So You’re Fighting the 'Fallout' Flu

Don’t feel bad: pretty much everybody else is, too — for a given value of “everybody else” (although Fallout 4 burning through two million sales on the PC alone in a week and a half is insanely good). Nonetheless, you may have noticed that your lack of sleep and shaving and sudden ability to visualize fence-building strategies is interfering with other things, like… sleeping, shaving, and ability to interact with flesh-and-blood individuals, instead of interchangeable Settlers. In short, you have what I call the Fallout Flu: the game sucks you in, and declines to let you go.

Well, they designed it that way, of course. It’s supposed to be addictive.  Fortunately, it’s also supposed to not be permanently addictive, although Bethesda Softworks wouldn’t mind that if they could figure out how to make a buck off the process (this modding* thing shows promise). Six months or a year from now, there’s going to be a new obsession that you’ll be playing… but you’d like to get control of your little time-eating problem now.  How do you do it? Or at least get it down to a dull roar? Well, there’s some stuff to do:

  • Don’t turn on the game unless you are prepared to face the consequences.  There is no such thing as “I’ll just play for five minutes!” when it comes to an addictive game. You’re going to be playing for two, three hours. If you’re lucky.  Accept that.  So don’t load up the game in the first place if you don’t have the time to play it. It requires less willpower to not start playing than it takes to stop playing (yes, I know this is not true for some people, but those people probably don’t need this article anyway).
  • There is such a thing as casual playing. If you have, say, twenty minutes to spare and you want to use it playing a video game, don’t pick the game that you’re obsessing over right now. Pick a game that you like, or even love, but that you won’t mind shutting down when you have to. Save your current obsession for when you can properly obsess over it.
  • How to use — and not use — your Significant Other as an alarm clock.  This is a surprisingly fraught situation, not least because your Significant Other probably does not want to be used as an alarm clock. I mean, you’re going to be resentful because you’re being interrupted with a hard and fast time limit, right? …Well, the way to finesse that one is to let your S.O. know that you’re going to be playing for X minutes. If an emergency comes up before that time limit expires, no problem; you’ll stop playing. And if s/he wants to interrupt you after that time limit expires — emergency or not — well, that’s no problem too. I’ve found that there’s less resentment all around that way.
  • And then there’s the classic one: deny that there’s a problem at all.  To heck with it: you’re going to take as much free time as you can squeeze and play this game. Forget shaving. Forget sleeping. Forget eating anything that can’t be slapped together in two minutes — or, indeed, not delivered.  It’s not a strategy for the timid, or more accurately, people with kids: but there’s something to be said for toughing it out to the end. Because, eventually, there will be an end.

I hope this helps. Seriously. Leisure-time obsessions we have always had with us, but it does seem to be getting easier and easier in Western culture to get caught up in all the pretty pictures and sounds that come through the monitor screen. Heck, more and more of us aren’t even reading dead-tree copies of books anymore. Our grandchildren will probably have figured out how to adjust to this stuff, but that doesn’t really help us now…

*Very briefly: “modding” is when somebody changes a video game to do… pretty much anything, really. New dungeons, new NPCs, new adventures, restoration of old content that never got finished in the main game, and of course replacing a dragon’s head with that of pro wrestler Randy “Macho Man” Savage.  Some companies hate mods; Bethesda loves them to death, while at the same time rather wanting to make some money off of them. Which seems… reasonable. I mean, they made the games in the first place.