Hi my name is Chris and I rationalize the hell out of my video game use. I spent time early typing up a bunch of stuff differentiating types of video games into different categories and then deciding I wanted to abolish two completely and preserve the other two. That, or I can give myself an hour or an hour and a half every day or other day to play something. I keep wanting to add contingencies on my wish to stop playing video games, qualifications.
I just need to stop.
With any addiction that I've overcome in the past I've found that cold turkey has always worked best. To make a mental commitment, that never comes at once but is built up over time, and then live that commitment. I'm 30 years old and have been hooked on methadone from the ages 20-24, but also have smoked cigarettes/cigars for years at a time and have smoked weed for several years as well, currently.
I've pretty well broken free of a lot of addictive behaviors and drugs, and now the only two things really inhibiting me from being a truly responsible adult (in my warped mind) would be to stop smoking reefer and, I feel much more importantly, to quit getting sucked into video games.
Lately it's been Smite on the ps4, but I usually will fill the void with some kind of game. The story of my life since the age of 13 is also the story of what games I played and for how long. I became deeply embedded in the Starcraft community when the game first was released. I shifted my focus to Diablo 2 when blizzard released that, and then I had bouts with games here and there. Most notably was Starsiege Tribes when I broke my foot at the age of 25 and spent that time healing and rediscovering that old game. That community became more real and important to me than anything going on in my life. I was never especially good looking or popular, and games were a way for me to be humorous, charismatic, and charming without having to be self-conscious about my looks. Online communities were just a better place for me growing up. Playing Tribes as an adult though reignited that fire that Starcraft originally set ablaze. That drive to be competetive and the rush one gets when one does very well. The positive feedback cycle is intense in some of these games, and that rush can be so extremely overstimulating that real life seems so dull after using games.
When I discovered League of Legends I had no idea what kind of game a MOBA was. I thought it was like an MMORPG, and I had never played one before. Growing up I always fantasized about games like MMORPG's, but when Everquest came out I just thought that the technology hadn't come far enough yet and resolved to wait until something more immersive was available. I put that on the sidelines for a long time, and even ignored World of Warcraft's success. I saw what that game was doing to people though, and it helped keep me away from it. Well eventually I went out looking for one of these games after Tribes had run its course and the communty had grown very sour to me. I found League of Legends under a false pretense and played one game of it, completely uncertain of what the hell I was doing. I started to catch on as the game went on, and then on the next match did even worse. On the third I began to understand what the game was all about, and I distinctly remember warning myself, "This is the type of game you could really get involved in," in a unmistakably cautionary tone. I even left town right after that initial discovery. I went and visited my Dad for over a week and then I came back and went straight to a game I had never really played but knew I wanted to play more of. I played League for a good while after that, probably a couple of years. I'd play Tribes Ascend here and there too, and maybe some Smite, but League was my bread and butter.
I was living with my Mom at this time, and hadn't had a satisfying relationship in a very long time. I was pretty depressed at this point of my life, and excessive gaming was a good way to ignore that stress and hide from it. But about 3 years ago that all changed. I eventually got full-time at my job and was able to move out to a house with co-workers down the street from my Mother's apartment. The sad thing is, after a few months of hanging out in my room playing retro games, I decided I'd ride my bike up to my Mom's apartment and play League on her computer while she watched TV. Just like before I moved out. One day I was doing this and I got a text from my roommate. This text came just as a League match ended, and it said that Amy was over at the house. Amy was a girl at work that I had a crush on and was trying to get to come hang out for the longest time. For longer than a year. She was finally there though of her own volition and here I was at my Mom's house up the street. I didn't miss a beat though. I hopped on my bike and rode home, and now Amy and I are newly engaged and will be married in 14 months.
She has always been accepting of my online gaming habits. I've controlled it fairly well since we started dating, but there have been plenty of bouts of League of Legends, or Diablo 2 or 3, or Smite, or Fallout since we've been together. The best time is when she goes to bed, then I'll stay up until 2 or 2:30 and get 5 and a half hours of sleep before getting up to go to school and work and then to it all again the next night.
It has become too big of a hindrance in my life though. Amy once told me that there's a story about a guy who was sitting in a bar hitting himself in the head with a hammer over and over. The barkeep comes up and asks Oi mate, why are you bashing yourself in the head with that hammer? The guy says, "Because it feels so good when I stop." Well I'm tired of engineering situations to resolve my way out of. I feel like it doesn't matter which game I'm addicted to, but that it is some game.
I can rationalize all day about how "good" I am at some games, or how the aggression and competition keeps me mentally sharp, or that it's a release for pent up aggression and that a little bit of gaming here and there will benefit me in the long run. I can make a thousand excuses to keep some semblance of gaming in my life, but could I just stop? Could I just keep all my video games that I own as artifacts? Would I need to sell them, and my whole retro gaming collection? Can I ever learn to budget a reasonable amount of time to online games, or just single player games, or should I go cold turkey for a year and then resolve to figure out what place video games should have in my life?
I learned about OLGA today for the first time. I was sitting in a philosophy class that I'm auditing and something got them talking about DMS-5 and I got on the laptop and somehow wound up reading about the 9 signs of video-game addiction. 8 of them applied directly to me. The other one, about hiding/downplaying the behavior, I at first figured no, but then later realized yes, I would minimize it. So this got me thinking and that led me here and here I am writing out a wall of text. In this day and age it is difficult for people to get the focus on themselves. People pay therapists for the chance to talk about themselves and have the other person not change the subject or shift the focus instead. I come here to a forum of strangers not quite sure what to expect, but hopeful that someone had taken a moment to read this far, and that perhaps they see themselves a little bit here and there. I hope that maybe someone can agree that this sh** is hard, and that it's not like being addicted to a drug, it's something a little different. I'm not sure if video game addiction is a disorder on it's own or a symptom of a deeper dissatisfaction.
I graduate in a year and want to go on to get my PhD in philosophy, but I feel like video games will be a stress-factor and a potential hindrance to my education. All the time when I play Smite or whatever it is I'm playing I am regretful because I could be reading one of the many books I have to read, or that I could be studying, or that I could be paying attention to my beautiful Fiance, or that I could be playing with my dogs or rats or exercising. Video games seem to be the major thing I need to eliminate in my life, and this is the first time I have ever been able to admit that video games have become a serious problem for me. Serious. I need to type that.
Part of the difficulty of the situation arises from the refusal to confront it. Maybe, if nothing else, this will serve to allow me to begin the process of confronting the beast, the elephant in the room.
What is it about online games that makes me tick? How meaningful is that rush that I get when I outsmart and outplay two or three, or sometimes even four and five, other perfectly capable, intelligent human beings? How real is that sense of pride I get when I have become well-known enough in a community that my reputation precedes me and somebody recognizes me and acknowledges a respect for my playstyle and skill without ever having played against me? How will I give all that up, permanently?
I try to tell myself to focus on the amazing future ahead, and the path I've chosen for myself, but video games have historically also been a tool self-destruction. I have used them to ignore many problems that grew and became much more significant problems. I guess what I'm saying is that I fear a relapse coming on strong and me really messing up in my future. Like I'm working on my dissertation and suddenly I get consumed by some new and totally amazing immersive VR experience, or I just get sucked back into Tribes.
I feel like there's a big weight off my shoulders now though. I feel better having been able to tell my story here. Thanks to whoever has read through my rambling. I haven't ever articulated this much concern towards the subject before. It's mostly been a hidden thing, an elephant in the room. To be able to get it out is nice. Thanks for listening, y'all.
We can learn from our past to better shape our future.