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Goodbye Gaming - thank you for everything, but it's time that I finally move on.


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(Found this forum from r/StopGaming, and I had already written an introduction there so just copy/pasting that here, especially since it's getting late and I just wanted to make sure to get at least a first intro post in before going to sleep lol)

The beginning - Everquest

I remember my first raid in Everquest so vividly. I was 12 years old, around noon on a Saturday my dad asked if I could play his alt account, it took over 9 hours. Several times my best friend from next door came over asking if I could come out to play, but my dad needed my help, the raid needed my help. It was the coolest thing ever, and it was so much fun getting to play with my dad who I only got to see 2 days a week because my parents were divorced (and it was also a great ego boost to have all these adults complimenting how mature and good at this game I was, given this was back when MMOs were still pretty new and Everquest especially was primarily an older crowd). Several months later, my dad gave me the account, and I started my own character.

For the next 4 years, Everquest became my life. I became a class leader in one of the top raiding guilds in the game, routinely spent 60-80 hours a week in the game during the school year and closer to 80-100 hours over the summers. There's still a deep pit in my stomach when I think about how I had logged 1.5 years of in game time in 4 years. I slept through nearly every class, just barely passing most of them, and my social circle was practically non-existent. My mom was rarely home, and I was supposed to be taking care of my younger brother but I often would just tell him to go watch tv and leave me the hell alone. It felt so good to be so well recognized and praised, the few friends I had made in school lived too far away + I had to be home to watch my brother, and my parents didn't seem to really care about my grades, so I didn't think twice about it for a long time. Luckily for me, I did eventually quit - right near the end of 10th grade. Some mixture of peer pressure from concerned class mates and teachers + my realizing that if I ever wanted to become a game developer (my aspiration back then, naturally) I'd need to make it into college, and all that time in Everquest wasn't going to get me there. I managed to quit cold turkey and focus on school through junior year and most of senior year...

The first relapse - Starcraft

... And then came along Starcraft II. More specifically, first came along a girlfriend who played Starcraft II with a group of friends, and then of course I had to join in. I had learned some things from Everquest, so Starcraft wasn't nearly as bad, and it sure helped that it took me a long time to pick up the mechanics so I'd get frustrated with the game before it could really absorb me for a while. Slowly but surely, though, it did get me. I made out of high school, and reluctantly went to the college in my home town (in hindsight, I really wish I knew someone who could have helped my explain all of my in-game achievements in college admission essays but maybe even now I'm still just clinging to meaningless achievements that wouldn't have impressed them anyway). I didn't "excel" in Starcraft II like I did with Everquest, but I became so engrossed in following all the pro play. I changed my sleep schedule to watch the Korean tournaments, missing classes in the process to make up for it, eventually dropping half of my classes in the first semester because I knew I wouldn't be able to pass them. I joined several organizations at college, and burned so many bridges because I would just ghost them after I failed to fulfill a promise because I was so ashamed that I'd let them down just because of a video game.

Day9 and the beginning of a redemption story

Then, my girlfriend and I broke up for reasons unrelated to gaming, and that only sent me deeper into the Starcraft community because it was the only thing I knew how to connect with, which led me becoming obsessed with Day9. Up until this point, my main interaction with Starcraft had been tournaments and playing myself, and of knew of and enjoyed Day9 a fair bit already, but during the winter of that breakup the positivity that Day9 radiated became addicting. On some days, the only thing I could say I did was watch episodes of Day9 and *maybe* eat something. I watched every episode of Day9 religiously, to the point that I *almost* tried creating a Day9 club because I was convinced there must be others as obsessed as me that'd want to meet up multiple times a week just to watch the same stream and talk about it. I didn't create that club, but Day9 became a turning point for me. I cut down my Starcraft game play a whole lot, and got heavily involved in other organizations on campus. I ended up transferring colleges, having a long term relationship that lasted until several months after college, became the officer of multiple organizations on campus, including the president of the engineering honor society, and left college with an internship + signed job offer to work at Amazon as a Software Engineer. I'd pretty much stopped playing games except someone specifically asked to do something.

Life after college - the fall from grace

But of course, if that's where this story ended, I'd probably not be here on r/StopGaming, huh? Following graduation, I moved out of my home state to an area where I knew no one except for my coworkers. My girlfriend at the time was a year below me, so she was still finishing things up and we were trying to work long distance. I didn't have any real idea of how to meet new people outside of college, and I spent all my time in college heads down in my studies or with my girlfriend so I didn't really have any hobbies to look to. So, of course, I booted up games again. Primarily League of Legends, but occasionally storyline games like Borderlands too. I didn't become quite as obsessed as I had in high school, but it was certainly worse than the smaller relapse I had in college. My girlfriend broke up with me because I spent too much time on games and never really talked to her, and I was shitting the bed everywhere with my projects at work. I managed to find a slack group for new grads in the area, and made some friends through there but most very shallow connections because I'd see them once then not speak again for weeks or months because I was engrossed in some game.

And this is essentially where I've been my entire post-college life. I'm 4 years out of college, and I've gone through so very many cycles of quitting gaming (more than just the few times mentioned above, they just aren't as eventful to make a story out of). I still have an extremely tiny friend group, even fewer of which I actually have a decent relationship with. Throughout the times in this pandemic, when I wasn't using gaming as a coping mechanism, I've finally started to build an identity for myself outside of games - learning more about climate change, taking Udacity's Flying Car and Autonomous Flight Engineer nanodegree to potentially transition careers so I could one day program drones for environment restoration, bought a voice lesson course from Chris Liepe because I've always wanted to know how to sing/scream safely and dreamed of being able to create a Youtube channel doing vocal covers, and most recently started using the ball machine at my local tennis court. But I keep relapsing. I keep going back to gaming whenever something gets too hard, or when the loneliness gets too powerful. My sleep schedule gets torn apart, my productivity at work drops to 0, my progress on my personal goals gets set back weeks or months. I just can't take it anymore.

Moving on

I'd like to start by saying how grateful to video games I am for what they provided me - they helped me build such a stronger relationship with my dad, they set me off in the direction of software engineering and taught me so much about technology and logic in the process, they helped me to cope with having to spend so much of my youth unsupervised and unable to meet up with friends in person, they got me through extremely difficult break ups and low points of my life. As dangerous of an addiction as gaming has been for me, I still consider it to have been a much better alternative than to turning to harder drugs or alcohol, and certainly better than any suicide attempt that I might have made without gaming.

That said, I also have to admit that gaming just isn't healthy in the ways I've been using it. I've neglected responsibilities, I've thrown away connections and relationships, I threw away the opportunity to build a meaningful relationship with my brother as we grew up together (we've started to rebuild it recently, but it is noticeably strained), I missed out on learning how to really properly build new relationships and make friends and a whole slew of important social experiences. For so long I've told myself that I'm okay with how few friends I have, that I'm comfortable with loneliness and solitude, but I think that's only because I've always had the distraction of gaming to lean on.

I still deeply believe in the power of video games as a powerful tool for allowing distanced connections to be made, as an interactive story-telling medium, and as a way of making less-fun learning activities more fun, and more. And maybe gaming was among the least harmful of coping mechanisms I could have employed for the various problems I went through, but that's not where I want to be anymore. I want to build a richer set of personal connections, I want to become so much more involved in combating climate change and improving our world, I want to finally get my body into good shape (there's so many days that I get into bed and realize I'd forgotten to eat anything, and I've never been able to stick to a workout routine for longer than like a month), I want to finally be able to start up that dream Youtube channel, and so much more. And gaming, I'm so sorry to tell you that I just can't keep lying to myself and saying that there's a healthy way for me to incorporate you into my life, pretending that every relapse is going to be the last. It terrifies me to say that because for so long you've been the central part of my identity, but I've got to trust that I'll be okay with you - that I'll be able to fill that void.

Thank you for everything, but it's time that I finally move on.

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