Man’s Search for Games

by | 2019-06-07 5:55am Asia/Tokyo

Man’s Search for Games

by 2019-06-07 5:55am Asia/Tokyo

A consistent feature throughout my life has been video games. One of my earliest memories is my first introduction to games. Through all the many changes that have taken place throughout my life, games have been there.

Video games taught me what it feels like to be totally focused and in a flow state. Because I felt that the games were fun, I could play them literally for days with little rest. By putting in the hours, I gained high-levels of competency. If nothing else, I know how something should feel for it to feel right.

One problem I’ve had for a while now is consistent feelings of irritability and dissatisfaction. The reason, I’ve come to understand, is that my focus and attention is pulled in too many directions. Part of that is my fault. I might be spreading myself too thin on too many activities. Most of the activities these days are what I consider productive. Reading books to learn new ideas, writing book reviews, writing for my Twitter account to build a social media following (English and Japanese), making videos, building a photography studio, all while cultivating my relationships with my wife and friends.

When I can’t get into a flow state, I feel it. Games taught me what focus feels like.

These days, however, I have very little time for games. Although I achieve that flow state on occasion, I often get interrupted even by small things. That’s on top of the time at work eight hours a day, moving from class to class in an under-stimulating environment, surrounded by bored and burned out teachers like myself, or apathetic students like I was when I was in my teens.

Mornings don’t have those problems. At 3 AM, the whole world is beautifully quiet. I use the time to drink coffee, watch a couple of Youtube videos to catch up on news, and do some of the above things on my agenda. On the train, I can read and write for about 40 minutes to work and 40 home. But usually, after that, I’m just sapped of energy. My focus has been thrown around everywhere.

That leaves me on edge and sensitive to all of the small nagging distractions at home. Some days, I just want to lay in bed in silence.

When my flow has been broken up, it really drains my energy in way I never felt before.

So, what is the key to getting that flow back?


Finding Flow

I think the first thing to understand is that the essential element of any flow-inducing activity is enjoyment of the activity. If it isn’t fun or intellectually stimulating, I can’t focus. Just like some kids in school, I just get sleepy. (No wonder many of them are a bit grumpy.) Games that are fun are the ones that give gamers energy. Boring games go in the trash.

This principle has far-reaching implications. Focus requires enjoyment. If you can’t focus, you won’t be productive. If you can’t focus, your mind and mood will suffer. You won’t do your best work nor will you be your best self if you don’t have focus. If you aren’t playing, you’re hurting yourself and those around you. If you’re bored, you’re limited. If you’re having fun, you are infinite.

By the way, I’m not the only one that thinks that. Yesterday, when I first started writing the above thoughts down, Naval Ravikant was interviewed by Joe Rogan. Scott Adams has called Naval perhaps the smartest person alive, high praise from a smart guy like Adams. In his own podcast, Adams advised all viewers to put down everything and listen to Naval and Joe’s conversation. So I did.

Within the first twenty minutes, I was getting super excited by what Naval was saying, so I decided to read a tweet thread he has pinned on his twitter page. The title of the thread is “How to Get Rich”.

In the thread, he says,

Yes! It is undeniably true. Over and over, when you see successful people, the people at the highest levels describe what they’re doing as fun.

But that’s not all. Moments ago, I noticed Naval had a website linked to his twitter page, so I clicked it. What did I find?

I’m not some childish dummy complaining that I’m unhappy because I don’t get to play enough games. People who are thinking at the highest levels are saying the same thing.

My father always said that I should get a job doing something that I enjoy. I believed him. Sometimes I veered from the straight path and onto a path that didn’t give me any flow, but I didn’t understand at the time what I was feeling. It’s only now, after getting married, moving into my wife’s home, and working the same job for several years that I can finally say I know exactly why his advice was so wise and true.

I have gone from a life with near constant flow to a life of only very partial flow. Life without flow is painful. I can understand why so many people are so angry all the time. They aren’t having any fun.

My resolve has never been stronger. I have to change my situation and purposefully create the conditions for getting myself into flow. It is important not just for me, but for my family and the people around me. It isn’t an option. It’s the only way forward. I need my life to feel like a game.