Something similar can happen when I start reading fantasy or science fiction. I get lost in another world and neglect the real one. First example that comes to mind: I once watched the first 3 seasons of Game of Thrones in under two weeks. The only friends I saw during that time were Arya and Bran and Danaerys.
I was slightly worried I'd get sucked in like this again, but I kept reading Ready Player One to the end, because it wasn't just an escape. It was also really thought provoking. Here are some of the things I was thinking about. WARNING: contains bad coding puns :-)
1. Games are how we learn - One weekend during my programming bootcamp, I made the same Ruby on Rails project over and over again, studying for my assessment on Tuesday. At first I thought it would be tedious, but it was actually kind of fun. It was like a game: you have two hours to pass all the specs, get all the red messages in the console to turn to green. Ready, go! Games don't have to be a waste of time, they can be really valuable as an intrinsically rewarding way to learn new skills.
3. Be whoever you want to be - In a virtual world, people can be whoever they want because they have complete anonymity, hidden behind a fictional version of themselves. Unfortunately not everyone has the freedom to be whoever they want in the real world. For some, there may be actual risks involved, and it’s really sad that it’s just not physically safe for them to be themselves. But for most people (me included), the risks are imagined. Others can React however they want... but I use Ember now... just kidding! Others can react however they want, say whatever they want, think whatever they want, but that shouldn’t stop me from becoming the person I want to be. I have to stop caring about what people think! The people who really matter will keep loving me anyway, and when I'm unapologetically myself, it's way easier to find others with similar interests and values (other paleo, biohacking nerds for example)!
4. The real world is amazing - Ready Player One reminded me of the farm I visited in Thailand, where I felt like I'd stepped into a scene from Legend of Zelda. I was on the island of Koh Lanta, and my friend and I ventured up a very steep hill, following a sign for a lookout point. A Thai woman who spoke very little English was the only person around, looking after her chickens. She told us all about the treehouse she'd built, brought us pineapple to share, and taught us to shoot a sling shot! She used it for scaring away monkeys, and we practiced shooting little rocks at a tin can target. When it was time to leave, we all joked about picking up chickens and flying down the steep hill! Amazing experiences do exist in real life, not just in video games, and I think this is the same lesson the characters learn at the end of the book, when they meet in person for the first time.
These days, I want to live my life in the real world. I want to experience relationships with real people, not just characters on a page or a screen. I want to be vulnerable and feel the exhilaration of uncertainty when I share my thought and feelings. I want to feel real emotions, and create real emotions for others. I want to challenge myself to grow and improve, not just watch others grow and improve. Games have their place and can be fun and useful, but this world has so many amazing people and places and emotions and things and creatures, I don’t need to escape from it.
People praise movies and books when they're raw and realistic, but nothing can be as realistic as real life. So interestingly, reading a book about escapism motivated me go out and explore and have more adventures.
Sorry about the coding pun, couldn't help myself.