I start a lot of articles with this, but I love gaming… Actually, let me elaborate, I love gaming as an abstract idea; the culture, the mechanics, the events, and the evolution of the medium. I am enamored by the events, the people in the industry, and the sentimental connection that growing up as a gamer gave me. I adore the trailers, the articles, and the tournaments. All of it adds up to a fulfilling experience that enriches my life on a daily basis.
Admittedly, I’m ambivalent to actually playing a game. Picking up a controller and trying to play at the skill level that I feel is acceptable can be trying. I am the type accidentally attains a zen-like state, where one flawlessly completes a stage or challenge, and get frustrated if I can’t recreate it every time. When it comes to actually playing a game, my interest wanes easily; I’d rather not get angry at the developer’s poor design choice, become frustrated by my own incompetence, or a combination of both.
Say what you will, but there will never be a justification for this type of thing.
In my younger days, my gaming habits were far more one-track minded. I would play one title for years on end to the exclusion of everything else. That wasn’t hyperbole—I played Phantasy Star Online, Ragnarok Online, Final Fantasy XI: Online, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl for a collective eleven years I ignored my friends (what few I had), my family (again, what little I had), and my schooling. I’m not proud of any of that.
“I don’t have time for class, I’m busy learning.”
Over time, all those things made their way back into my daily life. There’s the misconception that people with an addiction are too detached from reality to realize it. That they don’t know what they’re giving up by being so engrossed. Granted, there are people who fit that bill, but I would say that it’s far less often the case than the media would like people to believe
Overcoming my videogame addiction was harder than getting past my other habits. The compulsion to play and engross myself in the gaming culture was different than the physiological effects that alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs had. Even though I experimented with all of them, I never found myself hurting for a smoke or a drink as often as I’d shirk my real life responsibilities for a game—to learn a special combo, to reach the next level, or whatever.
“I can quit at any time, I just don’t want to.”
It wasn’t as simple as replacing a chemical until my body could deal without it. Mental aspects of video gaming apply to our inherent desire to grow and learn. They speak to me in a way that a beer never could. It wasn’t enough to just eke my way through a game—I wanted to master everything that I touched
Playing FFXI casually wasn’t enough; I wanted to be the best Dark Knight to grace Vana’diel. Then I wanted to be the best Warrior, the best Paladin. I wanted to be one of the best players, period. Similarly, mediocrity in Smash wouldn’t do; I would get angry if I wasn’t on my way to being the best Ike in the country. All of my frustration stemmed from one idea: that the only thing keeping me from being the very best was my own inability to learn and adjust
“I don’t have a degree, but I have an Aegis… why are you laughing?”
Video games can be teaching tools. Encouraging learning and participation is the backbone of good video game design, and that inspires us to improve when we play them. As we figure out how to move faster, get epic drops, or unlock hidden areas, we’re learning in the context of the game’s world. We’ve been engaged by having an active hand in the learning experience.
When one plays a game, it’s not the passive sponging of knowledge that one would experience by picking up a book. Every mistake has a consequence; every smart choice has a reward. It was that aspect that caused me to sit in my room for ungodly amounts of time, playing games with people that my mother dubbed “fake friends.”
Luckily for me, those friends weren’t fake. They represented another facet of gaming; the social aspect. It drew me to online gaming, and gave me the contacts that I needed to get back on my feet—after years of neglect resulted in me losing my apartment. Those very same game-loving friends led me to writing for DualShockers.
I view the hard times as a learning experience, and use it to find some good. I regained my academic focus, finally decided what to do with my life, and most importantly, I gained the drive to follow through. Now, I’m working with a group of independent developers on a mobile game project, and I am enrolled for a Bachelor’s in Game Design. It may not be the century’s greatest tale, but there are hopefully many more chapters to be written in my story.
In retrospect, I’d still rather be homeless than have to replay the Water Temple.