the picture of health—I wasn’t even the sketch—so I decided I was finally going to lose fat and turn my body into a well-oiled machine instead of the struggling jalopy I saw in the mirror. So my college roommate and I watched YouTube videos, read fitness articles, wrote our own routines, and set to work. And I like it. A lot. True, maybe it was because lifting weights isn’t a team sport and there was no one yelling at me, but watching the number on the scale go down and the numbers on the weights I was lifting go up was something I grew to look forward to. Going to the gym was my new game. As college went on, I played video games less and less.
In retrospect, I realize that what I had enjoyed about video games during childhood (and well into my late teens) was the sense of progression. I was just a kid who had lived in the same town for his whole life. A kid who didn’t know what he wanted to do with himself once he was out of school. A kid with no direction. All I knew was my address, my home phone number, and being passive. But on the screen, I controlled heroes who got things done. They were decisive, and they were brave enough to see the world.
I’m just glad I figured out that the trick was to apply that to real life.
The Continue Screen
I’m not saying video games are bad in any way. I’m still a big fan, and even as a busy adult with no time, I still make it a point to plug in. (Plenty of people will tell you that having “no time” is a matter of prioritization, anyway.) Growing up has nothing to do with putting away the things you enjoyed as a child, but rather learning how to appreciate the things you have to work for. Moving away from instant gratification and watching your own +1’s pour in. It’s just that the metal slime these days is Paying the Bills, Making Rent, or the dreaded Navigating Your Shopping Cart Around This Person Who Forgot That the Middle of the Floor is a Community Resource.
My point is for people who are just consuming all day—say, playing video games—and feel like they’re in a rut. What is it you like about them? Is it fully exploring a game’s world, leaving no stone un-kicked? Is it the social aspect, if it’s a multiplayer game? Do you like formulating a strategy and seeing it all come together? Do you like using your creativity to make something out of nothing? Or like me, is it watching your numbers go up? Whatever it may be, maybe there are ways to use that passion in your life away from the screen.
So put down the controller, go out there, and kill some slimes.