Believe it or not, there was a time when Mr. ProductiveMuslim, wasn’t that productive! My biggest weakness was video games – I was insanely addicted to them, and alhamdulillah I managed to rid myself of them when I went to university and had to live without them for 4-5 years.
There was an addictive quality about games which I didn’t understand; I knew they were fun, and an “escape” from reality, but there was more. I recently came across a TED.com talk in which the speaker deciphered the addictive qualities of games and how gamers are essentially ‘productive’ in their own weird way.
So I thought: what lessons can we learn from gamers and gaming to help us be productive in our daily activity? If you think about it, gamers are actually ‘productive’ in what they are doing – they are very ‘focused’, ‘hard-working’, and ‘determined’ in achieving their virtual goals. It makes you wonder sometimes what could be achieved if the gamers around the world redirected their concentration, efforts, and persistence to real and positive works.
This is not a call for us to jump to the next console, but rather to extract lessons from the gaming world that will insha’Allah help us reach “blissful productivity” (i.e. productivity that is so enjoyable we don’t want to stop!).
Gaming is addictive due to 3 main ingredients:
Games give purpose and meaning to the player – they have ‘missions’ to complete and ‘levels’ to ascend. This sense of purpose keeps gamers going for hours, repeating levels again, and again, and again, and rarely giving up. If you look at the best games, they are the ones that have the most compelling story with the strongest purpose! (Call of Duty anyone?)
2. Social Network
Before the advent of the Internet, console games and even simple board games were a social event. Families and friends gathered to have a good time. Now the gaming social network has ‘evolved’ with the Massive Multi-Player Online Games; millions of people around the world, connect, meet, talk, fight, run, jump, and battle together! The social bond between the gamers sometimes is at the expense of familial ties, either weakening them or completely ruining them.
3. Epic Wins
Games provide epic victories! Which gamer in the world doesn’t love that final momentous blow to the evil boss? It’s a sense of achievement. On the other hand, and I know this personally, which gamer doesn’t hate that black screen of death with the annoying text: Game over! These epic wins are strongly connected to a gamer’s pride, causing a gamer to spend hours until he/she achieves that ego boost! And the ‘Game over!’ screen is strongly connected to a gamer’s negative feelings, so that he/she will fight so hard (with their fingers) to save themselves from that ‘disgrace and disappointment’!
So purpose, social interaction, and epic wins/losses are the three key ingredients that make games so addictive and their players to be so ‘productive’ and ‘hard-working’ in their virtual words. Now, let’s apply these three ingredients in the real world and see if it can make us productive:
1. Have a Purpose/Meaning for whatever you do
It’s amazing how we go about life with little or no purposeful intent in anything we do. We have no purpose behind our studies, no purpose behind our work, no purpose behind our fun time. If you want to have a productive and enjoyable life, have a strong purpose! Alhamdulillah, as Muslims, we were given the biggest and best purpose in life; a purpose not just confined to this temporary life, but for both the dunya (temporary world) and for the eternal Hereafter (akhirah); and that purpose is to worship Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala). But how many of us truly connect to this purpose?
2. Build a Social Network around what you do
If you want to be productive in what you’re doing, involve others! I can tell you from personal experience how my productivity doubles when I’m working on a project with others, compared to when I’m working on a project alone. When we work with others, we commit to work together and don’t want to look bad, so we try hard to keep our promises. But when we work alone, we often lose self-accountability and motivation. SubhanaAllah, this made me think how Islam is such a “community religion” – if you look at most of the rituals in Islam, they are done in “Jama’a” – congregation. Salah, Hajj, Fasting Ramadan (you fast with your community and break fast with them), etc.
3. Imagine your Epic Wins/Losses
Make sure whatever you do, you can imagine it’s ‘epic moment of victory’ to which you can positively and excitedly connect. Make sure you imagine the ‘epic moment of loss’ as well so you deter yourself from slacking and being unproductive. Let’s look at the example of studying for exams: your joyous moment would be passing your exams, seeing your parents smile for your achievement, receiving your certificate; by contrast, your moment of loss is failing your exams, seeing the disappointment on your parents face, and/or repeating the whole year again, while your classmates move on to the next year! We can apply this further, to our entire lives; our epic win is…Jannah! Connect with Jannah through the descriptions given to us in The Quran, and you’d really not want to lose it! And also learn about the epic loss, Jahanam so you deter yourself from anything Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) dislikes.
Now before I end, I want to make a small address to our dear gamers. The number of hours that gamers spend playing video games is shocking. One study estimates that gamers around the world collectively spend 3 billion hours per week, playing games! Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajoun! I want my dear Muslim brothers and sisters who are addicted to gaming (just like I was) to wake up and be productive with their life, and find better hobbies or sources of relaxation.
Here are some steps for how gamers can “wake up” from their unproductive lifestyle:
Honestly, do you think reaching that extra level or slaying that villain will add any true valuable meaning to your life? Really, ask yourself? Reflect on Surat Al-Asr (#103), because indeed we are not losing time but also wasting it.
2. Social Network
Is the random stranger behind some computer using a female avatar to hide his identity really your friend? Is this unknown person closer to you and more valuable than your parents who have taken care of you their whole lives and done a lot to keep you happy (whether you know and notice it or not)?
3. Epic win/epic loss
I remember that after the euphoric win in a game or finishing the last level, I would find myself feeling empty inside. I wasn’t truly happy; my happiness was a fleeting moment and distraction. Most gamers resolve this by going and buying a new game, but then what? When does the cycle end?
So a sincere call to my dear Muslim brothers and sisters, from your brother who has been there, to get out of this addiction and wake up to the real world.
The real world is so much more beautiful, so much more satisfying, and it needs you, each one of you, to save it and achieve the ultimate epic win, Jannah and the pleasure of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala)!