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9/30/2020

Today, I made a decision that my 12-year-old self would have scoffed and despaired over…I quit video games.

This was part spur of the moment and part preplanned. I found myself playing Marvel’s Spider-Man by Insomniac Games. I got to a mission where I was swinging through the skylines of New York, gathering air samples for Oscorp to assess the lethality levels. Upon completion, the mini-map opened and showed me all the new science points of interest that were available to me…and as a new wave of anxiety overwhelmed me, all I could think was, “Man, that is a lot more stuff to do.” I turned the game off. This may seem odd to you, but let me explain. Let’s start with my history:

When I try and remember my earliest years as a child, I find it somewhat difficult. However, some of my earliest childhood memories are surrounding video games. I remember vividly playing Mario, Dunk Hunt, and Mike Tyson’s Punch Out! anytime I could get my hands on them. I recall spending time with my friends pouring over the newest Nintendo Power. I recall playing Mario Kart and Mario Party with my cousins all night long whenever we were together. Video Games were an essential part of my life…but still just a part. For as many times as I can recall playing these games, I can also remember biking, playing basketball, playing war, skateboarding, rollerblading, jumping on the trampoline, and just about any other activity. I spent time with my friends as much as I spent time with my games.

As I grew, so did gaming. In Junior High and High School I was astounded as I watched games go from Final Fantasy III to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to Final Fantasy VII. As games became more complex my gaming habits adjusted to match them. I spent hours perfecting my Final Fantasy characters from naming them to identifying in journals their weapons and which materia they would master. I drank in optional quests and gold chocobos like a lost desert wanderer. Despite all of this, I was a starter on the Football team and Wrestling team, I played pool and went to the roller rink and bowling alley on weekends, I surfed with friends and went to parties. I found time for both.

The downturn of gaming from a favorite hobby to a detriment to my life, in my opinion, began with me joining the military. I left California at 18 -years-old for the U.S. Air Force. So started a fifteen year journey where I lived in six different areas of five states. Sure, travel, is great…but I had to meet new people every time I moved. It was hard to maintain a relationship when you knew you would just be leaving soon. Why get rejected by a woman when I could just see if I could hit 1 million points in a single combo in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. It became easy to stay home and play games at the detriment of meeting more people you would just leave anyway. Still though, I had friends. We would meet weekly to play Madden or the newest NCAA Football game. We went to the bars frequently. We lived despite it all.

Then came the thing that to this day I believe ruined gaming for me: Achievements and Trophies. Admittedly, I am an OCD kind of person. I rarely can do something halfway. Suddenly, gaming became a checklist. Ask most people with OCD tendencies and the idea of a checklist is a poison. I could no longer just enjoy the saga of the Snakes in Metal Gear Solid…I had to S-rank all the missions. I could no longer enjoy the open world opportunity of Grand Theft Auto IV…I had to find all the pigeons. I couldn’t be the Batman…I had to perfect the combo challenges for three stars. Why? Because the checklist said I do.

I became obsessed with these virtual pats on the back. I started to select games based less on their interest to me and more on their trophy lists. I began to remake my PlayStation profile every time I felt I screwed up my trophy list with the wrong game. I would get angry seeing DLC added that I did not want to play because it would take away the 100% status of my list. Worst of all, with every profile reset came the realization that now I had to S-rank every mission, find every pigeon, and complete every combo challenge again. I honestly cannot tell you how many times I have platinumed Uncharted: Drake's Fortune simply due to new profiles. To this day, I remember playing Bioshock, which is largely considered one of the best gaming stories written in the history of the genre, and not getting most of the story. See, the trophy was for finding the audio diaries, not listening to them. Let’s not even get into my World of Warcraft years…

This realization is not new to me. I have felt this way for some time. Still, it has been a surprise at the same time. I mean, I currently have two PlayStation 5’s and two Xbox Series X’s reserved for November. Gaming is literally my main hobby. Sure, I am addicted, but I could go on without any changes.

Yet, when I look back at the last decade of my life, when I consider why I am out of shape, why I have failed to build a successful social life, why I regularly have bouts of boredom and depression, I blame gaming. These shiny boxes that offer on demand entertainment in my living room has led me to be easily isolated, easily introverted, and easily bored without constant stimulation.

Funny enough, my tipping point came last night from the unlikeliest source: Sword Art Online.

I have seen the first season of Sword Art Online in the past. I noticed that season three is coming soon to Netflix, and so I figured it would be a good time to catch up. While watching season one for the second time, I caught something that never occurred to me.

In Sword Art Online Season One, our hero Kirito is an MMO addict who plugs into the newest, hottest thing: Sword Art Online. This game, if you can imagine, is like World of Warcraft meets Ready Player One. Kirito logs into the game using a virtual headset that comes with the game and keeps your real life body paralyzed. Instead of moving your body, the brain waves produced are read by the headset and translated into the game itself. So you are the character you’re playing. Cool, right? Not for long.

The creator of the game, in a sadistic twist, has removed the logout button. His intention is to control a world of his choosing, and so he has rigged the headsets to send a microwave pulse into your brain if you attempt to leave, if your family attempts to remove your helmet, or if you die in the game. The only way to survive the game in this story, is to beat the game. Those who remain once the game is completed even once will be allowed to return to the real world. Thus begins Kirito’s battle to finish the game and save everyone.

It’s a wonderful concept. As a fan of Death Note, the concept immediately grabbed me in a similar way. Still, as I rewatch season one, I can’t help but think there is a deeper meaning to this otherwise simple anime. See, all of these people logged into the game unwittingly agreeing to die if they failed to beat the game. But in reality, these people logging into the game was the same as dying in real life. They chose wore a headset that completely removed their consciousness from the real world. Whether or not they beat the game or died, they had already sacrificed their existence in reality. They chose to live the virtual life as opposed to their own.

The appeal of a virtual life. I get it, I do. I participated in many of them myself. Let’s be honest, the protagonists of the games we enjoy are generally perfect examples of what we want to be. They have the perfect appearance with no working out. They are martial arts masters or can use magic or swordplay. They can drive race cars or throw the football for the fifty yard touchdown in the Super Bowl. On top of that are the world themselves. There are mountain ranges and sunken cities, odd creatures and natural wonders to explore. There are huge amounts of lore to become obsessed in and quite frankly, you almost always save the world. Who doesn’t have these fantasies of power and grandeur? Who among us can experience the fulfillment of these fantasies in any way but virtually…right? Wrong.

See…you are a great lump of clay. Our minds, bodies, and spirit can be molded and shaped in any great number of ways. It is true, the perfect body takes hard work. The perfect mate takes emotional openness and time. The road to martial arts or sword master is long. Driving that race car or throwing that football in the Super Bowl takes dedication and sometimes a little genetic luck. But does Geralt of Rivia also not have a skill tree? Does your Hunter in WoW also not miss some shots with their bow as they level into a master? You can do all of this, in reality, right now…they worked for it virtually. You can achieve it in reality.

And our own world is just as varied. You can explore the deserts, dig up tombs, dive to the bottom of the ocean, or climb the highest mountain. What drives you? Animals? Environment? Social Justice? Children’s Health? The Homeless? There are so many ways that our world desperately needs you to save it. You can get more achievement in reality than the greatest games ever made.

Ultimately, when I think about this choice…to stop gaming. To sell my consoles. To cancel my hard fought for preorders. When I realize that I may never game again, I actually feel anxiety and fear. I think this explains everything I need to know about this supposed “hobby.” I can only relate the anxiety to the feeling I expect people feel when they think about stopping smoking or drinking. Should I feel negatively about the idea of quitting gaming? Or do these feelings just prove the depths of dependence I have on this medium in my life?

So, for the next 90-days, I will not be playing any video games. Whether I ever go back will remain to be decided at this time. In their stead, I plan on working on my fitness. I plan on continuing to read. I plan on trying to learn to golf. I plan on seeing my family and possibly even finding a girlfriend. I plan to respawn…in life.

Edited by Jared1of1
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7 hours ago, Jared1of1 said:

Yet, when I look back at the last decade of my life, when I consider why I am out of shape, why I have failed to build a successful social life, why I regularly have bouts of boredom and depression, I blame gaming. These shiny boxes that offer on demand entertainment in my living room has led me to be easily isolated, easily introverted, and easily bored without constant stimulation.

....

....

In Sword Art Online Season One, our hero Kirito is an MMO addict who plugs into the newest, hottest thing: Sword Art Online. This game, if you can imagine, is like World of Warcraft meets Ready Player One. Kirito logs into the game using a virtual headset that comes with the game and keeps your real life body paralyzed. Instead of moving your body, the brain waves produced are read by the headset and translated into the game itself. So you are the character you’re playing. Cool, right? Not for long.

The creator of the game, in a sadistic twist, has removed the logout button. His intention is to control a world of his choosing, and so he has rigged the headsets to send a microwave pulse into your brain if you attempt to leave, if your family attempts to remove your helmet, or if you die in the game.

....

 

So, for the next 90-days, I will not be playing any video games. Whether I ever go back will remain to be decided at this time. In their stead, I plan on working on my fitness. I plan on continuing to read. I plan on trying to learn to golf. I plan on seeing my family and possibly even finding a girlfriend. I plan to respawn…in life.

Hello Jared, I just "respawned" a couple of days ago too. I read your entire post. I already apologize for any language issues here, as I am not using my native language 😛 

The things that especially drew my attention are listed in the quote, and man, you really had a similar situation like me, for a long time. I can pretty much identify myself from your text, with the exception that I might be a little younger than you, so the games that I used to play were different. Also in my adult years, I mostly played competitive games only. One big thing is also that I am not an OCD-type of a person at all.

Did you ever watch Black Mirror from Netflix? It has an episode with a similar idea, like this Sword Art Online that you mentioned. It's in Season 4 if I remember correctly 🤔The SAO idea seems really fascinating though and it's no wonder that you had the "breakpoint" watching that. Interesting. 

The idea of abandoning most of the on demand entertainment (in form of games of course) is really scary if you are addicted. I can easily recognize myself from your feelings of isolation too. It is also good to see that you have plans, they make the beginning of the quitting process so much easier and give a ton of motivation!

Many people would say that you should think beyond the 90-day detox period (as you mentioned that you are not sure if your game-free period will last beyond that time). I will not be going into that because I failed the detox so many times before and I am nobody to be saying stuff like that - I'll leave that to the experts here 🙂

I wish you a lot of good luck in this journey. I just wanted to say all this because of the kind of "connection" your story had to mine.

-Jani

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18 hours ago, Jared1of1 said:

Ultimately, when I think about this choice…to stop gaming. To sell my consoles. To cancel my hard fought for preorders. When I realize that I may never game again, I actually feel anxiety and fear. I think this explains everything I need to know about this supposed “hobby.” I can only relate the anxiety to the feeling I expect people feel when they think about stopping smoking or drinking. Should I feel negatively about the idea of quitting gaming? Or do these feelings just prove the depths of dependence I have on this medium in my life?

So, for the next 90-days, I will not be playing any video games. Whether I ever go back will remain to be decided at this time. In their stead, I plan on working on my fitness. I plan on continuing to read. I plan on trying to learn to golf. I plan on seeing my family and possibly even finding a girlfriend. I plan to respawn…in life.

You're anxious because it is the unknown. It's human nature when we don't know what is going on or what is going to happen, our fight or flight instinct kicks in. We fear the unknown. But do you know what? Sometimes that is a good thing. We developed this tendency so we didn't jump into the den of a tiger or start a battle we couldn't win back in the day. We can use these impulses to our advantage now, as long as we don't let them take control. I think once you have sat down and worked out where you want your life to go, and what you want to achieve, and what you want your new hobbies to be, you will feel a lot more relaxed and ready to tackle the beast.

I would be cautious about the commitment to go back to gaming after 90 days. The fact that we are all here, on this forum, shows we do not have the capability to be able to game in moderation. This is something we need to stick to. The forums and the path are littered with people who just wanted to do the 90 days, get it out of the way, and then go back to "a game here or there", next thing you know they have had a full blown relapse and need to start a new detox. Alcohol, smoking, gaming, these are all ok experiences or hobbies to have, if you can keep them in moderation. Once you can't moderate them anymore, and become an alcoholic etc, then it's not healthy for you and you need to move on. I know gaming isn't healthy for me, I have plenty of friends that still game and dabble in it here and there, and if it works for them I am not going to think any less of them, it's just that they don't work for me. I think you are in the same boat. During the 90 days you will discover new things you like to do and want to spend time on, and once you really embrace those, you will see gaming as detracting from that or delaying your goals. At the end of the day it is a dead activity - you're sitting at a desk staring at a screen for hours on end for absolutely no payoff. You would get more benefit from just sleeping that entire time.

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Really great that you are here. I found reading your story very relatable. 

Also, you really made me want to check out Sword Art Online. I had no idea what it was about. To be fair I haven't watched anime in a very long time but this one sounds interesting. 

These next few weeks might be stressful but if you stick with it you'll come to have a lot more clarity in your life. Just take the first few weeks very easy. Don't pressure yourself to do anything in particular. Some days you might just want to sleep. So sleep. Other days you might be bored out of your mind. In those situations I suggest finding something, anything remotely interesting to you and just do it. Take a class, read a book, get some exercise, whatever. Keep your mind occupied. 

Take it easy and good luck!

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On 9/30/2020 at 8:25 PM, Jared1of1 said:

Ultimately, when I think about this choice…to stop gaming. To sell my consoles. To cancel my hard fought for preorders. When I realize that I may never game again, I actually feel anxiety and fear. I think this explains everything I need to know about this supposed “hobby.” I can only relate the anxiety to the feeling I expect people feel when they think about stopping smoking or drinking. Should I feel negatively about the idea of quitting gaming? Or do these feelings just prove the depths of dependence I have on this medium in my life?

Hello, Jared. First off, thank you for sharing your story. I really related to a lot of what you shared and made me experience analogous emotions. The anxiety and fear that you described with stopping gaming, selling your consoles, etc. is you taking the dive into the unknown. Reading this, I had the similar fear and anxiety when I decided to quit gaming several years ago. Yes, I struggled and even relapsed but (to my observation and understanding) it was because I was afraid of the unknown. Afraid of losing the communication with the community that I built over the years and the sense of certainty (i.e. going to the same restaurant and ordering the same thing every time). You may feel alone when you leave but I highly encourage you to trust the process. You will find a supportive community and eventually...find out what is your gift that you can give back to the world. If there is anything that I can share with you from one of my many mentors is this: I can. I will. I must. Now, add some context to that. I can quit video games. I will quit video games. I must quit video games. I'm excited for you and your journey. I hope that this forum will be of great help for you. 

Cheers!

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