Back to Square One

Two weeks of non-stop gaming and I’m back exactly where I started when I first started writing this blog. Worse in fact, I’m deeper into a school semester of disinvolvement. Ah but what an exciting two weeks it was! (Sarcasm)

I uninstalled LoL two days ago, so I was a little bit bored and tried out the PS3 game my roomate was playing. Not much better, 20 hours of play in two days… I woke up yesterday at 12 and looked at the clock at 2pm, 6:30pm, 9pm, 12:30pm, 3:30 pm. It is remarkable how absorbed I can get with those games. At least in LoL, one gets to emerge every 30-50 minutes.

In a great interview, Dr. Norman Doidge describes how plastic the brain is and how it is both the cause and cure to addiction. Doidge’s uses an fun metaphor where the brain is a powdery ski hill where tracks in snow get deeper, faster and harder to get out off as the more you use them. My gaming track probably looks like the grand canyon by now. Whenever I fall in there I’m off for quite a ride.

That somewhat explains why one match leads to two leads 120, but what it doesn’t explain is the insane moods that come with it. I described in a previous article how dopamine contributes to video game addiction. When playing for 12 hours straight, you can imagine the amount of stimulation and dopamine the brain is experiencing. Normal life stimuli become irrelevant and unexciting.

Even if I haven’t played video games today. I’m still bored from my playing yesterday.

What brain plasticity tells us, is that any action you do now, not only has an effect now, but  leaves traces in the brain. On a more philosophical notes, brain plasticity entails that:

Future brain activity is affected by present brain activity.

Think of it as a building game where every time you put a block down, you will have to deal with that block afterward, want it or not. The game of go (chess-like board game) is also make an excellent metaphor of balancing present and future implication of a move.


Accident Psychology and the Lion King

A bit more than a month has passed since my last entry. I spent two weeks without a computer, then didn’t see the two following weeks go by as I played around 120 games (roughly 120 hours). How I found myself without a computer though, I believe, is of some interest.

A couple day after after writing the previous article, I was researching how cognitive dissonance can apply to addiction and other self-destructive behaviours. A cup of tea, a laptop playing music and a great book called Cognitive Dissonance: 50 Years of a Classic Theory. At some point I decided to move and needed to relocate my laptop. That is when I had the brilliant idea to leave it balancing on the arm of the chair. Surely, one false movement sent the poor electronic piece smash to the ground. But whatever, I’ve dropped computers before and nothing happened. I kept reading. Until I finally decided to pick up my computer only to find the screen completely cracked and useless.

I remember how little irritated, maybe even slightly satisfied, I felt. The beast was no more. I clearly wouldn’t have had the courage (or madness) to smash my computer myself. But I can’t blame myself for an accident can I? Yet why was I so slow to pick up the fallen laptop? Could it be I was afraid to discover my darkest wish fulfilled? Akin to Electra’s unexpected guilt once her matricide fantasies were no longer fantasies.

I haven’t found much literature about the subject outside Freudian based theories, which, having no empirical foundation, I refuse to recognize as science. Nevertheless, I have a feeling it can be explained by social psychology theories of the self. Accidents acting as a way to defend the self-concept against the implications of an irrational behaviour. If it weren’t an accident, the only explanation for the behaviour would be madness. Since I hold my non-madness as a truth, it had to be an accident.

It does go one step beyond usual rationalization cases. Often. the idea that it was an accident comes afterward. ”It was an accident. I didn’t mean for it to happen.”, said Simba. But what about willingly creating the very situation for this accident to happen, one can claim then innocence from the outset, since the probability of the accident occurring  could not be determined before hand.

Your honor I plead guilty to to accusation of unpremeditated electronicide.

P.S.  I disassembled the cover, isolated the screen component, searched the serial number on Google and ordered the exact same specs. Plugged it in, put back the cover and it works great. 100$ including shipping and taxes, pretty easy to do.



Playing doctors

I am officially sick.

Addiction as a medical condition

The American Society of Addiction Medecine defines addiction as the following:

Addiction is a primary, chronic disease involving brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations.

The society has expanded the definition of addiction based on an understanding that both psychoactive drugs and certain behaviors that produce a surge of dopamine in the midbrain are the biological substrate for addictive behavior. (Smith)

To complete the reasoning:

Physical manifestations of video game addiction are evident in players: dopamine(a naturally occurring chemical that affects emotions and controls feelings of pain and pleasure) is released, producing a feeling of euphoria. (Anand, 2007)

Substances that cause the brain to release dopamine include cocain and amphetamines. Both are considered strong drugs with some degree of docial stygma. One starts to see why you might be in more trouble than you thought.


Maressa Hecht Orzack who is the founder and coordinator of the Computer Addiction Service at McLean hospital MA and a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty has identified the following psycological symptoms to video game addiction:

  • Most non-school hours are spent on the computer or playing video games.
  • Falling asleep in school.
  • Not keeping up with assignments.
  • Declining grades.
  • Lying about computer or video game use.
  • Choosing to use the computer or play video games rather than see friends.
  • Dropping out of other social groups (clubs or sports).
  • Irritable when not playing a video game or on the computer.

Add to that the following physical symptoms:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Back and neck aches
  • Headaches
  • Dry eyes
  • Failure to eat regularly
  • Neglect of personal hygiene

I’ve already shared how many of these symptoms applied to me. It is striking that the clinical list matches so well my experience . . . hopefully not yours.

Hard to heal

To recap, there is a certain category of substances released by the brain responsible to reward behaviour positive for survival, dopamine among others. Ususally those substances are released by life-nurturing behavious such as eating, drinking or sex. Addictive behaviours cause the brain to release those same substances associated with survival. Over time addictive behaviour that have nothing to do with survival can climb up in the need hierarchy, leading to addiction.

In a letter to the editor, David E. Smith explains how once the reward paths of the brain have been hijacked by the addictive behaviour, addicts are logically aware that they do not need the drug, but survival drives tend to take precedence over logic.

Sadly it seems addiction cannot be cured but can at best be brought into remission through a program of treatment, abstinence from all psychoactive substances, and supported recovery. (Smith)

I hope this helps change your perception about your own and other’s condition. It did change mine.

“To heal and Protect” – Soraka

Playing with the clock

I have been playing (LoL) around with my sleep schedule a lot.

Despite efforts, I’ve had consistently failed to get back to a nocurnal sleep schedule. During those experiments, I noticed a few interesting facts about sleep. At least, that’s how it works for my specific organism.

If I go to bed after from 3am – 8am it seems I can sleep ad infinitum and I never really feel rested. That sleep is also filled with dreams. Sometimes though, those dreams were the best entertainment I could imagine. If I’m to wake up and play LoL, I’d rather just enjoy my dreamy sleep.

On occasion, if I had an appointment (one that I didn’t ignore) in the morning, I’d still go to bed late and spend a crappy day. On those day, I’d go to bed early: 8pm-9pm. I would then wakeup at 12pm completely unable to go back to sleep, and with a decent energy level.

My brother says sleep before 12pm counts double, he’s no phycisian but he may have a point.

As I was doing research on sleep patterns yesterday, I discovered that two desperate tactics I have intuitively tried (and it failed) to use to turn the clock around had names.

One way I tried is called “sleep phase chronotherapy”, the idea is to go to bed 3 hours later each day until the desired schedule is achieved.

The second, was to skip a night of sleep to be able to go to bed earlier on the next day and it is called “controlled sleep deprivation with phase advance”.

Now that I’m not compulsively playing LoL untikl morning, I’m trying once again to get back to nocturnal sleep, with some more hope for success. According to wikipedia, a healthy human can shift their sleep schedule by one hour each day. Since I was going to bed at around 7am, it should take a week to get back to 12pm.

Actually for the last two days, I’ve been going to bed at a bit before 12pm. I do fall asleep easily but wake up at 4am. I still feel more energetic than when sleeping 12-14 hours.

Hopefully a couple days and I’ll be there.

“On wings of night” – Vayne


Over time, intense gaming has destroyed my sleep routine:

Gaming  unitl 7 am,
sleeping until 4pm,
then thinking that it’s too late to start anything so I’d better just start gaming again,

Going to class has become a challenge. I started university with an A average, started playing LoL, dropped to B, now it’s probably abyssimal since I failed the same two courses twice.

I’ve been in better shape too. With messed up sleeping patterns come strange eating habits as well. I’ve been living on apples, carrots and bread, with 3-4 restaurants a weak.

The weirdest thing is that all this is unknown of my friends and close ones. I’ve learned to project a good vibe no matter what, living a double life.

Yet I remember, some years ago, when I took pride in having the most balanced life, and couldn’t get any attention from girls. Now that my life is a mess, I have absolutely no problem with women. Maybe once you have nothing to brag about you shut up, stop judging and simply enjoy the moment.

As Shaco says ”Why so serious?”

Welcome summoners

How is this time going to be different from the 10 times I have tried to stop playing this evil game?

Is it going to work better than the time I unistalled windows from my computer, thinkin running ubuntu would prevent me from playing again?

What about the time where I tried to stop playing for a month to see how’d that go?

It’s 6am, I just played another worthless night of elo grinding. Next game’s gonna be better.  . . you know the riff. I did win those two last game. I somewhat wish I lost in an absolutely demoralising defeat so I wouldn’t be tempted to play again.

I started in season two and played 1000 ranked games in two seasons, so much time invested, yet so little return. Add to that normal games, that’s about 1000 hours of LoL. It makes me 1/10 of an expert according to Malcom Gladwell’s hypothesis.

But there is something different with gaming. If you have ever trained for a sport, an instrument or any dicipline, there is a clear difference between playing and training. Training requires effort, playing LoL requires no effort at all.

I have played LoL for entire nights until I would finally collapse to sleep, it requires 0 effort.

As mf says “No pain, no gain.”