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.
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.