Story of a former gamer

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Billmatic
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Story of a former gamer

Hey guys,

I just stumbled across this Web site tonight after doing a little Wikipedia-ing to procrastinate off some homework. I typed "Everquest" into the entry box to relive some old memories, and naturally the story of Shawn Woolley came up.

That eventually brought me to here.

After reading a few posts, I thought it would be both therapeutic for me and hopefully serve as inspiration to someone else if I share the story of my own personal struggles with online gaming.

It all started with me back in that awkward anticipatory summer between grade school graduation and the start of high school. I was roaming the mall one day with a friend, when I saw Ultima Online perched on a shelf at my local Electronics Boutique store. I had a pretty hefty cache of lawn-mowing money already saved up, and I was vehemently desperate for a summer game (It was already nearly July), so I was willing to take a gamble on a mystery game. I threw down $40 for it, installed the software on my old school Pentium I 166 mHz, and secured my dad's credit card.

Little did I know that I was about to do social damage to myself that I still deal with today. (I'm now 22 and a senior in college)

But allow me to rewind a little for the sake of giving you all some necessary background info, because I have a feeling there might be a few teens reading this who feel like I once did.

In middle school, to say that I was skinny and short wouldn't really do me justice. I was probably the latest bloomer in my class, and just to give you an idea of how bad it truely was: I didn't grow past 5 feet until the start of my junior year of high school. That said, I was picked on to literally no end. But don't get the impression that I was some awkward geek. I was that kid who was the lowest in ranking among the popular crowd, and I was a starter on two championship soccer teams.

Doesn't sound that bad, right?

Wrong. I was a punching bag on about three different levels.

I was the butt of every imaginable joke from the cool kids and the recipient of countless swirlies (head in the toilet) and bloody noses during recess. On the soccer field, I was thrown around, abused, and disrespected. And to top it off, the teachers hated me because I blew off homework and got horrendous grades.

I can distinctly remember one night when I was in the fifth grade, lying in bed and praying to God through my tears that I'd wake up a different person.

How jacked up is that? A fifth-grader having an identity crisis.

I'm sure you all know where this story goes now.

UO (Ultima Online) gave me an identity for the summer. I would log on and I could be the person who people feared. I could have friends who respected me. I could reverse the tables. I didn't realize this was the game's attraction to me at the time, but I know all too well now. I'll give you the highlights of my obsessive playing habits: up until 5am when my dad left for work, 10 hours a day probably, and I once cried my eyes out when a theif stole my house. The game became my reality and I didn't hangout with a single classmate that summer.

Luckily, my dad was smart enough to disallow credit card access. And that made freshman year fairly fruitful. I didn't make the soccer team because I was so out of shape from sitting around all summer that I could barely run the length of the field. But it didn't matter. My dad saved me to some extent. I made new friends and wasn't picked on nearly as much.

But sophomore year rolled around and I still looked like a 12-year-old. I was very much the late bloomer, standing at a mere 4 foot 11. Girls in my grade had a deeper voice than I did.

I became ultra self-concious of my body and voice. I stopped talking in class and to my peers, who all as a result thought I was weird and began picking on me rather than hanging out with me. I had zero self confidence and by November I was eating my lunch alone in the libary.

So what did I do?

The absolute worst thing imaginable. I bought Everquest.

You all seem to focus very heavily on the reprocussions these games have on adults. I mean no disrespect when I say this, but it looms in comparison of what these online universes can do to a troubled teen.

I became Ralas. I was a rogue. I was in a guild. I didn't have to feel guilty about sitting at home on the weekends not having anything to do. It let me shutout all the bad things. I didn't deal with them. I ignored them. I essentially shut off my development as a person. I should have been learning to be a man and deal with my shortcomings, but instead I was camping out items and developing a fictional person.

Again, I won't bore you with my obsessive playing stories - that's not the purpose of this post.

My identity existed only in a fictional world until my junior year of HS, when my dad disallowed credit card access for the second time and forced me to join the cross country team. I had to re-learn how to interact with my peers because I had been shut off from the world for a year. Luckily, I made a few friends who were nice enough people to associate themselves with me. But that didn't matter. Socially, I was still on probably a seventh grade level.

I was awkward. I still rarely ever talked. I never spoke in class and I had absolutely no self confidence to speak of.

I got to be a senior and I had a pretty impressive array of friends, but they all only liked me because I wasn't being myself. I didn't know how to be myself. I didn't know who I was. I only knew how to be likeable and unassertive.

I was also the ugly duckling of our class, meaning that by that time I was going into senior year I had grown to be 5'10. To put it simply, I had grown into a very attractive face and was getting attention from every girl in my class. But I was completely oblivious. I never even considered myself worthy of a girl's attention, not until I was in college. I never kissed a girl until my third year at school.

It wasn't until about a year or so ago that I actually found myself and my identity. Though, I still am not comfortable enough with myself to be in a serious relationship. I just feel a little bit weird inside about a few things - all of which came during that horrid year of high school that I shut myself off. I've never really had a girlfriend, but I have had a decent amount of sexual experiences.

I'm sorry for the long-windedness, but the point that I'm trying to get at is: there's hope for you no matter how far down your rope you may be. I remember after my dad canceled my EQ account, not wanting to be alive.

But do you know what? I'm glad I had those dark, friend-less experiences of sitting alone in front of my computer, and someday you will as well. They put a serious chip on my shoulder, and now I don't settle for anything less than the best from myself. They made me intensely understanding of other people and their struggles, and they also made very capable of introspection.

I'm an award-winning, published writer now, and I attribute my accomplishments fully to the introspective thought processes that I learned in those dark days when I had to figure out life and who I was.

For those of you who have just stopped gaming and don't know how you're going to suture back together your life, I offer you this:

Read James 1: 2-5, even if you're not religious. The scripture basically states that trials and tribulations of even the toughest nature should be considered a joy rather than a suffering, because harsh difficulty in life is only a building block for self esteem and the highest level of character.

And I can fully attest to its truthfulness.

Xandtar
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Re: Story of a former gamer

I am glad to hear that you have found a way to turn lemons into lemonade.

Good luck to you.

Leveling in Real Life

Faxlite2
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Joined: 08/14/2006 - 12:47am
Whew!

Thanks. I needed that. I had been wrestling with the biggest jonesing of my non-gaming life. I was about three seconds away from getting World of Warcraft again, and then I read your story, which varied in particulars from my own, but the general theme is consistent. Those CDs are in several pieces in the next room for a reason!

Andrew

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Re: Whew!

beautiful story, thank you!

------------------
What you think, you create. What you say, you produce. What you do, you call forth more of.

SnowWhite
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Re: Whew!

Good job there. FYI - I was a 4'10 cheerleader, cross country runner, science club president, etc. getting trashcanned. I was popular, in the fact that everyone knew me, and it made no difference. I sometimes was introverted too. Thankfully, I outgrew insecurities at that time, but boy, are they back now. It's amazing how someone else's video gaming habit can drag you down.

"This is the end...." The Doors

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