There are healthy ways to deal with stress and unhealthy ways to deal with stress. When backed into a corner, I tend to go with the unhealthy options. Which is how video games helped destroy my first marriage.Back in 2009, the US had just elected Barack Obama, I worked 40 hours in a retail job that was killing me, and I had decided I wanted to 100 percent Fallout 3. I had already beaten the game, but I hadn’t completed it. There’s a difference.
He’s right and that’s part of what’s so frustrating about being a completionist. For every game such as Mario Odyssey, where it’s fun to track down every single secret, there are a dozen games such as Assassin’s Creed Unity or Watch Dogs 2, where seeing everything the game has to offer means spending hours hunting down bullshit on a map.The worst offender of the busywork style completion list is the Assassin’s Creed series, which often has a map populated with hundreds of treasure chests full of garbage loot and money the player will never need. They’re just there to blink on a map and push the player to find them.For Wortmann, the reasons people like he and I get caught up in these cycles has everything to do with classical psychological conditioning. “That’s just the way [humans are] programmed,” he explained. “We have difficulty valuing long term, abstract rewards as opposed to short term, concrete ones.”According to Wortmann—and 20th century psychologist B.F. Skinner—the human brain is prejudiced towards short term rewards and bad at shooting for long term, abstract goals. When a person looks to a video game to help unwind that string of easy short term rewards can become an addiction. “If you’re playing a game and you think, ‘I just want to play five more minutes of this,’…my brain is telling me not to deal with the world,” Wortmann said.
It’s very easy for people to latch onto [a video game] and say, 'I can do this perfectly.'