Look. Video games are pretty cool, I totally get it.

I’ve been an avid gamer my whole life until recently. Like plenty of people, especially guys, I started playing when I was really little and video games took up a lot of my time in my childhood.

I don’t play games anymore since I’m filling pretty much all my spare time with writing, content production, networking, brainstorming, spending time with friends, training, etc.

But it’s not so much the video games themselves that I’m against.

The real enemy is that which sucks us into the game.
That which steals our precious time away.

What I’m referring to is the excessive chase of short-term gratification.

The trap and its consequences

You might’ve heard of this game called World of Warcraft (WoW for short).

This game will pretty much always be my favorite game of all time. I could talk about it for hours and some people in my personal life have already been blessed with my rambling on the subject.

But I’m not here to give you an essay on the game or why I liked it so much.

Let’s cut right into the meat of what my problem was with WoW, and what I’m cautioning my readers about.

The thing about WoW was that it was too good for me.

Too good to the point where it turned into too bad for me.

I enjoyed playing the game so much that I started to play it too much.

WoW gave me short-term gratification like nothing else could. I felt good playing it in the moment. But when I was playing it, all I was really doing was building something arguably meaningless.

Working towards something that in the end, I would have nothing to show for in the real world.

When it was time to switch the game off, I’d look around the room and realize nothing had changed outside of the screen. I hadn’t produced anything of value.

And when you do that over and over, the only thing you end up producing is a life void of value.

This is the trap of short-term gratification.

Typically when you’re chasing after it to no end, especially through something like a video game, you’re putting in effort into something that isn’t everlasting.

And when you devote so much time to things like video games that don’t produce real-world results, you end up losing a lot of time.

Time that you could’ve spent doing more productive things. Time you could’ve spent building something meaningful.

There was a time in my life where WoW kept me up until 7:00 AM.

I’d look outside my window as I was playing and people were going to work.

That’s how late I stayed up to play, absolutely absorbed in short-term gratification.

I wasted weeks, months, and even years combined playing video games like WoW. I put the short-term gratification they gave me before other things like my health, my legacy, my work, and my relationships with other people.

You might call that putting the cart before the horse.

What isn’t the problem

Just so we’re on the same page, I wanna make it clear that short-term gratification isn’t a problem when it’s moderated.

If you’re stressed out from a long day at work, go ahead and play that video game for a little bit to unwind.
Put on your favorite show and kick back and relax.
Take a gander at the latest comedic content on your go-to social media platform.

I’m not saying that every single second of your waking life has to go towards building something meaningful or doing something productive. What’s life without a bit (or a lot) of fun?

But I can tell you firsthand, through my own story of my chase of short-term gratification left unchecked, that it can take you down a path of regret, neglected health, and wasted time.

A lot of advice and pointers I like to give come from the mistakes of my own experiences, and I definitely discourage other people from doing the same things I did for their own benefit.

And hey, if you wanna live the life of playing video games 24/7 while building towards nothing else and working on nothing else, then that’s your right. I like to tell people that I’m not in the business of convincing anyone of anything.

If that’s the path you choose, I just get concerned that one day, you’ll wake up and look around and wonder where the time went. You’ll connect the dots and realize that the dots on your screen snatched away the time that slipped right under your nose.

That’s time that you never get back.

An impossibly large mountain of regret will sink in, a sense of helplessness and depression might kick in, and then it’s a downward spiral from there.

I know that’s what would’ve happened to me had I not snapped out of it one day and realized that I truly had wasted a lot of my time playing video games at home.

How to avoid the trap

Something else needs to fill your time.

Some ideas are something that:

  • keeps you healthy (going to the gym)
  • helps you think or express yourself (reading or painting)
  • is productive and produces tangible results of value (making music or writing)
  • puts you in situations that might make positive contributions to your memory bank (traveling)

The route I went honestly checked all four of those bullet points: I started training martial arts.

  • Training helps keep me in shape.
  • I perceive myself as more of an artist than a fighter, and I express myself through the art of movement.
  • My training provides me skills that I can use in the real world to defend myself or those I care about.
  • My training has also brought me to different locations and events that I look back on fondly. Things that I wouldn’t have encountered had I not trained to begin with.

Obviously you don’t have to start training martial arts yourself to replace the trap of the excessive, unmoderated chase of short-term gratification (although I’d recommend people do it anyway so that they can defend themselves and those they care about from aggressors with hostile intentions), but that’s the route I took.

The route you end up taking really depends on how well you know yourself and how much you’re willing to explore to find a positive alternative to the aforementioned trap.

I mentioned earlier that I snapped out of it one day and realized that my soul and time was being sucked into video games.

What brought me to deciding to train martial arts, of all things?

I used to take a bus to get to work and right next to the bus stop I waited at was a capoeira school. And so while I was waiting for the bus to get to work one day, I randomly asked myself: What if I replaced gaming with martial arts?

Then it was rather simple from there. I researched different martial arts schools in the area, went to a free trial at one of them, liked it so much that I signed up for a membership after my trial, and the rest is history.

The Hard Truth

Hopefully you noticed how each of those bullet point recommendations I made at the start of this section contributes not to your short-term gratification, but rather to your long-term gratification.

In the end, life is ultimately about the long game, and unfortunately, focusing consistently on satisfying that craving for short-term gratification doesn’t usually lead to long-term gains.

Think about it.

The people who end up creating huge and successful businesses were not out partying every weekend, leaving time for nothing else.

There are lots of people who grind on their side hustles in the quiet hours of the night and work on their side projects while others choose to go out shopping and drinking who end up gaining financial freedom to travel and focus on the things that matter most to them.

They forsake the present gains to reap what they sow later. They deal with the “boring” and the work now so that their efforts pay off massively later.

Time is a priceless currency that we all share, but not everybody chooses to spend it the same way. This is largely what leads to such different results among different people.

I guess it really boils down to what matters to you most in the long-term.

I know I definitely don’t want to be slaving away at an ordinary job until retirement age. I’d be lying to you if I said I created content exclusively to help other people. I also try to monetize my content so that I can break away from the rat race and free up more of my time to actually go out and live my life.

It’s honestly a win-win: I focus on creating good content that people can benefit from even long after I’m gone (you win) and if I get paid to do that and people support me financially with $10/month subscriptions (I win), then we all win.

This is why I recently had a focus shift. Unfortunately for now, I spend less time with friends, making memories, and chasing after short-term gains, but I know that with consistency and hard work, this is going to pay off in the long run.

So my advice to you?

Don’t play to win now.

Play to win later.