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Accepting that gaming IS a real problem

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I am new to this forum and am excited to share thoughts and stories! I have already read some of your stories and feel very understood. 

My name is Caleb and I have finally come to grips with the  fact that gaming is indeed a silent killer. Now of course this is the case for a specific group of people. This topic is very complex and my perception of gaming will look very different than the people around me. I believe many of you will have stories that overlap with mine, but unfortunately the folks in my physical environment did not share my perception of gaming.  That reality has forced me to withhold thoughts and concerns to others simply because they would not understand and would not take it seriously. They saw gaming what it use to be: a fun, nonaddictive activity to pass time and play with others. 

Outside of the virtual world, I was active. I made friends, participated in sports and events, experienced being in relationships, and spent time with family. On the outside, it was hard to see me as a someone who would game for hours on end due to my involvement. Their perception of me was true to an extent. The reality was that people have come and gone from my life and the times I have spent engaging in extracurricular activities has fluctuated becoming less and less the older I get.  One thing that has remained consistent is the itching thoughts and behaviors around gaming. What started off as fun couch co-op playing gamecube and Halo turned rapidly into a lonely desire to game extensively online. I remember vividly when my cousin introduced me to Halo 2 online. I already loved the game especially after playing a couple of system link sessions with 4 xboxes. Witnessing this new technology of online gaming (always been a console gamer and xbox only) where I can sit comfortably at home in my room and play with up to 16 players was a dream. That became my ultimate goal. Now, I was a kid at the time. Well behaved and carefree. My parents had no solid reasons to be strict with me. This gave me a substantial amount of time to game and access to new games. 

Now I was in 5th and 6th grade when my gaming addiction kicked off. I loved being competitive both on the field and in the virtual arena. I became pretty decent at Halo 2 with even some of my online "friends"  calling me a pub star: consistently good in public online matchmaking, but not pro league level. At the time, esports was in its infancy with only local tournaments, clan battles, and scrimmages. Fortunately I did not care enough to take gaming to that level but that decision did not negate the effects gaming would have over the next decade of my life. 

My thoughts were consumed with gaming throughout high school. I tried to stay involved but gaming was always lingering in the back of my mind. I was trying to balance my love of sports, social life, school, and love for gaming. Sadly, gaming was slowly becoming the biggest piece of the pie. I started neglecting my real friends in favor of people I would never meet in real life. My friends names were gamer tags, another persona. But I enjoyed going on adventures and winning with them for hours. I have heard stories of people meeting online and eventually linking up. I was not in a position to get up and drive for hours or take a flight to meet these people that shoot at the covenant and the locust hoard alongside with me. 

School was still a priority and to be frank, school saved me from falling deeper into the gaming abyss. 

Fast forward, I coasted through high school and was incredibly fortunate enough to go to the University of Dayton. I was optimistic. If there is one quality I have that naturally combats gaming, is the desire for change. New environment, new people, new experience. This was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. 

That optimism did not last long. College was an amazing experience but gaming still found a way to get comfortable. Throughout my first year,  I struggled to find my group and I would spend many days in my dorm room watching youtube videos of games and streamers while those around me were taking full advantage of what college offers. When I saw my dorm mates play a game on their computers, the desire to play was overwhelming. I missed the late night playing Gears of War, Halo, and Smite. It made my first semester of college unbearable. 

There was a remedy to that itch. I found a group that I could vibe with and they kept me busy. Did I still think of gaming? Of course! But I stayed busy and then shut out those thoughts. My undergraduate experience was the first time in my life where gaming did not have the strongest hold on me. I made actual memories. When I look back, I don't think about gaming sessions with friends, I remember the awesome real life experience of sharing time and laughter with others. College molded me and built me up. I felt like a different man after those 4 years. But gaming is a mental parasite and still found a way. 

I graduated gained admission in a 2 year masters program at the same institution for free. I finally had a sense of direction...

What I thought was going to be a life altering experience and the route to the professional world ended up causing me to spiral back into the comfort of gaming. My friends from undergraduate were gone and I was left alone. Yes I gained new connection but it was not the same. I finally had my own room too. I had a roommate but he was confined to his space and had little to no interest in gaming. I had "more" time to game during my undergraduate career than my time as a graduate student. With fewer classes throughout the week, I spent that time gaming and drinking when it should have been spent studying, networking, and building my professional portfolio. For the next two years I coasted through the program. The program itself was not very strong and felt that my undergraduate courses were much more difficult. I got away with the bare minimum. I could have utilized the resources provided to graduate students to create a plan and set goals. I could have found more internships, meet with more professionals, and ask more questions. Instead, I saw my rank in Rocket League was more important that my 15 pager. 

I am 24 now.  I was able to graduate with a masters before the pandemic hit. But having a piece paper with a degree and your name doesn't mean anything unless you use it. I have been  living with my parents for the past couple of months now and COVID-19 has definitely taken its toll. With higher education institutions crippled by the pandemic, finding a student affairs position has been much more difficult. With little responsibilities I have been filling my time with gaming again. Fortunately not to the extent of how I was during high school. Gaming is losing its luster as I get older, but the wiring of my brain and dopamine crave is forcing me back.

But today... today I am making a decision to write this. I am making a decision to delete the triggers that cause me to game. I am hyper aware of how gaming has impacted my life and need to act on this awareness. I am aware that life outside of gaming will seem less interesting because I am so use to the dopamine high games gave me. I am aware that urges will occur. I am aware that relapse can occur. But I am tired of just being aware. I sought out this forum because I have not shared this struggle with anyone in my physical environment, and I  feel the need to share my story somewhere and to finally get this out of my system.  I am in a solid relationship with my girlfriend. She is currently getting her masters and she will have high expectations of me.  Just the thought of me being 25 (when my gf will graduate) and still playing games at my parents sounds like a sad pitiful life. I would not blame her if she left me. 

To wrap this up, I call on to those who participate in this forum to please continue to share your thoughts, stories, and strategies. They are monumental for change and to be frank I need to be held accountable. Thank you for hearing me out. Peace.


Random though: Honestly, Nintendo is keeping the casual couch coop gaming environment alive while other platforms including mobile are designed to keep you glued to the screen and now with these stupid season passes. Talk about clear goals and objectives to keep people playing. 

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Hi, that’s great that you decided to stop gaming. The only advice I can give you from my personal experience: DO NOT RELAPSE. If you decided to quit, it is essential to stay away from games. I relapsed 30+ times past 2 years. I think visiting this forum whenever you are about to play games might help. I wish you good luck, mate 🙂

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Thanks for sharing your story. It really sounds like you are on the right path. You are aware of the addictive nature of video games and have pulled yourself away from them. You should be proud. Sometimes it's not easy to admit that something as simple as "gaming" could be addictive. You sound like you've got a good head on your shoulders. Keep it up, and if you ever feel the urge to relapse you know where we are. 


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