I’m 32, married, a professional scientist, and I have a confession to make. I play video games. Worse, I feel guilty about playing games. I often feel so guilty that it saps much of the guy from the game, turning it into some perverse drudgery where I feel obligated to keep on playing so I can say I actually beat the game. In other words, the guilt that I get from playing video games is so great that it turns every game into an obligation game like Farmville.
I shouldn’t say that it’s always this way with games. I can sit down and play Hydro Thunder for 15 minutes after work and enjoy it. Until I realize that I should be doing something else, like training for a marathon, reading a paper, or writing some code. What’s interesting is that nowhere in that list of alternative things is something that is related to family. It could be because I don’t live with my wife right now and I don’t have kids. But I believe it’s a symptom of something else.
Between my masters and doctorate degrees I spent a little over seven years in graduate school. Seven years in which every waking moment was supposed to be optimized for work. Now, I admit that I didn’t do that. In fact, I had one hell of time during graduate school. It was a hell of a lot of fun. However, graduate school has no concept of work life balance. There always is more work you can be doing. You know that there is always some paper you should be reading or writing, a presentation that could be created, or a new skill to be obtained. Even if your advisor doesn’t drill that into your head (and thankfully I had amazing advisors) there are always other students who do.
Of course, it should have gotten better after grad school, but then I left to work for a company that gave up on the concept of work life balance and now talks about work life integration. This is largely a side effect of working with people all over the world. Phone calls from 9-11pm with China are hardly unusual. Nor is a 7:30am meeting with Israel. On the plus side I get the flexibility I need to travel and can sleep in on days when I don’t have early morning meetings, but it still remains that during my waking hours I always have a sense of guilt about things I should be doing. In turn this guilt ends up sapping the fun away from things that should be fun.
The question that I need to answer is this, which is the correct behavior? Believing that video games are fun? Realizing there is always more to do? Or perhaps some other choice?