Welcome to the Unplugged Project. I have something to ask you. What could you accomplish if you didn’t play video games? If you really don’t play many games, then this question will mean nothing to you. But if you’re like me, then you’ve probably already asked yourself the same thing. I have asked myself many times what I could accomplish if I gave up the one thing I enjoyed the most. After years and years of playing videogames, I have decided to try it. This project is my answer to that question.
Before I go into the details of the project, let me give you a background of myself. I am recently married, 23 year old white male who plays an inordinate amount of video games, and is unfortunately still in college. I am pretty much the standard when it comes to gamers, except for the fact that I am in a relationship with an actual woman, of course. I have played video games since I was literally in diapers, age 2 to be precise.
(As I typed that, I immediately googled “What age do you potty train” and found that age two is considered a normal age to still be in diapers, so I have no shame in admitting on the internet that I was in diapers at age two.)
In the middle of the night, I would make frequent prison breaks from my crib and escape to the sweet freedom of Super Mario Bros. This resulted in my dad waking up to go to work and finding my two year old self asleep on the floor still clutching the Nintendo controller. Needless to say, I became obsessed immediately.
The subsequent years are a blur; it was just me in my basement conquering world after digital world. To this day, I have never gone more than a few days without playing video games, (this amazing feat was aided by my late grandma, who had bought me my first game boy.) and I have to say it felt great. I love video games; I think they are the most fun that anyone can really experience. What is better than being a hero in a world that is carefully crafted to make you feel awesome?
But as I sat in my basement, people around me started to learn pretty incredible skills. My older brother learned to play the guitar and eventually started playing in church, along with my younger brother, who started performing with the drums. My oldest childhood friend mastered the game of golf and was constantly tanner than me. Several of my other friends learned how speak different languages.
And what could I do? Well, I could beat most video games in less than three days, was the king and champion of every multiplayer game I was challenged to and had the ability to stay in my basement for a whole day surviving on nothing but a single bag of Cheetos. While my friends travelled to Germany, I stayed in Hyrule. And for a while, it was good.
But then that nagging question started to pop up. What could I accomplish if I didn’t play video games? As I got older I heard it repeated by many of my gamer peers. We would joke about it and laugh about how much time we waste day after day, but whenever our wives, parents, or girlfriends actually asked us to try it, our reply is that we would rather die. I heard it again when my wife and I were at a Christmas party; a fellow gamer shot off the question and then immediately laughed as his wife shot him a dirty look. I laughed too, we all did, but the question started to buzz in my head yet again. The next day it was still there, and the next, and then the next. After a week I was consumed by it. It seemed like an endless possibility to me. For all I knew, I could have been a guitar playing ambassador to China by now!
I made a decision and committed to finally answering that question. I decided that I would not play video games for an entire year. In that year I would work on special skills and projects that followed a theme for each month, one month would be music, another cooking, etc. All the while I would be recording my experiences in a blog, cataloguing all the pain and horror I was sure to experience, but also the new skills and insights I had hoped to gain.
And so here I am. It is March 1st and the first day of my project. Being the last day to play videos games for a whole year, I made sure to go on a gaming bender last night. But this morning I stuck to my commitment and ceremonially unplugged my Xbox. 21 years of gaming. I have played video games longer than some young adults have been alive. This year will be first break in that chain. My brother-in-law asked me today how I felt. All I can say is, I feel like I should have played more video games.