Lord, help me. In 2012, I finally leaped into the 21st century and bought a smartphone. I had resisted the temptation to buy a phone with so many features — and distractions — but I went ahead and did it. Within days I was playing Scrabble on my new phone. Then I was playing Scrabble and Words with Friends. Then it was Scrabble, Words with Friends and Scramble with Friends. In less than a month I had 19 word games going at once, and some Friday nights I stayed up till the wee hours of the morning playing these games. This year, 2013, I am resolved to do better and play less.
Never mind that I began playing Farmville, then Farmville2, about two months ago and realized I was spending hours excitedly racking up gold coins in virtual reality. If my husband bothered to check my Facebook page, he would know why the floors didn’t get mopped the day I said they would. I am vowing to do better.
This year I will play less. Also, I will disclose more of my deepest feelings and personal thoughts about the news I choose to examine. Beginning right here and now, I will confess the real reason I opposed Question 7, the ballot initiative to expand gaming in Maryland, allowing for a destination casino at the National Harbor. I was afraid that place might be my undoing. But, alas, gaming here in the seclusion of my home posed the bigger threat.
I quickly moved from close to 20 word games at once at the beginning of the year to word games and the farming game by fall. Then, last week, I happened upon Bubble Safari Ocean and Diamond-something-or-other. There went my “legendary discipline.” My friends had long admired my writing discipline. I could go without TV and other distractions and focus on book projects at hand. But these online games, with their bells and whistles and cheering, proved to be formidable fun.
While playing these games one day, I also did a little channel surfing and happened upon a panel discussion about IT advances. The panelists were explaining the psychological benefits of these online games. A quick Google search on the matter unearthed a Wall Street Journal article citing advantages of online gaming.
“A growing body of university research suggests that gaming improves creativity, decision-making and perception,” the article explains. “The specific benefits are wide ranging, from improved hand-eye coordination in surgeons to vision changes that boost night driving ability.” That could be justification enough for me to continue gaming to my heart’s content. But the article cites the downside of this favorite pastime, too. Compulsive gaming is addictive, it notes, and can lead to excessive weight gain.
The newly expanded hours at Maryland Live and plans to open the National Harbor casino in 2016 will pose no threat to me once I get a handle on my gaming addiction here at home. When a hearing is held next week to challenge the constitutionality of the gaming initiative voters passed, I will not feel compelled to chime in. I will be somewhere refraining from Farmville2 one hour at a time, determined to rein in my playtime to just a few minutes a day — Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.
More from The Root DC
Montgomery is a columnist for The RootDC.