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Matt S

My Gaming Addiction Story

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Hi Everyone,

I'm here today because I'm addicted to video games.  I'm here today because I want to be a part of a community who understands my struggle with gaming and won't try to convince me that I need moderation or need to be less hard on myself.  I recently opened up to my friends about gaming and its effect on my life and received mixed feedback.  Some supported me 100%, while others were almost offended that I'd even mix gaming with addiction, life issues, and sickness.  It's something people dedicate their lives to and not everyone can do that.  I'm one of them.

My story begins as an 8 year old and the Nintendo 64 and Playstation 1 had just come out.  Everyone was getting them and oh man, I needed both.  I'd beg my parents.  I didn't even understand the concept of what gaming was.  All I used to do was play hockey and build legos.  Christmas came along and I got the Nintendo 64.  A few years later I got the PS1.  I found myself playing the EA NHL games all night long.  They were soothing.  I could escape any troubles at home and play all the time.  I got so good at NHL 99 and NHL 01 that I'd be scoring almost 100 goals a game and never lost to anyone.  I then got an Xbox and started playing Halo, Halo 2, and the NHL 2k games.  I wasn't addicted, though.  I could do other things.  The issue was when I got online games.

In April of 2004 I started playing RuneScape.  My friends got me into it during science class and we all played.  I fell in love with the game instantly.  I loved being able to control someone and level them up.  I loved that I could work on skills that weren't related to fighting.  I could just spend my afternoons mining with people I'd meet online and become friends with them.  The draw to this game for me was that I could have friends.  I had friends in school, but I wasn't really allowed to bring anyone over my house.  I had issues with my dad and I didn't want to bring anyone over.  I was so depressed and I lost a lot of friends because I never was able to visit them or bring anyone over my house.  RuneScape allowed me to make friends whenever I wanted and see them all day and night.

The issue with RuneScape was how rewarding it was.  Over the next 6 years I would become extremely high leveled in the game, become the owner of a clan of over 200 people, lead clan wars, and other events.  I was looked up to as a leader, a friend, and someone who could help others.  I loved that kids my age would tell me their problems with their parents, school, family, or drug issues they were facing and trust me with it.  They could confide in me and I could help them.  I remember we'd be mining in the mining guild and we'd be tutoring a few clan members in calculus and history.  Kids from France would help me on my French homework.  We had one thing in common and that was we needed each other.  We were lonely, hurting, and struggling with different issues, but all respected one another.

My grades dropped big time.  I am a very smart person.  I don't mean to say this in a pompous light, but I have a photographic memory and love to learn.  I was one of the top students in my school without having any study habits.  When I play RuneScape or other online games, it prohibits me from being able to reach that top level of knowledge in my brain.  I actually can't sustain a photographic memory or care enough to try and do something.  I felt like any major concept wasn't worth putting mental effort into because it wasn't as rewarding as RuneScape.  This was when my natural rewards system became tarnished by gaming.  I no longer saw satisfaction in life.  I only felt committed to the game and just wasn't absorbing anything in real life.

in 2010 I received a letter from my university that said I was on academic probation.  I managed to receive a 1.1 GPA after my first year of college.  This happened because I played RuneScape for 12 hours a day.  I had a fake girlfriend on the game who was catfishing me, a clan of over 200 people, and I wanted to max my stats.  I crashed real hard.  I beat myself up and got uncontrollably depressed.  I dumped the catfish and got rid of my membership to the game.  I took a week off from everything and just felt terrible.  My dad made me get my first job ever after that week.  He said being a part of society, having responsibility, and interacting with others would make me a better person.  He was right.  I became a cashier and made some incredible friends.  I was so angry at first, but I made it my goal to speak to every customer in line and try to make their day better.  I wanted to know about them, tell them a new joke every time, and listen to their life issues.  I was the only male cashier and was the best cashier for 2 years there.  

This didn't end my gaming issues.  I started playing RuneScape again and it crushed my grades again.  During my first semester back I dropped 3 out of 5 classes because I was failing.  I felt like such an asshole.  I quit RuneScape immediately and just felt lost.  I got my grades back together and managed to get a B- and a C in the two classes I was still registered in.  I started playing Halo 3 online.  This was a bad idea.  I got xbox live membership and would spend hours playing team slayer.   I then got hooked into Minecraft.  The second semester finished and the same thing happened.  I dropped my major, dropped 3 more classes and only passed 2 classes again.  I had officially spent 2 years in college and passed maybe 7 classes.

I decided to quit gaming and just watched anime all summer that year.  I went through a major hardship with my father and decided I'd never speak to him again.  I moved out of the house and played no games at all, but I also did not replace them with anything healthy or make new friends.  I just sat and did nothing, but watch TV.  My junior year started and I picked up Halo Reach.  I couldn't put it down.  I became one of the best Grifball players in the world and would get killionaires each game, unfriggenbelievables (40 kills without dying) and just had a blast.  I then switched to Swat and played it all day.  I started dropping out of classes again.  This time I was able to pass just 3 classes.  Spring semester I picked up NHL 12 and this was the end of things.  I started a team on there and learned how to play goalie.  I only passed 2 classes that spring as I became one of the best goalies in the world.  I was utterly dominant.  Fall semester came and NHL 13 came out.  That year I continued to only take 2 classes a semester, while living on campus.  I became the best goalie in the world.  I was and still am on youtube and the hockey community remembers me still.  I shutout every good team, lead the WORLD in shutouts, games played in 6 v 6, goals against average, save %, and most importantly, time played.  

I took a leap of faith and asked my mom if she'd let me stay in an apartment.  I thought if I could have more responsibility I wouldn't game as much and I could just do school work.  It worked.  I stopped all my video games and after a couple months I actually managed a 4.0 GPA for 2 straight years to get my cumulative GPA to above a 3.0 so I'd get accepted into the Master's Program.  I got a job and created a new life for myself after failing for a decade.

I'm here today because I started gaming again.  On and off for the past 3 years I've been gaming, while doing my Master's degree and working full time.  I've been doing great at work and graduated with a 3.9 GPA for my Master's degree, but I was still gaming.  I'd game on the weekends only because I didn't want to ruin my work week. Work means the world to me and I didn't want to ruin it.  I mostly played NHL or Halo on the weekends.  This was fine until Overwatch came out.  Holy shit.  I couldn't put the game down.  It was too addicting.  I needed to be great at all of the characters and every map.  It was like Halo and League of Legends put into one game with the competition I loved in NHL.  Oh man it was bad.  I'd play each night for 6 hours and was a zombie at work.  I only cared about the game.  After a year of this I got so angry at Overwatch because the community is full of assholes.  They are bad at the game, toxic to you and your teammates, and just ruin your day.  I'd find myself yelling at the computer for hours and I wasn't happy anymore.  This made me wish I could just relax on a video game.  This made me think back to the one game that was always peaceful to me: RuneScape.  So I started again, from scratch on the Old School servers.  I was 13 again.  I loved every second of it.  

The unfortunate side effect was that I wasn't able to learn very well anymore.  I'd need to stop playing for weeks at a time if I had an exam coming because I knew it would hurt my learning.  But it also kind of made me not learn very well at work.  Any success I had was based off of prior knowledge I'd learned while not gaming.  I realized I needed to quit this past December.  I had a clan of 50 people again, a full discord channel, and was only playing the game.  I also started playing Overwatch again in January.  Both of those games combined really burned me out.  I started to get sick.  I'd get these depression headaches where I didn't feel pain, but I felt sensations in my head that wouldn't go away.  I'd almost want to hit myself in the head to make them stop, but they wouldn't.  I'd stop playing games at 6 AM and just lay in bed suffering.  I hadn't eaten a regular meal in half a day or more, barely any water, no movement, nothing.  I'd sit there in bed for hours with anxiety and my body just screaming for nutrients, sleep, and some sort of normalcy.  I'd cry myself to sleep because of the mental anguish I was going through.  I knew this was a big issue and I needed to end it immediately.  In May I quit both games and decided to dedicate my life to living in the real world.

After 2 weeks of being free from gaming I had my mind back.  I had clarity.  I don't know if you guys feel this, but that mental fog effect from gaming that prohibits you from taking that next step to learning, thought processes, and intellect was gone.  I started to excel at work to a point I'd never done before.  I was dominating everything, except outside of work.  I was trying new hobbies, but I started to feel like if I wasn't doing something amazing each night then I was a failure.  So I started to be afraid of starting new hobbies or just relaxing.  I'd yell at myself for just watching TV or reading.  I needed to do something great.

This past week I went through a really stressful event and got very upset.  I got so upset that I signed up for RuneScape again and just started playing.  What a mistake that was.  I played for only 2 days (2 hours each day) and the mental fog was back.  I couldn't think again.  My mind was so clouded with doubt, anxiety, the inability to think at a high level anymore.  It was all gone.  I got very depressed.  I asked my mom the last time I felt this way and she said the first week of May.  It was a sign.  I had been talking to my therapist about this for a year or so and he said he believes I am addicted to gaming.  My happiness production was solely based on gaming.  I would just lose my ability to be happy about anything or want to learn.  I quit the game again and signed up on this website.

I think I have the self control to stay away from games, but I really wanted to be a part of this game quitters community because I really need help sometimes.  My roommates still play games.  They never prompt me to play or rub it in my face, they are really nice about it.  I just get jealous that they can play games without issues that I know of.  I just know that gaming is not right for me, and the only way I've been happy and not depressed in the past 15 years is when I'm not gaming and just living life.

Thank you for reading,

Matt

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Hi Cam,

Thank you and thank you for the article.  I agree.  I feel that even if I play a game for an instance then my mind feels warped and I'm just "lost" again.  It's almost as if I have to rediscover how to be happy through actual physical, spiritual, and mental rewards.  The life I want to live is having my personality shine through my own life.  I want to make funny videos, cartoons, explore towns, do interesting things, and be part of a real life community that is healthy.  It will take time, but I know I can do it.  I am glad you created this community since I know there will be days I need help and days where I know I can help others.

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Hey man,

Your story really resonates with me, I also started off enjoying console gaming and really lost it when I moved to online social games. Like you, I had formed a really meaningful and tight-knit community online, which was why it was so hard to turn my back on it. Years later, I always thought of "going back" to the game during tough times and I think the deceptively tempting sense of nostalgia always had an effect on me. Things were simple, fun, easily engaging, and meaningful back then, and with a present life that doesn't reflect what I want, it's so much easier to go back to those good old days. But it's a vicious cycle, because the more we try to go to back to the past, the unhappier we become in the present. I also have close friends who continue to game and I used to think I could game "moderately", but after joining this forum and watching a lot of Cam's videos, something I've realized is...even if I could game moderately, and even if others can do it, is it really going to contribute to my happiness? Moderate gaming in our lives would just be a slow drug that kills us slowly. You've definitely made the right choice by deciding to quit for good.

Keep at it friend!

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Hey Sin,

Thanks for the kind words.  It's such a hard transition in life to get through everything.  I'll check out your story tomorrow when I get a chance to read it.  I've been a lot happier and I can't stress how important exercise is for your mental health.  If I play a game again I'll get very depressed and feel so off for days. Exercise really makes me feel more grounded, relaxed, and free of anxiety.  I think with games I just feel lost and I start to beat myself up for playing them again after putting in the hard work of not playing.  The gym kind of takes away that guilt and frustration as well as making me feel better in the three big areas: socially, mentally, and physically.

You got this.

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You're absolutely right about the hard transition. I realize now that I'm going through a bit of a stressful time so the urge to game comes up even more because it's so much easier to log in and feel like I've accomplished something, only to log off and feel worse off than before, tempting me to play even more, but then hating myself even more! Causing that vicious cycle...

I've also started some new types of exercise and they leave me feeling refreshed, motivated, and positive.

We got this ?

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Good to have you man. I can't begin to explain the mayhem I've had to go through. Quitting games and deciding to lead a better life can be super daunting.

But that's why we're all here. To help each other improve in any way possible.

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Thanks Phoenix.  I agree.  I'm just dedicating life to finding the right happiness and trying to remain patient.  

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Hi! I'm Jada Caldwell, a staff reporter of my high school's newspaper. I am doing a factual article about video game addiction, in order to bring awareness to it. A few of my family members exhibit warning signs, and while it hasn't progressed to a true addiction, it is definitely concerning. I read quite a few different entries from people on this forum, but your story resonated with me the most. I would really love to interview you for my article if that is something you'd be interested in doing. The interview would be conducted over email, and I promise I'll try not to throw too many questions at you. If what I'm saying is in anyway appealing to you, please contact me at [email protected].com. Thank you!

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I'll do it, but I'd like to see the questions first and remain anonymous if I choose to answer them if that is ok. I've been very busy with work. 

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Hello!

You can absolutely see the questions first. Obviously, you're definitely more busy than I am, but for me it is college application season, so I completely understand. If you do choose to answer them, you can be anonymous. Please tell me if you are unable to view the attached file. 

VGA Questions.pdf

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I can view them. Yeah, I work full time as an engineer and try to lead a busy life to avoid gaming sometimes. Do you want me to email my answers or post here?

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