One part of me is surprised that I'm writing here to begin with. Another part of me couldn't be less shocked. I've been addictively gaming for fifteen or twenty years now. I remember when I was first introduced to online computer games in 4th or 5th grade, to Diablo 2 and Warcraft III. The feeling of genuine excitement, the release into the game. My friend Greg introduced me, and we would have sleepovers where we would spend ceaseless hours playing these games. My friendships in early adolescence were totally focused on gaming. It was incredible to finally have people I could be close to and to have something that we could concentrate on together.
When I went to middle school my friendships with other boys became a lot more fraught. The onset of puberty came with it the realization of my sexuality (I'm gay.) Puberty is hard on its own, but being gay as an online gamer and as a 12 year old in a pretty socially conservative environment, that is harder. The categorical feedback I got both in my real life social circles and in my online social circles was that being gay could not be more of a joke at best, and at worst, it was a shameful abomination. Words can't describe the daily humiliation I felt because I knew I was gay. I remember the moment I realized, probably 11 years old. I looked up at the ceiling late at night alone in bed, "How could this be real? Why me?" I heard, saw, and read the word fag daily for probably 9 years in different gaming environments and at school. I absorbed that feedback and internalized a trenchant homophobia. At the same time, however I invested further and further into the respite that immersive online games provided. I'll never forget first playing World of Warcraft. The image of my Undead rogue running through a forest is indelibly printed in my mind. It was freedom.
In high school I did everything I could to spend every hour I had available playing games. I made a couple friends, got good grades because I was smart enough to skate by with minimal effort and barely any hard work. I actually excelled. I was respected by the teachers at my school as a good kid, I did plenty of after school activities, and got into some good colleges. All the while, I was nursing this addiction. I was explicilty using online games as a way to kill the time of my life until I could leave for college. In my mind, I could be gay in college--I could have relationships, be out, and it would all be OK. I think even some part of me thought I could stop gaming-ha!
I came out the day I graduated high school, and every single person in my life was supportive. Lo and behold it was I who was imagining that everyone would have a hard time with my being gay. The summer after high school was pretty great. I had friends who supported me AND I could endlessly game. It was the best of both worlds. Then I left for college. I went to a school and was a part of an inordinately rigorous undergraduate program. I had zero time to do anything but focus on my classes. I also lived in a tiny dorm with two other boys. I had no time or space to game. The crutch I had relied on in hard times was suddenly totally gone. And boy did it show. I had never experienced the kind of misery I did that year. Depression does not begin to describe it. I remember once being so depressed that I needed to stop walking up a flight of stairs midway, and sit down alone so I could gather the strength to continue (dramatic I know, but unfortunately real).
Long story short I ended up transferring schools and moving to New York. I had more time to game now, and the program I was in allowed me to be a lot happier.
What's funny is that throughout high school and after I transferred schools, I was in talk therapy. Yes, that's years and years of therapy, and yet my video game addiction was NEVER brought up or taken seriously. I mentioned at times that I perhaps gamed a bit too much, and maybe my mom might have mentioned it to my high school therapist, but the idea that it could have been a severe detriment to me was never broached. I would type the /timeplayed command, or look at other means of gauging the time invested in whatever game I was playing. Each time, a staggering number. If I had to guess how much of my 27 years of life has been spent with me just staring straight at a computer in a game, I'd have to say at least 5 years straight, if not more. That's like a prison sentence.
I'm 27 now, and I have pretty sustainable happiness in my life. I have a boyfriend, we've been together for two years and we live together. And still I game. He's seen my excessive gaming and has expressed concerns to me about it. Sometimes earnestly so, to the point where I can't help but take it seriously. At those times an incredible embarassment and shame overcomes me. The fact that I've let this part of my life get so out of hand. I guess that's what addiction is. I have a career that I am focused on, and I can not waste any more time gaming. At a time in my life when I need to double down on my commitment to my career, my relationships, and my future, I need to excise this part of my life that has been nothing but a distraction rooted in my past.
I'm hoping this website can be a good resource for me. Thanks for reading.