For many gamers, there’s no more relaxing, immersive, and enjoyable way to spend an evening than staying home with a joint or two and a good game. Videogames and cannabis are a match made in heaven, but that’s hardly news – videogames are designed to fascinate, and cannabis makes things extra fascinating, so it makes intuitive sense. But what is it, exactly, that makes this combo so much fun?
At the very most basic level, human behavior is driven by a desire to alter our brain chemistry, even if we don’t know that that’s what we’re ultimately doing. Videogames have been shown to activate pleasure circuits in the brain, and can cause the brain to release serotonin and dopamine – two of the four neurotransmitters that control our happiness.
Dopamine is also known as the “reward molecule.” Its role in the brain is very complex, but put simply, it is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate happiness, motivation, our sense of accomplishment, and more. Dopamine is released when we gamble, eat good food, have sex, and play videogames (and at many other times). Interestingly, one study has shown that the amount of dopamine released when playing a videogame is similar to the amount that is released during sex.
Like videogames, cannabis use also activates the brain’s reward system and increases dopamine release. When cannabis is combined with videogames, it enhances all the things that we enjoy about the game itself: Winning a shootout against an enemy player becomes more exhilarating. The sense of accomplishment we feel when we beat a difficult level or complete a mission feels more rewarding. The little crystalline jingle sound effect that plays when we level up becomes even more satisfying.
Enhanced Focus and Immersion
Part of the magic of the cannabis-videogame combo can be explained by chemicals and neurotransmitters, but not all of it. Cannabis alters the user’s senses, which can change the way the user appreciates a game. For example, it has been shown that cannabis use can temporarily increase visual acuity, reduce anxiety, and (in some cases) improve the user’s concentration.
It’s easy to see how those effects would enhance the videogame experience. Recently released videogames like Destiny 2, Metro: Exodus, and Red Dead Redemption 2 are visually stunning even while sober. With a heightened sense of sight, an increased imagination, and an enhanced appreciation of beauty, it can be almost as much fun to take in the scenery as it is to play the game as intended.
Cannabis’ ability to reduce anxiety makes games more immersive by allowing the user to let go of outside worries for a while, and simply focus on the game without keeping a checklist in the back of his or her mind: bills are due in a week, rent is due in three days, I have to take the car to the shop… et cetera. Of course, escapism is only healthy up to a certain point – but that’s true of anything, isn’t it?
With all the stereotypical representations we’ve seen of the clumsy, slow-moving stoner character, it may be hard to believe that cannabis could actually improve performance – in videogames or anything else. However, there is evidence to suggest that this is exactly what happens. Cannabis can reduce muscle tension and anxiety, which may help gamers focus better. Many gamers claim that cannabis helps them play better, even in extremely competitive and fast-paced games like Counter Strike or Overwatch, and many videogame tournaments have started testing players for cannabis use to ensure that they aren’t giving themselves an unfair advantage.
Cannabis and video games go together perfectly for many different reasons. One is a drug and one is a hobby, but they both have similar effects on the brain and can amplify each other when combined. Cannabis makes an already-good video game into an even more beautiful and immersive experience, and could even improve gamers’ performance. What’s not to like?