It was a cold evening, my family was getting themselves dressed and washed up to go out for dinner except my dad. My dad for the past hour and a half was on his laptop clacking away on the keyboard. Curious, I walked up behind him to see what he was so focused on. I expected to see some number crunching and business words that I didn’t understand. To my surprise it was a video game filled with characters whose heads were way too large for their bodies. My dad turned around and looked at me and asked, “Do you want to try?” Filled with excitement I jumped onto my dad’s lap ready to play this new game. The game was called “Maplestory” and immediately I was sucked into its virtual world filled which chibi characters, snails and cute bouncing orange mushrooms. My immersion suffered an abrupt ending when my mom came charging in through the door shouting that we were late for the dinner meeting. My dad with a mischievous smile intentionally got up slowly to tease my mother and went to go change. I, instead of closing the laptop decided to sneak in another five minutes of playtime. I got yelled at for not listening and with great reluctance, shut down the laptop.
During the dinner, I frequently looked up at the clock to see what time it was because I wanted to know if I would be able to play a bit more before my bedtime. To my great disappointment and grief we left the dinner well past my bed time which meant I needed to sleep as soon as I got home. While I was laying in my bed I couldn’t help but dream about the intruiging new game I played. It was more than just a game or a fantasy to me. I put my personality into my character and the character became part of me. I played Maplestory for the next five years. During that time I made over a dozen characters all over level 120 (To get to level 100 took about 6-8 months on average of intense playing), spent hundreds of dollars and used a lot of time.
I guess you could call me a typical guy for playing video games. But video games were more than just a tool to pass by time. They were a place for me to escape and to completely immerse myself in a brand new world. Growing up, I was never the most popular person or the best-looking. Most of my elementary school days were spent alone at recess and my middle school career was a chaotic mess of awkward transitions. I was bullied quite often for my physical looks and things only got worse when my dad became a pastor. I had to live up to absolute perfection in the eyes of the church adults. I was expected to be a leader in every ministry and to follow elders without question. Video games was a place where I could develop my own strength, where I would not be living in my father’s shadow and where I could defend myself when people provoked me. It was a place where I was in control of my own destiny. I loved video games. Not because it was just fun but because it was my safe haven. Games were the place where I socialized and made friends who liked my interests and thought my ideas were cool. This would probably explain why whenever I played a game, I was always in the largest guilds or constantly talking in the “World Chat.”
My love for video games soon went completely out of hand. I began stealing from my parents and from complete strangers so that I could buy in-game currency for special items. All the money I was given as allowance for food was spent on prepaid game cash cards and the like. My love quickly escalated to an absolute addiction and obsession and my life was completely revolved around video games. The addiction became an all time worse when I was introduced to the now famous game “League of Legends.” Regrettably, I can easily admit that I spent the absolute most amount of money on this game (over $500). Although I didn’t go around stealing from people anymore, I used a portion of my paycheck every month to buy some new skin or champion. I watched gameplay videos for hours and neglected my school duties resulting in to failed college courses. For about a year, I holed up in my home most of the time and absolutely hated going outside. In the rare cases where I was outside I would calculate how much time I had left in the day to play instead of actively enjoying the company of my friends. My personal relationships fell apart and/or drifted away. I was left alone and the scary part was that I liked it.
Fast-forward three years later, it’s now been about five months since I last played a computer game (although I have been on the Clash Royale grind from time to time) and I do find myself to be a lot happier and productive. I do have to work hard to rebuild the relationships that I made drift away but life has become much more fulfilling. I don’t ever believe that I’ll completely quit video games but I do believe now I have control over my impulses and now find much more joy in my relationships with others. And with marriage becoming more and more of a reality, I find myself wanting to prepare myself to take care of my future wife. I want to be a father for my future kids and a friend to my friends.
What have I been doing to prepare myself? Well, one thing that I take pride in is that whenever my girlfriend calls me and I happen to be in a middle of any kind of game, I immediately quit and pick up the phone. The first few times were hellishly difficult but now it’s pretty easy to just click the exit button. I have also found a new passion in cooking and have become much more determined in pursuing my career in marketing.
I still love video games. Not because of how it’s an escape away from my responsibilies or because it’s a fantasy where I take control of my destiny. No, I love video games simply because it is fun. I love video games because it’s now a way for me to connect to other people and have more of an opportunity to build intimate relationships with them. I love video games because although I had a tough fight with it, it had great influence in who I am today. I can now proudly say that I am creative, ambitious, caring, patient, loving, inspiring, responsible and so many other things because God allowed me to struggle and fight through my addiction.
Everyone has a love and some of those loves become addictions that are seemingly impossible to give up or to conquer. I encourage every person who is struggle with addiction, to pleaes not give up and keep pressing on. It’s an arduous journey and you will inevitably fall but that doesn’t make you any less amazing. Your failures are doors of opportunity only to make you stronger. So use every experience and every struggle to make your story into something that will inspire and convict every person around you.
“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. when you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger