Feb 14, 2008

Stat-balance the Human 01: It's a Sedentary Life

Look. Let's face it. The gaming lifestyle is not exactly friendly to the human animal's body. Your character may be faster than a speeding hippogryph, more powerful than an enraged gronn, and able to leap tall zeppelins in a single bound, but you are probably something shy of a Man (or Woman) of FelSteel. After all, you're not quite spending your time working out, eating right, and relaxing away stresses while you're doing all these digital works of wonder. In fact, if you're anything like the average gamer, you're probably practicing poor posture, leading a typically-modern sedentary lifestyle and actually adding to your stress level by involving yourself in tense situations and (perhaps) some digital-social drama. I know. I do it, too.

You don't even have to be overweight. You could be Olive Oyl's long lost twin, but you may still be dangerously unhealthy. After all, physical health and well-being require so much more than a boney butt, a strong mind and witty reparté to share over voice chat. They require a balanced caloric flow, regular exercise, careful nutrition, a solid mental state, and a certain amount of ... well, not to sound too Zen about it, but a certain amount of periodic cleansing in both the literal and figurative sense. Mind and body both should remember the last time they had a bit of a wash. Meditation (or whatever you call a few minutes of peace and quiet and reflection) and showers are must-haves for any cool gamer.

Yes, that's right. Cool gamer. Times have changed, my friend.

Still, the human body remains the human body. Society may accept that your 4 hours in Zul'Aman are truly a worthwhile expenditure of time and your PDA is actually sleek and stylish instead of geeky and unnecessary, but your thyroid isn't going to kick it up a notch just because Nalorakk drops purples you reallyreally need. It's a stubborn little organ; I hear that convincing it to make that kind of adjustment can take generations and a liberal application of natural selection. So, I submit to you that you would probably be better off just doing what you can to work some good, healthful habits into your sedentary life.

The reality is that if we aren't attentive (or very lucky*), these poor mental and physical health habits will start to turn us into the Stereotype.

What Stereotype? Here. South Park illustrated it for you just perfectly:

Season 1
Southpark DVD cover - Season 1
Normal little South Park kiddies
Season 10
Southpark DVD cover - Season 10
Fat, greasy little WoW-playing South Park kiddies

We weren't designed for this modern lifestyle, so if we want to be able to live it well, then we need to understand how to incorporate as much of what we were designed for as possible. I don't know about you, but I want to maintain a healthy, active body and mind and still be able to get my video-game on. :) But where can we adjust our habits to help take care of our weight, our wellness, our muscle mass, our skeletal structure, and even our mental state? What does a gamer's lifestyle already have that we need? What does it lack?

What we have:
  1. Mental Intellectual Activity: You and I are already exercising our brains when we game. We are strategizing, analyzing, and problem solving as we optimize our play via spell rotations, gear sets, talent points and many other game mechanics. Running, jumping, jinking, hiding, and getting up on that darn fountain in Stormwind are improving our hand-to-eye coordination and our three-dimensional spatial recognition. Raids, pets and even chat channels are exercising our mental capacity for handling multiple tasks at once. Depending on who you talk to, we might even be forwarding our careers via the social contacts we create. (It's an ongoing argument.) We're giving our brains, our intellectual thought centers, constant growth and endurance training.

  2. Global Social Interaction: Modern games very often involve some sort of inherent or optional multiplayer functionality, and nowhere is that more obvious than in the MMO genre. World of Warcraft, like its predecessor MMOs, relies on its multiplayer content to enrich and enliven the in-game world. More than that, though, its global popularity makes it arguably the most interesting and unique social opportunity the world has ever seen. Where else can you meet and foster real-time activity-oriented friendships with people who live hundreds, thousands, even tens-of-thousands of miles away? It's not just text chat, any more. It's play style. Voice. Guild-inspired social dynamics. The only thing we're still missing is body language and ... maybe smell? :P
What we lack:
  1. Physical Activity: Obvious? Oh, yeah. We all know that sitting for four hours on our butts in front of a Karazhan raid, clicking and typing and maybe jawing on our voice chat program isn't exactly going to make us lean, mean fighting machines in real life. There's nothing to work out those biceps, triceps, delts and quads, and there's certainly nothing in there to get the old heartrate up to aerobic levels. (Unless you're practicing questionable activities in the Deeprun Tram (PG-13 language)?** Or maybe you just get really, really into your PvP (PG-13 language)?)

  2. Nutritional Eating Habits: Let me give credit where credit is due. I'm sure there are plenty of gamers out there who do eat right. Kudos to you! I submit, though, that the lifestyle doesn't do much to encourage it. We grab snacks (often fatty, well-processed snacks) and yoink them into the computer room, munching while we play without paying attention to how many / how much / how crumbly***. Meals get skipped in favor of "just one more run" or get inhaled because the party is waiting. Fast-food is always an attractive dinner option when you're rushing home from work or school to make raid. These little dietary faux pas add up quickly and become blind habit far too easily.

  3. Introspection: If that doesn't sound like something you need for a healthy lifestyle, then let's try some different words. Meditation. Mental Self-examination. Emotional Cleansing. Hey, it's just "me time". You do need some for your emotional well-being, and I'm becoming pretty convinced that the quality of introspection you get while you're autoshot-grinding CE rep mobs is just not sufficient. Games - especially MMOs - encourage a rush from one activity to the other. Play downtime is frowned upon, and I think that has become so engrained in us all, that we sometimes forget that personal downtime is so important.

  4. Informed Interpersonal Relations: "Informed" because as wonderful and diverse as our game-based relationships may be, they are missing some critical communication tools. Body language. Facial expressions. All the visual clues that inform us about intent, sincerity, depth of emotion, and even more animalistic things like physical appeal and compatibility. In this day and age, these are not requirements for friendships and fledgling relationships, but I do think it's very important to remember what you are lacking as you get to know someone in an online environment and know how that might effect your perception, his / her perception, and others' perceptions of your relationship.
In future Stat-balance the Human articles, we'll take a deeper look at each of these areas with the goal of helping us all avoid South Park's Stereotype and keep our mad pwning skillz. Knowing our lifestyle's weaknesses is a start, but we're going to discuss some ways to correct or at least minimize their effects. I've got some tricks and tips for snacking smartly and eating right, getting into the little habits that add up to big muscular and skeletal benefits, working exercise into our gaming day, facing what's going on inside our emotions and avoiding repetitive stress. There's plenty to share, and hopefully you all can bring some other good advice to the table!

Until next time...

* Congrats, you lucky few! We want to mug you for your metabolism wish you all the best in your continued, impenetrable skinniness.
** Please don't. Ew.
*** Alas. Many the keyboard has regretted the crumbly snacks.


Jezrael said...

Very interesting read. It's certainly an issue that I often think about since I work in a sedentary job and all of my hobbies are sedentary not just WoW. Trying to eat healthily in the main helps but I really do need more physical exercise in my life!

Love your writing style, very engaging and the premise for your blog intrigues me - I'm looking forward to further posts :)

Dethedrus said...

I guess it's a good thing that I'm going back to work in my frantic, "hey would you mind lifting that 100 lb server over your head for 2 minutes" job. Oh wait :(