In the past For the past fifteen months, video games have become a sanctuary for many people. In the middle of Covid-19 blockages – and in the absence of mental and emotional outlets like going indoors with friends – games have put people through many stressful times. But now in many parts of the world vaccines are rolling out and the weather is changing, which means it may be time to give another reprieve: put the lever down and get out.

Make no mistake, this will not be an essay on the end of Covid and everyone should be frolicking the streets without a mask. Not everyone is vaccinated and the world is still in the grip of a pandemic. But if you’re one of the growing number of people who are ready to find some semblance of normal, pandemic-adjusted life, you should feel good stepping away from your PlayStation 5. (or computer. Or Xbox Series X.)

Often in this column I write about the many benefits of playing video games, calming effect of Valley of stars how nostalgic play can be fantastic for your sanity. If these benefits remain present and necessary for you, continue by all means. My goal is always to encourage people to play video games on their own terms, and there’s no need to leave if you don’t want to. But if you’re feeling the allure of the great outdoors and pimple-crushing isn’t as rewarding as it used to be, listen to that call. The console will still be there when you are ready to return.

Ultimately, and listen to me here, it all comes down to productivity. If you’re like me, you’re probably the type of person who needs to feel productive even when it comes to your hobbies. Once you invest your time in something, you feel obligated. Stop that. It is not a “waste” to do something else with your time. (By the way, if you identify with this mentality and often find yourself exhausted because you approach each hobby as if it were a job, please read Laziness does not exist, by Devon Price. It may just change your life.)

It may sound trite, but your downtime should be relaxing, that’s it. If you feel like playing video games, and if that’s what will relax you, then do it. My call for disarmament is not to shame players for playing too much or to say that it is healthier to take a step back. There is a lot of trials to make people feel guilty about their screen time, and that won’t be one of them. If you’re not quite ready to go outside (or if the low vaccination rates in your area still make you uncomfortable), stay indoors. If gaming still relieves your stress, keep playing. It is no one’s business.

But if the thing that keeps you from putting the controller down and getting out of the house is some kind of twisted mindset that has evolved because you has been play video games and feel the urge to keep doing it, so I’m talking to you. It’s time to step away from the screen. No matter where, no matter how, just figure out what you really want to do and get it done. If video games aren’t your thing for a while, that’s okay, you’re still a gamer even if you don’t play them every day. Or every week. Or even every month. Now if you will excuse me I will go run outside with my toddler and forget Valley of stars never existed.

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