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Tales of a Married Gamer – Too Much of a Good Thing

Pass another serving of the wind chicken, follow it up with some pieces of fish fried in a special seaweed batter. Oh, a plate of stewed ribs? Why yes, I will eat as many of them as possible. Another bite? Oh no, I really couldn’t. Wait, is that pork belly with a black vinegar sauce? Okay, I will eat the rest of it.

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Most of you are probably wondering what the heck is going on with this edition of Tales of a Married Gamer, so let me explain. It is currently the Fourth of July here in the U.S., so while Brometheus is getting drunk, eating meat, blowing stuff up and fixing his guns, I am in the magical land of Southern California visiting my wife’s extended family. Oh yeah, they happen to be from China, which means I spend my holiday weekend doing all the traditional things such as arguing over who should eat the last piece of duck tongue (trust me, it is really good), or deciding whether we should drink and go to the parade, or go to the parade and drink.

There is one major problem here, and that is the sensory overload that I get with all of the food I am given. On one hand it is amazingly great food, however, it is constantly pushed in front of me and I am expected to keep eating like it is a circus act. Where is my food loving dog when I really need him?

So can you have too much of a good thing? A lot of you out there are probably shaking your fists in anger at me for being able to eat so many good things, and somehow end up complaining about it. This truly is a first world problem, is it not? At the same time, when people are discussing where you will eat for dinner while you are ordering lunch, you might have entered a problematic situation. You see, when you keep getting too much of a good thing, you usually face one of two issues: you either become addicted or you face the law of diminishing returns.

Let me start by discussing the law of diminishing returns. For those of you who slept through Econ 101 [So, everyone. -Ed.], I will use another food example to explain the concept. Pretend you and your friend are visiting Chicago, land of the deep dish pizza that is like a casserole, the best pizza and casserole combined (don’t knock it New Yorkers). Anyway, you order a whole pizza with a friend, and you dig in to that first slice of pizza. It is steaming hot, the cheese has the perfect elasticity, and everything is just perfect with this slice of pizza. Life is great. But then you go and eat that second piece of pizza. It is good, but the cheese is a little denser, the pizza is losing some of its consistency, and it just was not that same experience you had moments ago. You see that, you are getting less enjoyment from each slice of pizza, this is the law of diminishing returns.

What happens if we keep going? I think you know what happens next. You don’t want to carry all that pizza home so you have a third slice. It is now just a warm pizza and eating it makes you feel heavy. You have not just finished three pizzas of pizza, you have really just ingested the equivalent of a three slices of pizza which each had another four pieces stacked on top of them. That’s right, you are ready to call it quits. Then your friend bets you that you will not be able to finish the fourth slice, and dammit, you are not chicken like McFly, so you take him up on that offer. You finish half a Chicago Style pizza, and you realize that you will have to be rolled out to your car, hopefully your tires can take the stress from all the weight you just added on.

So there you have it, the law of diminishing returns makes it so that no matter how much you love a good pizza, there is eventually a point where you are going to start hating the process of eating it. You do not want that to happen with games you play. I can tell you that we did something similar in my household with the game Power Grid. We really liked it at first, and kept playing it night after night. Eventually the appeal started to fade away, and now when someone pulls out Power Grid there is a little bit of an internal groan in my mind. It is not that I hate Power Grid, or that I do not want to play it, but there is that psychology of my previous experience of overplaying it, and in some sense it has ruined part of the experience for me.

Now at this point, there are some of you out there who are saying that you never get sick of certain games. Okay, that is great, that means you are an addict. I am not joking, from an economic perspective, when you do not get diminishing returns with each time you consume a product, you may be exhibiting addictive behavior. Let me explain further. In the greater body of academic research, people have studied addictive behavior and found that a sign of addictive behavior is that you get more and more utility (happiness) each time you consume (use) the product. Research has shown this type of behavioral pattern can be found in people addicted to drugs, alcohol, and even baseball games (yes, there is research which shows that some fans may truly be addicted to sport).

So what does this mean for those of us who play games? Well, the addiction to playing a certain game can be problematic because it continues to build the desire to play that specific game. That is great in the short-term, it is great if you are able to really enjoy a game you have bought and continue to get a lot of use out of it. But when it gets to the point where that is the one and only game you want, you are really closing yourself off to a lot of communicative and playing experiences at the table. I have discussed before people who spend too much time focused on one game, and what happens to them and those around them. It becomes ugly, and soon they are almost mocked as being the person that plays just that one game. You know that guy, the one who plays Magic, talks to you about Magic, spends all his money on Magic. Please do not be that person; there is a variety of fun out there, please embrace it.

In conclusion, I truly believe that too much of a good thing is bad for you. In one way you may end up ruining the gaming experience, in the other way, you may end up burning out or being known as a person who only does one thing. So I encourage all of you to remember that we need good experiences, but we should also seek variety in our lives. In my opinion, the bad experiences make the good ones even sweeter.

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