I said before that this has gone too far. I put in my bio that I spent $1300 in a week on one game. I did not mention that there are other games with other purchases over $100. I did not mention the dozen or so offline games that I don't have to wait for. I did not mention being so physically ill the last time I avoided my phone for a day that I couldn't get out of bed. I did not mention that I even silence my phone so I can play during church service.
I also didn't mention that in November 2012 I had major surgery to remove a tumor stuck to my brain stem. The operation left me dead in my left ear, permanently paralyzed the left side of my face, and destroyed my sense of balance. One week after the surgery, I was back in the hospital dying from bacterial meningitis and had my head opened up a second time to clean out the infected tissue and replace the synthetic bone that covers the hole in my skull. After dying twice within a 13-hour period, I was given a new outlook on life. The trouble I was in with the Army went away in favor of an honorable medical discharge that sees me paid quite handsomely each month. I latched on to my family and we were happier than we had ever been before (or since). Then, after I was retired, we moved back to my hometown and everything just went to complete crap. There are no jobs here that I can do because of my physical limitations and I can't help much at home for the same reason, so I decided to use my GI Bill and get that nice BAH check each school month. My first semester saw me with a 3.73 GPA and I was accepted into Phi Theta Kappa honor society, which was great. I ended up finding a part time independent contractor job assembling merchandise for Home Depot, which was also great. Then I started playing an old Bioware favorite in my spare time, which wasn't much at that point, but it wasn't long before I started skipping work some days to play and waiting until my Thursday deadline each week before hastily assembling all the stuff I'd allowed to pile up. My work got sloppy and I lost the job, which meant I couldn't afford the rent and utilities at our beautiful Bluff Estates 5-bed 2.5-bath home anymore. We moved to a run-down 3-bed dump in a drug-infested neighborhood across town because it was all I could afford now. At the time, a total of 14 people lived together in that hole, including me, my wife, and our five children. Did this wake me up to my problem? Of course not! It wasn't my fault. Bad things happen sometimes, right? I may have lost my beautiful house, but at least I still had my high-end gaming PC. So, right back to Dragon Age: Origins I went. Then, about a month later, I discovered a new poison: 3D action MMORPGs available for Android, free to play. It was love at first sight, I thought. I just had to try one. Problem was, I had one of those $45 low-end jobs from Straight Talk that couldn't run a GBC emulator without severe lag. So I did what any reasonable person would do: I overdrafted my checking account via a PayPal debit card to get an unlocked Galaxy Mega 2 Duos on Amazon. It wasn't enough, still too slow to play server-sided. I gave the Galaxy to my wife and dug deeper into Amazon until I found my current device, the Blu Pure XL. Now I could play anything I wanted with no issues and had 128gb of storage to install as many ridiculously heavy apps as I could find. I was in throes of ecstasy! So many new games to try, so little time... I receded into my own world, cutting off almost all interaction with everyone around me, and began feeding my addiction in earnest. It didn't take long, though, for me to run into the big problem with those free to play games. You start off making progress at a decent pace, then out of nowhere you hit a wall and can't proceed without some serious character enhancement. So, you have two choices: wait for days or weeks to grind out enough levels at your current stage to continue, or top up on whatever premium in-app currency the game offers while earning some nice VIP gear and benefits for your trouble. I have ADHD, so patience is not a virtue of mine. I started off small, only buying the bare minimum I needed to progress, but shortly grew tired of having to do this more and more often. I went to Google to do some research and found an app called Lucky Patcher. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Lucky Patcher promises to remove license verification and Google Ads from apps, but the real kicker is being able to patch the idea for free in-app purchases. With this downloaded and installed, I set to work applying patches left and right, obviously elated to stick it to the developers by getting all their sweet perks for nothing. But, the patches don't always work. Most server-sided games are immune to this tactic, so I was disappointed and back to buying small packages again. It just wasn't enough! I wasn't progressing fast enough and even worse, I'd never catch those guys in the top ranks. I knew my wife would kill me, with justification, if I spent large sums on stupid phone games, so I kept experimenting with patch combinations and settings until I finally found what I thought was the correct formula to buy from my favorite game, Dark Ares, for free. I tested a purchase and voila! A successful purchase of the $100 diamond recharge package without even seeing the Play Store interface. I went crazy and kept repeating the purchase until I got a "purchase unsuccessful" message. At this point, my biggest worry was that the game had caught on to what I was doing and that my account was sure to be banned, but the truth was so much more horrifying. It turns out that, since I had been using my Google account to sign in to the game, the server redirected all the unsigned purchases through each of the payment methods on my account until one went through. The message I received came when I had unknowingly spent nearly every dollar in every account I have. I did not discover this until my debit card was declined when I tried to pay for my wife's prescription pain meds, which she desperately needed. I checked every account and they were all empty or overdrawn. That brings us to the present day and why I'm here, because even after all this, I continue to play. I continue to eye that recharge option with greed, waiting for my next check to come in so I can top up again and take back the #1 spot on the server. I still play for countless hours, made worse by the fact that the server is based in the Philippines so all the events take place late at night through the wee hours of the morning. I still ignore my family, neglect my home, and forget my school assignments just so I can log a little more screen time. I smoke two packs a day now, because smoking gives me an excuse to go into my basement, where I can play unmolested by the incessant nagging of an embittered wife and the constant cacophony of small children destroying the house unsupervised because the nagging, 34-week pregnant wife is busy or on doctor-mandated bedrest. I lash out with hatred and malice at anyone who dares interrupt my PvP matches. I scramble to find my portable charger when my phone is about to die, just so I won't have to stop playing while it charges. My current record is 7 days without food, sleep, or a shower and the hallucinations were terrible, like my temper. I've never met another person as deep into this as I am, but I've heard the stories and they usually end with someone dying for nothing. I can't keep on like this, but considering quitting my games now fills me with such icy terror like nothing else on Earth ever could. Games have been my only constant companion for my entire life, since I was five years old with Super Mario and Duck Hunt. I can't even begin to imagine life without gaming. Is there hope for me? Can I someday set down my phone without feeling sick for lack of it?
The things I counted once for gain now I count for loss.