Aiming High: Marijuana and Video Games - Culture | MERRY JANE
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Aiming High: Marijuana and Video Games

Cannabis and video games go hand-in-hand, and here's why.

by Joel Campbell

by Joel Campbell

Much like the majestic pairing of fish n’ chips or the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich, cannabis and video games are one of those combinations that just seem to go hand-in-hand; or in this case, hand-in-controller. Whether or not you prefer getting as high as your kill/death ratio before every battle, one thing is certain:

Nothing quite compares to the entertainment of getting sky-high while murdering hordes of the virtual undead. We’re coming for you, Nazi zombies!

Have you ever wondered why movies often stereotype pot-smokers as lazy, couch-inhabiting gamers? As someone that loves to relax on my comfortable couch with a good hybrid strain and an epic game, I can honestly say that the “stoned gamer” stereotype is actually not that far off. That’s because cannabis and video games complement each other in many ways, but I’ll go into further detail on that in a minute.

However, what the movies don’t show you is what we “stoners” are doing with the rest of our time. After all, life can’t be all fun and games. Or can it?

Escape from reality  

For many, video games provide an escape from the mundane reality of day-to-day life. Like most productive citizens of the global economy, we wake up, we get dressed, we go to work and then we wait for the clock to turn its hands upon the magical hour of our sweet release back into the realm of fantasy and fortune. With controller in hand and bong in tow, we’ve made it through yet another day of being a responsible adult- and now it’s our time to unwind and reap the rewards.  

In a world ripe with uncertainty and tedium, video games provide a feeling of control. In the virtual world, you can be whomever or whatever you like. From fire-breathing dragons to renegade soldiers and everything in between, with video games you’re only limited by your imagination- and the amount of cannabis at your disposal.

When the stresses of life start to wear you down, there’s always comfort in knowing that you can always go home and take some aggression out on unsuspecting strangers via online gaming. Like most gamers that enjoy marijuana, I believe that combining the two makes for a deepened experience in an interactive fantasy where the mind is allowed to wander beyond the limits of reality.  

One of the major factors that attract so many people to gaming is that in the video game arena, there are no real-world consequences when you fail. You can try a 1,000-foot jump over Liberty City in a school bus or you can build an empire in space because there are no real life-altering consequences if you don’t succeed the first try. Instead, you have as many lives as you need to figure out a strategy and get it right.  

If only life was that forgiving.  

The best job in the world?

Believe it or not, there are actually people in the world that paid (sometimes handsomely) to play video games. If you think I’m making this up, just check out the case of Johnathan Wendel. Widely considered as “the first, and best, electronic competition player ever”, this professional American gamer stacked up over $455,000 in prize money over the span of his illustrious career.

Yes, you read that correctly- nearly a half-million dollars for playing video games!

Equally talented in a multitude of online FPS games (first-person shooters), Wendel has dominated opponents in games like Call of Duty, Quake, Doom 3 and Counter-Strike while accumulating his personal fortune. So if your parents ever told you that playing video games would get you nowhere in life, just print out this article and show them how wrong they are (take that, mom and dad!).

Wendel is not the only high-profile gamer that has hit the big time. The top-8 highest paid players in the world average nearly half-a-million EACH in total prize money winnings. This doesn’t even include sponsorships and promotional income earned from pwning n00bs for a living. If you’re serious about gaming for a living, you might want to pack your bags and head to gaming Meccas like South Korea or Japan- where pro gamers are forged into colossal superstars like Miley Cyrus, except their wrecking-balls are purely digital.

Science FTW!

Could it be true that marijuana actually improves the memory when combined with gaming? Many researchers believe that marijuana and gaming actually are good for you. Video games provide a means to improve hand-eye coordination while cannabis has shown significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in lab studies. When combined, the two activities can have extremely therapeutic benefits with regards to limiting stress and exercising the brain.

According to a test study performed by the Groningen Mental Enhancement Department in the Netherlands reported via Joy Stick, researchers found that using cannabis while gaming leads to increased memory retention amongst Alzheimer’s patients and had surprising results:

“The Groningen Mental Enhancement Department in the Netherlands recently conducted a one-year study to see how gaming and cannabis can affect the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. All the test subjects played increasingly challenging games each day, but half the group was also administered smoke. Would you believe that the marijuana test group scored 43 percent better memory retention than the control group?” 

"It was a far greater benefit to the marijuana-administered group than we could have imagined," test organizer Ewoud Joost responded.

Trust the pros

Although professional gamers don’t have performance-enhancing drugs similar to a track athlete using steroids, it is widely implied that marijuana is being utilized to enhance gaming abilities and sharpen mental focus before a match.  

In an interview with Gameplayer, Alex Walker, the Australian World Cyber Games tournament director, was quoted as saying: "I’ve seen a number of players at national tournaments who came in ‘baked’ purely so they could play better." 

When I inquired about which of the top gaming athletes actually admit to using marijuana before or during an event, the list was short and vague. It seems that most pros refuse to admit that they use marijuana to perform better because it could get them into some serious hot water.

New rules from eSports league giant ESL have made it mandatory for all professional gamers competing in their events to submit to saliva-based testing for doping. Anyone caught using marijuana or other “performance-enhancing drugs” during or immediately before an event is subject to disqualification and even up to a two-year ban from future ESL tournaments.

It seems that all of the anecdotes and quiet whisperings behind closed doors (or more likely, dungeon-like basements) of marijuana use in the gaming community have finally led to job-related drug testing like any other profession. The very fact that there is this type of testing in professional gaming events might inherently lend some credibility to the assertion that cannabis can be used to stimulate one’s performance.

Whether or not we’ll ever see our own brand of “Gamer’s Ganja” on the shelves at our local dispensary remains to be seen, but the use of marijuana to enhance the overall gaming experience seems to have some reasonable foundations both scientifically and experientially. All I can say for certain is that nothing quite compares to the feeling of getting blitzed on some “performance-enhancing” Skywalker OG while trying to navigate my way around Gotham City dressed up as Batman.

And by Gotham City, I mean my apartment complex.


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Joel Campbell

Joel is a freelance wordsmith hailing from the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado. As an accomplished travel writer, he spends most of his time planning his next cannabis-infused trip and writing about his hilarious wanderings on his travel site Married Explorers.com. Visit Joelthewordsmith.com to see what he's been up to lately.



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