“I love this game.”
“Addiction” is a funny word. At once inciting mental images of heroin junkies shooting up in alleyways and the occupants of squalid opium dens, the word is still bandied about whenever anyone displays a passion for something – from sugar, to shoes, to video games.
It’s usually just for poking fun or sometimes out of plain disbelief. (Boys, for one, will never understand the absolute necessity of needing 15+ pairs of shoes that have to be rearranged on the shoe rack about once every month.)
But when does it become serious?
There are many of us gamers who have fallen in love with our video games. That’s often why we identify so closely with being a GAMER. We’ve done the grinding, we’ve logged the man hours, and we’ve attained some nebulous achievement amongst our peers for playing hard and playing well.
In a game like an MMO, that’s like being a part of something. Everyone else in the same boat enjoys the complete harmony of perfect understanding. Playing games in the dark until 4AM? Not a problem. Falling asleep in your desk chair with your headset on and instructions to your squadmates to wake you at the first sign of attack? Just required dedication. Fitting in one last raid before you dash out of your house to get to work reasonably on time? Everybody does it.
Still, there are always the ones looking in, and they’re not always impressed with what they see.
Friends, family, concerned small animals, they only have one word to say about you when you’re already got your headphones on but haven’t bothered with clothes, when they see the greasy plates and glasses stacking up into the Great Wall of China on or around your desk, when you look up and the sun has set again and you’re not sure when was the last time you fed the little puffball sitting next to you and pointedly ignoring you in protest.
As a gamer who was hit and hit hard by the community aspect of my last MMO, I’ve had my fair share of concerned friends, family, and loved ones speak out about being worried about me.
Some did better than others. My sister started to cry when she told me that she loved me. Some were well-meaning if infuriating. My parents suggested cutting off the internet at a certain (ridiculous) hour every night to ensure that I wouldn’t be playing. Some were just condescending. From my ex: “There’s no denying that you’re addicted to that game… you’d think you were good at it.”
Was I really?
Was I addicted to my video game? I’m still not convinced.
I’m hardly the most objective viewpoint in the given scenario, of course. But what was I?
Well, I’m still here so I definitely didn’t waste away from lack of sustenance and sleep. I finished my college degree with honors and then my university undergraduate so I didn’t fail or drop out of school. I lost about 10-15 pounds so I didn’t just secretly balloon into a walrus while I hid in my troll cave all day.
I had school, I worked two jobs, and I juggled all three every week. I had about as much of a social life as I had before (and one could argue that it’s since expanded thanks to the number of people I now know and occasionally see thanks to having met them on the internet). And while my parents certainly complained that they saw me twice a day and then only for food, I still managed to do more housework than anyone else barring my mother.
I did break up with the boyfriend. But that was for other things.
Maybe it’s just all in the perspective.
Did I spend a lot of time playing games? Playing the same game? Yes.
Did I have a terrible sleep schedule? Yeah, sure. Going to bed finally at about 10 in the morning some days to wake up at 2 in the afternoon to pretend to function as a human being is not exactly my idea of a healthy day-in-the-life.
But without video games, what would have been different? After school, school work, and working at both of my aforementioned jobs, any extra time I had at my disposal was certainly not going to be productive.
I might have slept better, but not by much. For me, the only reason to go to bed early is if I have work in the morning. I am not a morning person. This will never change given a choice in the matter.
What was it then?
I can come up with plenty of words. Passion. Enthusiasm. Dedication.
Other people can throw around the words “addiction,” and “waste of time” if they want. But these are also the people who sit back and wonder in disbelief that a DOTA 2 tournament could actually be worth real money.
I’m not saying don’t be on the lookout for warning signs. Massive credit card debt, health issues, a complete deconstruction of all life outside of your game? Maybe you do need to stop and step away from the keyboard.
But I do say that yes, you can play games, and you can play games a lot, and you can still be a happy, content, functioning person who loves their life, and who loves the people in their life – online and afk.
Isn’t that as ‘normal’ as anyone can get?