Saying “Goodbye” to Video Games: Part I
Quick note: This is a bit of a brain dump. I did my best to organize it, but I wanted to share as much as I could in hopes of helping others. And no, I didn’t throw out all my games. It is not about removing video games entirely from my life. Read on to learn more…
I love video games. I REALLY love video games. I have ever since I can remember. My earliest memories are of me with a NES controller in my hands exploring the land of Hyrule in “The Legend of Zelda.” Counting down the days to the next birthday or holiday involved sleepless nights and “Toys R Us” ads with circles around the never-ending wish list of games and systems we could never afford.
Up early playing some games. Notice the NES controller cord…
I consumed every piece of information I could obtain from magazines like “Nintendo Power” and “Gamepro.” These bibles of video game text were reviewed to the point of the magazines falling apart. I was up at the crack of dawn every weekend to maximize the time I had with the game I rented from the local Popcorn Video video store. I fought my parents to stay inside so I could attempt another run through the castle of “Shadowgate” or attempt another run through “Super Mario Brothers 3.” There was even one time I tortured my aunt and cousin Ben as I called their house repeatedly (as a 5 year old) to get help from Ben on “The Legend of Zelda.”
My cousin Ben on the bottom left, cousin Chris in the middle and me sporting the dope orange shorts
This love/obsession continued with the release of next generation consoles in the 90s with the Super Nintendo (which my superhero grandparents somehow tracked down to win Christmas), Nintendo 64, XBOX, XBOX 360, and then past the point where I could afford the games myself. I was crazy about this stuff! Seriously in 2005 as a 19-year-old I opened an XBOX 360 bundle that arrived on Christmas Eve even though it was a Christmas gift. Somehow I rationalized that my parents would be OK going behind their backs and snatching the box from the exhausted UPS delivery man.
I have discussed this in the past, but video games were an important comfort and distraction for me growing up. First, when my parents divorced at age 8 and later on when I got constantly harassed at school for being the fat kid with “manboobs.” Knowing that if I could make it to 2:15pm each day I could get home and feel safe in the world of “NBA 2K” or explore 1986 Japan in “Shenmue.” Eventually fitness and nutrition became the answer to this problem in between my Freshman and Sophomore years of high school and led me on a path into this field.
Exploring the streets of 1986 Japan in Shenmue
Another example of this love/obsession took place as my senior year of college came to a close. I had to make a phone call to my current boss/business partner Mike Boyle to inform him I was going to turn down the internship at his facility as a strength coach to pursue a career in video games media via an internship at MTV/Spike TV/Gametrailers.com in Santa Monica, CA. Obviously, that didn’t work out, but I got to scratch that itch and see The Who at a private concert for 200 people. Also I got to train at Gold’s Gym in Santa Monica, the “Mecca of Bodybuilding,” so that was pretty awesome.
If you are reading this, you probably know that I made my way back into the fitness industry (even if I kept one foot in through The FitCast throughout my time at MTV). I have excelled thanks to my mentors and co workers and I am extremely proud with my work today.
Just over two years ago my love of retro video games urged me to create a fairly popular podcast “Back in my Play.” Back in my Play has had a positive effect on my life. It has allowed me to become friends with people who I looked up to and following in college and even be a guest on their podcasts which I had listened to years before they knew who I was. And playing through and discussing those games with great people is a blast. I hope to return to the show every now and then when the time is right.
But my current status in the world of fitness is not enough. I know there is a lot of potential being left on the table…
The Positive Flaw
When I get interested in something, I go all in and obsess on knowing all the details and the best way to go at it. You want to know the best sticks and buttons for a “Mortal Kombat II” arcade machine? How about the convergence issues with the Sega Blast City cabinets from Japan? How to get the best picture out of a PC Engine? I can tell you whatever you need to know. Getting interested in a subject causes me to get sucked into a wormhole of articles, blogs, videos, forums, and parts sites to learn the best way to do whatever I wanted to do.
Back in 2006 when I looked into starting The FitCast I devoured tons of articles on how to produce a podcast. This was not an easy task, but I obsessed about it to the point of obtaining a Mac Mini to make the show a possibility. And when I decided that I did not want to be the obese kid in class anymore I tracked down every bit of information on how to “get into shape” I could find. Luckily I stumbled on resources like Mark Verstegan’s “Core Performance” and “The Testosterone Advantage Plan” from Lou Schuler.
The same thing happened with me and computers. When I was 9 or 10 I loved the possibilities a computer provided the user. From “Hacking the Gibson” to making works of art in “Kid Pix,” to exploring the depths of hell in “Doom II.” This continued as I became a teenager, downloading MP3s before there was a Napster and buying a CD burner with the first $200 I made bagging groceries as a 14 year-old in 2000.
Since 2005 I have been incredibly fascinated by the video game industry, competition between companies, the differences in the markets between North America, Europe, and Japan, sales numbers, drama, etc. I bought a ton of games, even if I didn’t have the money to. Sometimes making crazy trade in deals so I could play the next big game. I was even putting the purchases on a credit card with the rationalization that I will make more money soon and I can pay it off.
One side of my living room in 2012. Other side had 4 more machines.
This love of games continued to intensify as I became a working professional making a decent wage. When you have 9 arcade machines in your living room of your apartment, you know you have a problem. Again, this was a situation where I got interested in arcade ownership, so I spent about 10 minutes 2-3 times a day searching Craigslist for machines and instead of having 1 or 2, I had to have as many as I could logistically fit into my apartment. On two occasions I even made 10 hour trips to pick up machines in New York and Canada.
This flaw of obsession and laser focus on a subject is also one of my main strengths. When it comes to my work I don’t compromise on the quality. The Certified Strength Coach Certification (CFSC) is the perfect example. There is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in that project to make sure it is nothing but of THE BEST certification for fitness professionals. I am dead serious, I welcome anyone to debate otherwise. You know where to find me.
I have gone through ups and downs in terms of the number of items I owned but the last few years I have had somewhere between 200-600 physical video games at anyone time. They had such a high value that I looked into getting renters insurance as I had a good number of games that were valued over $100. That doesn’t count the arcade machines, some of which were worth over $1000. That is literally a month’s rent spent on an arcade machine.
The thing you don’t consider when buying and accumulating all this stuff, especially things that require a lengthy time commitment, is that you won’t make use of 90%+ of it. And when you turn around and see a wall of games or a bunch of arcade machines you get overwhelmed and instead of playing something you spend that time time you set aside to something else like listening to a podcast or browsing the internet.
A look at the arcade in my living room
Having all of this “stuff” is overwhelming and is a serious problem in today’s commercially driven world. For some people it is clothes/shoes they never wear, for others it is piles of books they never read, others it is high priced electronics that never get turned on. I think we could all benefit from a more minimalist lifestyle.
Essentialism is a fantastic book, you should really check it out. It doesn’t necessarily focus on minimalism and owning less, but more on helping you figure out what is vital for living a positive life.
To build the collection you have to go on the hunt for games and deals. This means time spent on eBay when waiting in line at Chipotle or spending whole days on my trips to Japan searching through the rows and rows of games at retro game shops. At least one benefit of searching for games in Japan were the days I would get on the train and get off at random stops in search of game shops. Exploring more of Tokyo and the surrounding areas was a fantastic byproduct of retro game shopping. I was amazing how many temples and beautiful gardens I stumbled on hidden in the dense metropolis of Tokyo.
One of the smaller hauls from a trip to Japan
Looking back, time spent searching for deals on games or rare items to complete a collection could have been used for much more fulfilling activities.
I haven’t even mentioned all of the money spent on games. Sometimes even selling and rebuying the same games down the road for a loss when I had a change of heart. Money that could have been much better spent as my friend Brendon Rearick puts it “Moments, Not Things.”
The Turning Point
This past summer I had some great highs but also some equally inverse lows. Times when I looked at a wall of games overwhelmed by the stuff to almost a state of being paralyzed. Those lows needed to take place for me to realize the course corrections needed in my life as I get ready to turn 30. It made me question what I value. What is my ideal life? What is in my way from living that life? What is the first step and what direction do I take to begin that journey?
The Perform Better Summit CFSC Events were a major highlight of this summer. Amazing experience.
The biggest standout was that wall of video games and the what my life is like where they become a main focus in my day to day. We only have so much mental capacity and focus, I couldn’t continue to waste it on something with such little return. Spending time on video game forums and checking Twitter for the next news story of review of a game I don’t have time to play. I began to realize that I liked the idea of playing the games more than actually playing them. I would get done with work for the day and be too mentally exhausted to want to turn something on. There were some standouts still like my love of rhythm/music games and the occasional story driven game. And I love my portable systems for to bring along on all the travel I do.
It was time to say goodbye to as much as possible without going too far to the extreme of getting rid of everything.
Part 1 Wrap Up
This post is all about me. You might have similar habits or lifestyle and are perfectly happy. That is awesome, continue to live that life. For me, that was no longer an option. Keep that in mind before you start sending me things on twitter or via email. In part II I will be discussing the process of shedding the extra baggage mentally and physically.