Stressful Gaming

Usually one games to relax, but recently I've found it quite difficult to become relaxed while gaming.

- 6 min read

It starts as a lazy Sunday… I wake up knowing I still have a few peer reviews to finish before the deadline @ 20:00. I tell myself not to stress there’s loads of time and I’ll be able to finish them long before the deadline rolls by. I get up, finish one or two of the 5 that I haven’t completed yet and decide to go wash my car quickly and then grab take-aways for lunch. I return to sit down and have lunch with my wife while watching a short film on the television before we go back to our day, she’s studying for an upcoming exam and I’m finishing up my reviews. At around 14:30 I finish up my reviews and start looking for something else to do to relax a little.

Why So Serious?

See reviews are stressful because this is a great opportunity to provide your peers with valuable feedback. At Entelect we have them twice a year and we take it very seriously because we foster a culture stating that “Growth isn’t Optional”. It’s what makes working there so great and in the almost 5 years I’ve worked there it’s served as really good feedback that put me on a career path that I’ve been very happy with. It does mean that I put a lot of pressure on myself when review season rolls by especially when the team I’m working with started with very little experience.

Unfortunately, this year has shown me that I struggle with stress management a lot. I had a bad stint at a previous client where I’d put a lot of pressure on myself to write more and better code, but in the end, it just added to the growing anxiety I had. See it wasn’t just the bad stint, I also haven’t taken a proper holiday in about 4 years and the stress build-up hit me really hard. I was rolled off the project, but during the downtime my burnout reached the point where I was having panic attacks and would dread having to just go to work.

I made arrangements for a long-overdue holiday with my wife where we managed to have a blast just enjoying each other’s company. I went on holiday just as I started on a new project though and we’ve been hard at work doing our best to have a releasable piece of software by the end of November. We hit a few hurdles along the way and what we end up delivering might not quite be what was initially planned by the client, but some things were just out of our hands. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite manage my stress accordingly and ended up having a slight panic attack a few weeks ago over something I didn’t fully understand at work. I did speak to my Team Lead about it and he did manage to set my mind at ease, but I failed to manage some form of balance seeing as I had a panic attack.

It’s not all bad

Having said all this the year hadn’t treated me all that bad. I was promoted at work, our team had been doing quite well given the situation we found ourselves in and looking back at my goals post from earlier this year I have actually managed some level of success there:

  • I’ve been climbing somewhat regularly compared to when I wrote the post
  • I’ve been more involved with Entelect’s training initiatives where I’ve been presenting a piece on some advanced .NET topics.
  • I even gave back to the community by doing a quick talk about the PICO-8 at the monthly Make Games SA meetup

So what does this have to do with “stressful gaming”?

Well, I’m painting the picture here of the situation I"m finding myself in. Games have always been an important part of my life. I played a lot of TV-games as a child so much so that my parents kept taunting me that my eyes will go square. I also wanted to have my day-job be that of a games programmer, but I’ve decided that I’m happy just being a hobbyist as well. It should then be no surprise that I spend a big chunk of my time playing games and I was trying to unwind a little today by playing some Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with friends of mine, but I started tilting so much that I basically gave up trying to play a few rounds before we finally lost.

The stress of gaming

My afternoon consisted of watching some Youtube videos after I finished my reviews, but I quickly decided I need to do something a little more “productive”, i.e. not just sitting and watching what feels like braindead entertainment, but rather spend some time indulging in the artform I so love. I decided I’ll give Life is Strange as it’s been in my backlog for quite some time. Sadly a few minutes into the game I started feeling anxious again as the subject matter was dealing with bullying and social situations that hit a little close to home for me. I thus decided it’ll be better if I put the game down.

I noted then that a friend of mine was going to play some Apex Legends so I decided to hop into a game with him and another friend of his. We had quite a bit of fun, but somehow their playstyle was a little too aggressive for my taste and I quickly got a little worked up because of it. We were in a team-vs-team battle at one stage where I was the last man standing and it got my blood pumping so much that I only shook the adrenaline rush after the next game. Two or three games later I decided to rather stop playing so that I can calm down a little.

Calming down didn’t last long though as other friends then promptly invited me to join in on a game of Counter-Strike. I decided to give it a bash, but as mentioned earlier it only leads to me feeling even more stressed after the game because I had done so poorly.

The Land of no Conclusions

I still haven’t quite managed to shake the anxious feelings as I’ve been writing this, but I’ll admit it did help a little to just let some thoughts flow. It does sadden me that something that I hold so dear in my life causes me this much anxiety. I just wanted to have something to enjoy today and unfortunately, I couldn’t quite find it. I’m doing my best to find ways to work on myself and I’ll figure it out one day, but for now, I have to do my best to not completely freak out. I know that I’m not the only person that goes through these feelings, but I also realise that there’s a lot of feelings of shame that come with feeling so anxious over just playing a game. This is ultimately the selfish reason why I’m writing about this, to just rant and get it off of my chest.

One day I’ll find balance and it’ll probably be offset by something more pressing then, but such is life. I still enjoy playing games, but I’ve found it very important to be in tune with my mentality before starting a game. If something is just slightly off it can catch you by surprise and lead you down the road of darkness. Games shouldn’t do this and I believe it’s not the intent of most games to do so. Here’s to enjoying games and all the other wonders they bring…