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NEW VIDEO: I Quit MMOs and THIS Happened

Handling Hyde


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Hello everyone, I'm Jekyll.


I'm a third-year medical student who's been addicted to video games for the past 14 years. I suppose in the beginning it wasn't addiction -- more like an escape. What I’ve learned of psychology would suggest that it started as a coping mechanism after my parents split, but when combined with my family history of gambling addiction, the outcome is really no surprise. By my senior year of high school I was working 2 jobs, yet still found a way to  average nearly 6.5 hours a day over the course of the year. Weekends and summers were always worse. My sleep took a pretty big toll. My grades never took a toll though. Admittedly, I rarely did homework, but fortunately advanced classes cared more about test grades than homework grades. It was by this saving grace that I managed to graduate with a 4.6 GPA on a 5.0 scale.


When college started, I was highly motivated. Even though I did well in high school, I knew I wasn't reaching my full potential. (As my story progresses you'll see this become a common theme). I was no longer working 2 jobs and, frankly, 18 college credits is less time intensive than high school, so I still played about 6 to 7 hours a day. At least I was finally trying hard in school. And it paid off; I managed to get into a top 40 medical school.


There's a saying that it takes 10,000 hours to master a subject. It’s not surprising that residency training (training that determines what specialty a doctor goes into) consists of 9,000 - 21,000 hours (3-7 years) depending on the specialty. By the age of 21, I had already accrued nearly 26,000 hours of in-game time. I don't want it to sound as if I regret all of my time playing video games. I think it served an indispensable role in my childhood.  Not only was it an escape, but it taught me  game theory and logic and expanded my vocabulary to name a few things. But I had long since “mastered” and entered obsession.


In anticipation of starting medical school, I binged all summer long. I decided that I would quit video games when school started and give it everything I got. At first many hours each day were spent studying. After 2 months, I got into a groove and had more free time. Around this time all of my friends started playing a video game, so I decided to join them. Some had played this game before, but I was brand new to it. Over the course of the next year and a half I managed to surpass all of my friends to become the highest ranked among us. I, by far, played the most the group. And slowly my grades slipped from being an above average student, to an average student, to a below average student. I never failed. And at no point was I concerned I would fail. But I was just coasting through school and coasting through life.


At the end of our first two years of school we take one of the most important tests of our career: Step 1. To put into perspective how important this test is: one’s score on the exam can instantly remove him/her from a number of competitive specialties. By scoring at or below average, one has restricted what specialties he or she is able to get into. This removes the surgical subspecialties like Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Urology, ENT, and Plastics, as well as Dermatology and Radiation Oncology as possible career options. (Fortunately, I’m not interested in any of these fields at this time, but it still limits what programs you have a shot at). In fact the test is so important you get 6 weeks off of school to study. I truly gave it my best effort. I studied 10-12 hours a day; every day I'd come home and my brain was fried. I relaxed by playing an hour or two of games, made dinner for me and my now wife, and we’d watch a show for an hour before bed. This was probably the only time during my entire medical education that I felt I truly had my gaming under moderation and had a superb work ethic. Unfortunately, by coasting for the prior 2 years there was little I could do to overcome my knowledge deficit in 6 weeks. If only I had more time I could have done better -- achieved my potential. In the end I would score in the 37th percentile, below average.


Now I want to add the disclaimer that there's nothing wrong with being below average.  In fact, there must be people below average in order for anyone to be above average. That's simply the way math works! But I know I wasn't fulfilling my potential. Third year is a little different because you're spending time in the hospital and not in the classroom. Your grade depends heavily upon your interactions with your supervising doctors, as well as your interactions with patients. However, up to 30% of the grade during each rotation is determined by an exam within that specialty (known as a shelf exam). And, notably, the work schedule is more rigorous: 60 - 80 hours a week.


Fueled by my work ethic during my dedicated Step 1 study time, I started third year with intense focus and intent to do well on all of these shelf exams. But third year was a different beast. Most days I got home exhausted, and had no energy to study. I found a way sometimes, but being judged for every minute while you work is difficult to keep up with. Near the end of the year, most of my rotations started with me recovering from the previous shelf exam and ending in me cramming for the next one. Over these 3 years of medical school I’ve managed to tack on another 2,500 gaming hours to my counter.


Now I'm in my final set of rotations to end third year. In fact, the only shelf exam I have left is my internal medicine exam. Some might argue this is the most important as it makes up the majority of the material that will be found on the Step 2 exam. While a solid score on Step 2 can repair an application with a poor Step 1 score, it will never be as competitive as having done well on both exams. Thus, doing poorly on Step 1 and amazing on Step 2 still makes applying competitively an uphill battle.


So here I am at the end of my third year aspiring to become something better, aspiring to fulfill my potential.


Days free of Hyde: 8

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I was on call today (14hr shift) so I'm pretty fried. I think the two days that I have the hardest time not gaming are call days and my day off each week. 

On my call day, it's a matter of being exhausted and not wanting to do other things like reading for fun. On my day off, I've actually managed to be fairly productive on my day off last week and spent more time with my wife and dog. But near the end of the day I still need to find something to relax, but also something that I know won't get out of control. Namely video games, Youtube videos about video games, and Youtube videos in general. I guess for now mind-numbing television will fill the role, but I'm not a huge fan of that either. Reading is proving to be really fun, but it's just too hard after a whole day of typing, reading, and learning.

Days free of Hyde: 9

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I'm coming up on the 2 week mark and I think I'm having less frequent cravings, but when I do have them they are even stronger than before. Admittedly this isn't my first attempt at quitting. I made it almost 2 whole months at the beginning of  first year, but then my subsequent 2 attempts didn't last longer than a week. In looking at smoking addiction, I've read some literature that it takes most users an average of 6-7 attempts to completely quit. So I guess technically I'm hoping to beat the odds on this one. 

I also fear that I've started eating more since quitting and I'm already up 40 pounds over the past 3 years. Idk if I have the willpower to tackle both of these things at once. At the very least I know I need to be more active.

When trying to combat addiction it's important to analyze what makes one addicted. What compels one to relapse? I think Cam came up with good starting list, but I think it's worthwhile to update for myself.

- A temporary escape: this was never a big draw for me, but I can definitely relate to needing some down time. It's is to fire on all cylinders every waking moment of the day. I'm still looking for something to fulfill that role for me, but it's easy to pick TV in the meantime since I'm not dying to address it.

- Constant measurable growth: this is a huge one for me. "The grind". There's something so satisfying about achieving goals, even when they're meaningless. I feel like I thrive off competition and need to be the best, and crave that signal or that achievement that proves to others my skill. I've tried to translate this grind to my studies. For starters, it's an indirect measure which was less satisfying. You don't get to walk around real life with a border that says "I'm X level" or "I'm rank X among all of you". As far as I know our school doesn't publish rankings, but working with people day in and day out gives you a good sense of their working knowledge/level (this is an important distinction from test taking knowledge where you are given 5 options and one of them has to be the right answer). Over the past 2 weeks I've been able to see a measurable improvement in my understanding compared to my peers, just by taking a little extra time (1-2hrs nightly) to study. Most of medical school requires you to have an intrinsic sense of achievement -- you have to feel good about knowing you did well -- rather than getting any kind of external praise. Because no one will give it to you. You're expected to do well. The only time anyone pays attention is if you start to slip.

- A challenge: There are many ways one could interpret a challenge, but I think the way I want to interpret this is "requiring skill". I have played games that are challenging because there are certain chance modifiers such that you win if you get lucky and lose if you don't, and your progress is dictated by this luck rather than skill. This is my #1 hardest craving -- skill. Unfortunately, knowledge counts more as a grind than as a skill, and even so it's somewhat indirect unless you have a list of rankings based on your knowledge. Skill in this setting would be things like will power and work ethic. Which is even harder to measure than knowledge and even more difficult to compare. So it's hard for me to place any value in using knowledge/achievement as a metric of skill. In spite of this being the thing I love most about games, I have yet to replace it. And I think this is the greatest source of my cravings now. I need something that one can be skilled in that is measurable and have the opportunity to display that skill in a 1vs1 type scenario. I truly miss having an avenue to go head to head and prove my skill over another person. I need that adrenaline rush that comes with making a split-second decision that can turn everything in your favor. My wife and I have talked about starting karate, but our schedules make it difficult for us to both make it to the same classes.

- Social: I've been fortunate enough to have great friends to support me during this. Sure some of them tell me to stop this nonsense and come back to gaming, but a few of them can respect my struggle and I still voice chat with them every couple days. Humans are a social being, I'm not gonna give up my friends just cuz I wanna give up gaming. We'll chat about work, school, life. Doesn't have to be about games.

-Fine motor skills (my own, not in Cam's original description): I need something to replace this. I'm interested in general surgery, so eventually I will have an outlet for this. But in the meantime I need to find something to do working with my hands and where small precise movements matter. This includes elements like skill and measurable growth, but it also needs to be physical; something to hold me over for another 2 years until I can utilize sublimation (psychology term) as an outlet.

Days free of Hyde: 11

P.s. I don't intend for all of these posts to be so long when I start. I just get carried away.

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I can tell you without a doubt from my own personal experiences that karate was one of, if not the best, replacement for gaming I have ever done. I picked it up again while I was in college and stepping away from gaming and it definitely filled my need for constant measureable growth, overcoming challenges, and competing with others. Pick it up if you can, you won’t regret it!

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