Hi, my name is Lisa and I’m a recovering Game Addict

First, I just want to say I’m not making light of any type of addiction, and I am a firm believer that addiction is a disease not a ‘phase’. If you do not hold that opinion this blog probably isn’t for you.

Hey there! My name is Lisa and while I like to use Shay as an ‘online’ name or ‘creative’ name I originally got that from a video game. So, recently I have seen people make light of these types of predicaments saying that they aren’t real like drug abuse… alcoholism, etc. Well, I am here to tell you that simply is not true. As someone who at one point had my entire day revolve around gaming, I can tell you that gaming is absolutely addictive, and there are gaming addicts out there.

Let us define an addiction, or at least set ground works for what I believe I suffer from.

See the source image

So, that is using the DSM V — the diagnostic and statistical manual for psychology. Any time people have questions about disorders, addiction, etc. that is where psychologists, therapists and specialists turn to, ultimately, to diagnose a condition. To sum up what you see above, I would conclude that an addiction is anything that is pervasive and interrupting your regular every day life. So… is it something you have to do as soon as you get back from errands?Is it something you obsess over at work? Did you perhaps skip work because you wanted to play all day? If you can say yes to all three of them like I was able to then… yeah you might have a problem.

Is this a current problem, no… I have since reigned in my play time, and balanced out my life better. Also, I do realize I cannot diagnose myself in any way so please take this as a testimonial. With all that said, let’s talk about a much younger Lisa.

When I was… five or six years old my uncle introduced me to the magical world of gaming. We would go over to my grandparents house and I would watch him for hours play his original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Battletoads was my favorite. Then fast forward to about eight or nine when we got our first console in the house, the Super Nintendo (SNES). It was great, we no longer had to go over to my grandparents to play games, and we got to sink all our time in to playing the classics — Donkey Kong, Final Fantasy VI, and Super Mario World were just a few of the ones I remember playing fairly religiously.

And so from a young age, a habit formed. My brother and I fought over time played on the console. Put entire weekends in to playing certain games. Hell — if I was invested in to a game I would sometimes be totally alright watching my brother play for hours. I loved getting lost in those stories. I loved getting lost in the game play and challenging myself to get further and further in to the games.

This continued in to teenage years, we switched from the family friendly Nintendo to the new, edgy Xbox. My brother and I experienced Halo together playing co-op, one of the first games to ever do so, and one memory I will always cherish from our childhood. (When we initially met the Flood it was hilarious.) Knights of the Old Republic became a favorite of mine, again, story telling was a big plus for me. But as I began to get in to high school more emphasis was on my extracurriculars, and the habit waned a bit. Hey –being a theatre/choir nerd required a lot of my time!

Then came college. What was once a latent habit turned in to a full bore condition. College can be very lonely, and for someone like myself that does not make friends easily, an escape like gaming can make all the difference. Game of choice — World of Warcraft. It was perfect. An MMORPG, a place to make online friends, play with your real friends, and game all at the same time? What more could my little introverted gamer heart want! My avatar’s name was Shay, and she soon became my online persona. She was sassy and a bitch but kind-hearted once you got to know her… a spitting image of everything I wanted myself to be. I started to vibe so well with this character that eventually I wasn’t sure where the online me ended and the real me began.

My boyfriend at the time played… he was down state at another college, this is how we spent our time together. An old friend of mine from elementary school (and my now best friend) hit me up on Facebook once he found out I played WoW and we all got together and played regularly.

So this is where it starts to get a bit more serious. I didn’t have friends at my current college, my boyfriend at the time wanted to leave his college and my new best friend that I spent all my time gaming with was at a college I regularly visited so we could game together. I left that college and moved to the other one, and eventually we all ended up living together and gaming about more than half of our free time together. (Hell even if it wasn’t free time, we still gamed together.) That’s a pretty big jump right? Move colleges, move towns all because of a game? It wasn’t the only reason we moved, but it was a large part. As some people put it, it was the perfect storm. Gaming just happened to be the common denominator

So, now the gaming buds are at the same college, living together what would be better than to start a guild together?! So, to give you some background on the game there is a story line to the game, but because hundreds of thousands of people play online they start to make guilds and band together to play a certain aspect of the game. We decided raiding would be our niche and it was immensely competitive. Due to having all this free time (what were grades worth anyway?), we decided to be competitive on the realm we played. To say it was a commitment was an understatement. We were raiding 3 nights a week for 3+ hours then on top of that socializing for a decent chunk, and all of this didn’t take in to account the many hours it took to max your level, gear up, and grind gold so you could raid. I mean… if I go online to my world of warcraft acount it will tell me how many years I have played that game. Not days, not weeks, not even months… YEARS. And that… is just Shay… not my dozens of other characters.

Are you starting to see the problem? Yeah, I didn’t.

I didn’t until about 4 years ago (I am 31 now). I was giving up time to spend with a significant other to go raid. I realized how foolish that was, and stopped playing as much from that day on, but I was 27 when I FINALLY made that realization. Can you imagine if I had a substance problem? Honestly, it’s a miracle I got my degree down at college, almost all of my real life friends did not get their degrees and while gaming wasn’t a sole reason why they didn’t it absolutely was a portion as to why they never graduated (that might be a hard pill to swallow, and I am sorry for those of you I know that I offend, but it is the truth.)

Let’s put this all in to perspective, through gaming, I had two boyfriends that played this game with me… a third one if you count the married man that I met that catfished me. I moved towns… moved colleges, and built an entire persona around an online avatar. Does that sound like an addiction to you? Again, some of this is symptomatic of the real life situations I was in, but ultimately, gaming was that common denominator I keep harping about.

Did I move and grow past it? Yes I did. But you better believe every now and again, the itch rears it’s nasty head and I end up back in the bad habits. I like to call it the ‘Sims itch’. I play Sims until I’m sick of it and move on. I watch Let players on YouTube now because I’m too lazy to play those games, don’t have the time, and find the entertainers worth watching. To which now, I have this weird YouTube affinity, which is an entirely different topic but is a symptom of wanting to game, but not entirely wiling.

I realize now, growing myself in the real world is worth a lot more than doing it online. I have skills now that I have cultivated from playing the MMO, but those skills always existed in me, they were just honed due to the MMORPG. Now I create, instead of sink my time in to a game, I produce films, I’m trying to regularly write blogs, and I am always actively pursuing anything creative even if I don’t know what I am doing. I am 1000X more productive than I used to be, and I am happier and a more whole person because of it.

I am not saying that if you game extensively, you have a problem or that you aren’t a valuable member of society. What I am saying is that even knowing everything I know now, in the midst of everything, I did not realize what a problem I had and to this day I do have to keep it in check. Perspective is everything. While I wouldn’t go back and change my past due to this because it was a lesson worth learning, maybe there is someone that might benefit from seeing things from my eyes.

Hope this was entertaining if nothing else.

http://www.slideshare.net/drleighholman/internet-gaming-addiction

 

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Taking time while the Veil is Thin

I had this thought today, and it had not quite crossed my mind before. It seems like a mass number of people are really embracing Halloween. Maybe this has always been the case and I am just now seeing it on social media and the like, but it certainly has permeated the social media platforms. And why not? Halloween is fun, it’s spooky, it gives us joy, but also frightens and entices. No other holiday is quite like it, and it is very unique.

For that reason, I was thinking more about this holiday and the implications behind it. Originally, celebrated as Samhain (pronounced Sow-when) many things that we decorate our houses with (pumpkins, witch brooms, skeletons, and the like) are directly taken from this Celt/neo-Pagan tradition. As someone who celebrates this to its fullest extent, I find this time of year to be very reflective. It is a time of harvest, at time of getting prepared for the ‘darker half’ of the year, and we certainly feel this leading up to October 31st both in the weather, and in other ways as well.

The thinning of the veil is supposed to occur at this time, and The Day of the Dead is also celebrated on these days as well, but with different implications. Originally a Mexican holiday/tradition they focus more on the dead and your ancestors. Often praising them, and visiting with them they take time out of their day between October 31st and November 1st to honor those that have passed and say hello.

Before this year, I looked at the thinning of the veil as an energy charged time. I am after all a Scorpio so this time of year, even though it is getting cold, usually makes me want to adventure and energizes me to get things done. And usually my mom and I go on the 31st to a seance held in a neighboring town to maybe connect with those that have passed on. This year however, we are taking the party down south to New Orleans to celebrate Halloween for the whole week. And what better place to do it then an area rife with voodoo mysticism and those that absolutely believe in the thinning of the veil.

I am not sure what my trip holds for me this Halloween, but I am of the mind set that while Halloween is fun, that we need to be more mindful of traditions that long predate all of us. In other words, I encourage you to say hello to those that have passed on, because this might be the time of the year that they can hear you. Is this true? I’m not sure, but it never hurts to honor those that came before you and be humble in an experience that is full of energy, tradition, and history. I think we need more reminders of where we have come from, so we know the best footsteps going forward.hrekyu

And when you weren’t looking, they made Masterpieces

So, the title was a bit ambiguous, agreed, but the idea behind the article is to present you with an art form that (you may or may not) have been previously aware. Hopefully, you will do one of two things: Gain a new found appreciation for music you were not privy to before, or I will have taken you back to childhood memories. Either way, I succeed, granted that you actually listen to the music.

Video games are great. Unlike, it’s counter-part the Television and its programming, video games engage us to use our minds, solve problems, harness and enhance our hand-eye coordination, think critically, or in its simplest form transport us and our imagination, to world we weren’t aware of previously.

But what makes a game what it is? Why is it when we pull out old cartridges that say ‘Golden Eye’, ‘Super Mario 3’, or ‘Mario Kart’ does our mind begin to wander to the memories of our childhood? Or when we pull out an old Final Fantasy 7 disc, we think back to some of the best gaming we have ever experienced. Why is that? I would argue that there are a lot of aspects of gaming that go in to making a video so memorable.  Iconic imagery (ex. the Tanooki suit,) the plot, the characters, the music, the antagonists (Kefka,) how difficult it was, and at its base level, I suppose even graphics. (Remember how blown away you were with the first Halo, and how cool everything looked?)

At the inception of gaming, the games were simple. Usually far harder than anything you probably play now, and not always because the programmers purposely made it that way. It was full of faulty glitches that many people employed simply to get farther in those games, mainly because if you didn’t, you were screwed. As the industry grew it morphed in to an art form. Some games are much more artistically apt than others, but on the whole they have the markings of an actual piece of art. They are visually stunning, have unique and interesting story lines, plots, and character development that rival most famous novels today. But one key element ties the whole experience together, and for me, it’s the music in these video games.

Note: The following list is completely subjective, you may completely disagree with me, or you may want to show me another piece of music that you think has mine beat. Great! Not only do I accept that, but I encourage it. This list will be comprised of NES, SNES, N64, Xbox, Xbox 360, and computer games. These are the consoles I had available growing up, and in my later years a computer to play games in college, so I apologize beforehand Sony fans.

To start, we have the bread and butter and arguably the catapult to modern gaming, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and its iconic music. Music from this era was in 8-bit form and often times erred on the side of annoying, rather than enjoyable, but that doesn’t make it any less iconic. Let’s take for example, the introduction theme to Zelda — The Overworld theme (Legend of Zelda — Overworld Theme). Regardless of if you know this game, and even if you haven’t played the franchise this theme is famous enough to evoke feelings of nostalgia… or at least make you think… Huh, I’ve heard this before… That was somewhat the motif of the music from the NES. It was made to grab your attention and associate it with the product it was attempting to promote.

Fast forward and you get people attempting to make real music in this form…

Battletoads

Mega Man

Final Fantasy III

With battletoads, you no doubt feel the awesomeness coupled with the dread of this fucking game theme. Great game,but dear lord… it kicked your ass. I remember countless hours spent trying to play this game, and in hindsight… I did really well for a seven year old me. With a little luck, a lot of praying, and only a quarter of actual gaming talent, I could get past those surfing levels.

Mega man and Final Fantasy start to bring things up a notch. Not only do you begin to feel the game with this, you also get in to the scenes they are portraying. Mega Man, you feel the ferocity of the scenario you’ve been dumped in, and with Final Fantasy you Feel that wind of the Eternal Winds.

Then we move on to the Super Nintendo, and for those of you around my age (nearing 30, or past) this one will hit home. This was the first real console for me in all aspects. The first one I became decent at console gaming with, the first console I spent countless hours on, and this console still holds my favorite game of all time (Final Fantasy VI.) So, I can sit here and tell you what fun my first RPG was, I could also go on and on about how great games like Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island, and Donkey Kong were, but the real thing that drives home those games to me now is when I revisit the music from these games.

FFVI — Terra’s Theme

Mega Man X — Storm Eagle

Donkey Kong Country 2 — Sticker Brush Symphony

Now with all of these themes, I made sure I went with the original version from the games so that you get the feeling that gamers did when we first played it. These songs all have various versions from which they deviate (orchestral versions, acapella, etc.) and I encourage you to look them up if you like them, but I want you to experience them in this ‘pure’ form.

Terra’s theme, compels you and transports you to travel and move forward. In Final Fantasy VI it is one of the first major themes you are graced with, and even though it is simple it is moving. After having experienced all of the hard ships Terra goes through, for the gamer, this theme hits home for this particular character. A perfect piece for capturing this character’s elements.

Mega Man X in general just is an awesome game, and I could not honestly pick one theme I liked more over the other. I went with the Storm Eagle theme. It’s very up beat, epic, very iconic for the franchise, and sadly will be the last Mega Man piece I’ll talk about in the article.

Lastly, and my favorite, is the Stickerbrush Symphony piece from Donkey Kong Country 2. First of all, if there is a game that encompasses my childhood, this would be it.This piece of music, is so soothing, coupled with this particular level is spot on. It makes you feel the level… it even invites you to sit there and just take it all in. I will listen to this song in the car, at night trying to go to sleep, or in any other capacity that I see fit (I’m listening to it now while I write, for example.) It’s just a damn good song, and for how old it is it still definitely holds up. If you ever want an original gaming experience but don’t want to break the bank emulate Donkey Kong Country 2 and have a blast. It’s seriously worth everyone’s time, you will not be disappointed.

For the last portion of this particular article, because as usual when I get involved and excited about something I write too much, I will showcase the N64 gaming console. The older brother to the SNES this console really started to show the world what it had to offer in terms of gaming. Better graphics, more in depth plots, and with this comes better music to help set the mood for you.

Mario Kart 64 — Rainbow Road

Ocarina of Time — Gerudo Valley

Super Mario 64 — Water Levels

These three songs really start to take off in terms of quality. The audio is so much better and the complexity has gone up as well. With all of the new generation properties the N64 brought to the plate, it also helped with promoting that music. All three of these themes you should be familiar with, if you are not, I am sorry you did not have a better childhood. No, I’m only kidding, but really if you’ve ever even nonchalantly played a Mario game or been at a party and watched people play Mario Kart then these themes should be roughly familiar to you.

Rainbow Road and Gerudo valley are hallmarks of those games. Not necessarily the best level or part of the game, but in my opinion are the catchiest themes these games offer. And much like the Stickerbrush Symphony, the Jolly Roger Bay (water levels) theme from Mario 64 is just a well done piece of music.

Each song invites you to the place it inhabits. Gerudo valley sounds like a getaway, fast paced, albeit eastern influenced type of song. When paired with the end level and desert portion of this Zelda game it helps capture the severity and amp up the seriousness. Rainbow road is just a fun loving, ethereal sounding clip. It simply oozes Mario and Nintendo. The last piece with Jolly Roger Bay from Mario 64 is the most peculiar because you do not expect such a peaceful and beautiful piece. It’s reminiscent of an ocean side or beach to me, which is exactly what they wanted to capture.

Hopefully this helped to broaden your horizons a bit. Hell, if you want a tl:dr just click the links enjoy the music for the 2-3 minutes it plays before it may loop, give it a chance. I promise you in all of those links there is a song for everybody. While video games may not be for everyone, music certainly is at the heart of most people’s souls. We, generally, can all find common ground within music. Some may argue video games are only a fool’s attempt at an art form, but I hope I helped show you just how wrong that assumption can be. Couple great music with artistic graphics, a compelling story and your imagination and you now understand a bit why so many people love to game.

Next time we’ll get in to computer games… old and new, and the newer console games. Thanks for stopping by…

-Shay