A Recovering Addict’s Reflection On Jimmy Kimmel’s Fortnight Challenge…

With it being the day after Christmas, I’m guessing there will be a ton of people out there who will be spending it returning gifts they didn’t want or playing with gifts they did. One gift I can most definitely say probably won’t be returned by anyone today is the video game called Fortnight. That became overly apparent with Jimmy Kimmel’s Fortnight challenge from a few weeks ago.

In this challenge, he dared parents to film themselves abruptly turning off the TV while their kids were in the middle of playing the hugely popular game. The result was a whole heck of a lot of anger, violence, outrage, and even total despair. I was actually not surprised at all by any of these reactions after watching them for myself on those YouTube videos that got posted. The sad reality is that the majority of those wild reactions are indicative of a growing addiction, one that is totally becoming more and more prevalent these days.

Thankfully I don’t have a video game addiction and haven’t for some time. I currently don’t even have a video game system in my home. While I do own a Nintendo 64 and an even older Super Nintendo, they, and all the games I own for them, have been in a storage unit for the past six years. The fact is I don’t want them or any other video game console in my house. Why? Because I used to be one of those who was addicted to playing video games.

I used to sit glued to my television eons ago trying to master games on my Atari. I’d spend entire days sitting in front of the TV playing it until my parents told me I had to turn it off. And I wasn’t happy one bit whenever they did. When the first Nintendo system came out, my best friend at the time got it as a gift and we used to spend many-a-days together playing games like Contra, Zelda, Legendary Wings, as well as a number of others.

Nothing else mattered while we had those first Nintendo controllers in hand. Sometimes we were so glued to the television, that six to eight hours would easily go by, with the only breaks being moments we took to scarf down food or go to the bathroom. I can still vividly recall my friend and I during those marathon game-playing days screaming at the television, throwing controllers, and even getting angry at each other, all while ignoring the rest of the world, many beautiful days outside, and anything else really. Life became all about solving those games and nothing else.

Video game addiction was one of the first addictions I probably ever fell prey to. I never looked at it as an addiction at the time though. I just looked at it as something I enjoyed doing by myself or with my best friend back then. But the signs are so clear to me now looking back at my old behaviors. There was the constant obsession when I wasn’t playing, thinking about how I could get past certain levels. Then there was all that sweating and anxiety I constantly had when actually playing a game. And I mustn’t forget all that rage and temper tantrums I’d throw whenever a parent took my game playing privileges away.

Now, video games are becoming more and more realistic, which in turn has brought an exceptionally large amount of people into playing them. Take Fortnight for example. There are presently over 125 million people playing this game and at any given time, there has been over 8 million playing concurrently. Maybe this is why I don’t see many kids outside much anymore playing old-school games like hide-and-go-seek or kick the can or throwing a football around or even playing a pick-up game of baseball or wiffle ball?

While sad but true, kids, and even adults, are instead becoming more and more addicted to video games and because of it, a domino effect is occurring of downward mood swings, unhealthy binge eating and consumption of caffeinated beverages. I’d even go so far as to say that much of the upswing of violent crimes may actually stem from people who have previously spent far too many hours engaging in violent video games.

Nevertheless, when I saw a number of kids literally attack their parents, throwing punches at them and dropping f-bombs after their televisions were turned off in the middle of playing Fortnight, I realized how serious this problem has already become, even though Kimmel didn’t necessarily address that in his show specifically.

People are withdrawing more and more into the video game world, losing sight of reality and those around them, losing valuable social skills in the process, including any desire to interact with others, except those alongside them in the digital realm. Video game addiction is real and rapidly becoming a very serious problem, especially here in the United States.

Hopefully, parents will start drastically reducing their kids video game-playing time, as maybe then it will lead to them finding much healthier ways to spend their time, like having actual social interaction with others. As for those adults who also spend countless hours playing video games like Fortnight, like any addiction, the desire to change it will only come when the pain of continuing to do so becomes great enough…

I’m thankful I don’t spend any of my life anymore glued to a video game trying to solve it, as my life never grew any better spending immeasurable hours doing so. While I may still play a game of Ms. Pac Man or Galaga from time to time whenever I see one of those old machines somewhere when I’m out and about, game playing is simply not something that’s part of me anymore. And frankly, I’d rather spend my time making a difference in this world, rather than watching my life pass on by in any type of Fortnight realm…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson