I have taken on a lot of topics when it comes to my Sunday Side Quests. From the goofy stories of my life to minor opinions on things that have happened to me. I have even dipped into the sweet and gushy side. What I tend to stay away from are very serious and close to the heart topics. But after a long conversation with my sister and some personal reflection, I realized that as someone who has struggled with a very underestimated issue, it was time to share my story.
I have suffered from Gaming Addiction.
I know, I know. I am a self-proclaimed gamer girl and while I will stand by that title and continue to enjoy my games on both console and computer I have to say that the actual danger of an addiction to certain types of games or the temporary high that it can give you is a real issue. And I feel it needs to be talked about even if it’s just me and my blog buddies. Now please understand before I dive into my own personal struggle with this problem, that I am not demonizing gaming and nor am I intending to compare gaming addiction to the other addictions such as substance abuse or otherwise. I have no personal understanding of those type of struggles and while I want to shine a light on the danger and the downfall I went through, I am in no way saying that any other addiction is less valid or harmful.
It has been a lot of years since one of the most influential MMORPG’s (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game) came out. Thirteen years ago it was a revolutionary game that could be bought, played and enjoyed by thousands upon thousands of people across the globe. At that time in my life, I was just attempting to get a grasp on becoming less of a teenager and more of an adult. Of course, like many teenage girls, I was boy crazy and my then boyfriend was the world to me. Here I was, partially sheltered and attempting to pick up the pieces of some pretty rough changes and up and downs in my youth. In the middle of this confusion and change, I found this sweet, if not confused, young man to date and enjoy my time with. He became my lifeline to my group of friends, to my then religion and even at times to my very sanity. I had fallen hard and I had put all my eggs in one basket.
Of course, as we all know, high school sweethearts rarely last. As we both moved onto college we tried to keep the relationship going. As he waffled back and forth on if he wanted to stay with me, I was having a struggle with my own self-worth. Nearly half a dozen times it was a goodbye and then a hello again a few weeks later. (I’m telling you, people, there is a reason why a break up should stay a breakup!) Feeling confused and alone as my family and minimal friends were busy with their own things, I tried hard to mend whatever broken relationship we had. And that meant that when after one of the many breakups my boyfriend suggested I join him in playing the Beta of World of Warcraft, I just had to hop on that band wagon if I ever wanted to win him back.
I would love to say that it was all his fault and he is to blame for my addiction, but the reality is, I let myself fall into this imaginary world. Here I was, unfamiliar with how to socialize online or even really game online and I was thrust into a large pool of personalities and a game that had no pause button. I was hooked, boyfriend or not. In my mind, I truly thought that I had found the holy grail of a social outlet. I could talk to people, act out pretend through my character and lose myself in the minor accomplishments of quests, dungeons and other activities in the game.
As I dove deeper into the game, I felt everything else fall away. Nothing else mattered but the next accomplishment that I could get by gaining a level or making a new friend. Online, I was this goddess amongst the people, liked by dozens and hit on by a bunch of guys that stroked my wounded self-esteem into a false sense of pride. And every time I would log off I had to face the reality around me. I had been struggling in college, my boyfriend was in and out of my life, my family dynamic was vastly changing and my friends either used me or abandoned me. The game was my best friend, my outlet and my only sense of accomplishment. Instead of working to change my life, face down my demons and let’s be blunt grow the hell up, I just sunk lower and lower and further and further into my need.
I would love to tell you that I snapped out of it only after a few months or even a year, but sadly I let myself continue to feed the habit for years on end. Even as I went through the motions of other relationships or attempting to act normal, I always found the time to disappear for a few hours and get back onto the game to feed that need. It wasn’t until I had made the leap to follow a brief romantic interest across the country and was forced to live in squalor that I started to really see that my gaming addiction was not an imaginary problem.
It took a friend, a former online gaming friend from WoW to pull my head out of my butt. He had left the game, was determined to write a book and make something of himself. At the time that it had happened, I felt utterly betrayed. Here I was, counting on him to be my partner in crime online only for his desire to live in the real world to win out over my needs. I was bitter. But then he said something to me that stayed with me. He said to me “Think about all of the time you have spent online, role-playing, losing yourself to the game and think how much of that time you wasted that could have been put into something productive like writing a novel or drawing. Creating something.”
Those words dug into the back of my mind and while it took me hitting rock bottom, living with a strange man and his girlfriend to suddenly realize the hole I had dug for myself, it has kept me from falling back into the pit of hell that was my addiction.
I still game, ladies and gents. I do. I left World of Warcraft behind and decided to play less demanding games and explore different genres, try different things. My love of gaming didn’t wane but my grip on reality started to tighten again. So what if there wasn’t a pause button? My real life had to come first, I had to try and make something of myself. I can’t say that it isn’t tempting sometimes to fall back on MMO’s and that great feeling of accomplishment and I won’t lie and say I haven’t had a handful of brief relapses here and there. But I have clawed my way to the surface and have found the balance and purpose I need to be a productive member of society and a better person.
So please, if you are a gamer and you find yourself using MMO’s or any other kind of games as a constant high of achievement or to avoid your life issues, take a step back and evaluate your level of addiction. Get help if you need it, seek out friends who are healthy gamers or those who don’t dive into that world as often to keep you stable. And those of you who don’t have this problem but see someone going through this, please reach out to them. Don’t just discount them just because their drug of choice is the high that comes from the next level or achievement. I am telling you, there is nearly always something deeper going on. Some kind of help that they need. In this day and age, it is a true danger and we need to be as educated and aware of it as possible so that we can help our loved ones balance their life and not waste years of their life in the spiral of such a misunderstood addiction.
Here are some resources and information from across the web:
If you think you are suffering from gaming addiction or know someone who is, please seek out help. It is not something to joke about and I will genuinely say that it does a lot more harm than people know.