When did you start gaming? What games?
This is the fun part. I am 56 years old. I was born in 1961. So when I was most of you’s age, there were no video games. We had pinball, monopoly, dice and cards. Yes, I am that ancient. I played some Pong when it came out (as a coin-op game). I played Defender and Tempest.
It was like a dream come true when I moved to Silicon Valley and got a great job at Atari. I was a tech on the Atari 800 and 400 (8 bit) computer production lines. Yes, they manufactured them in California. I actually had to play Super Breakout in the course of testing broken computers.
But what we’re really talking about here is PC games. I never got into consoles. I learned to program in Atari BASIC. It got me into programming.
I played the classics on my Atari 800. Centipede, Donkey Kong, Defender, and JumpMan (it’s very addictive). This was around 1984 when I got married.
Later I got a PC and played Scorched Earth, which was a fun port of an old mainframe game. Eventually I downloaded the Descent demo and the Tomb Raiders demo. After my old 8 bit games, I was just freaking amazed at what they had done. I got a disk for Total Annihilation and the first expansion. I actually played that with my daughters.
Then online gaming came. I fell into this cycle of downloading games, playing hard for months, and getting mad at them only to download something else. I stuck mostly to free-to-play games. Now and then I would pony up for some add-on content.
I don’t remember the order, but there was Star Wars: The Old Republic, Tera Rising, City of Heroes, DC Universe Online, Champions Online, Battlestar Galactica Online, Star Trek Online, Eve Online, Blade and Soul, I was in Second Life most of the time. There were other games that I played to a lesser extent.
What did you like about gaming?
I liked that in gaming there was always a little victory every few minutes, because in real life you can go weeks or months without winning anything. I also had hopes that I would find some good buddies online – a guild or league that would become friends and become close. As most of us know, you rarely-to-never find anyone real, and your friends are only as close as your last raid wins.
As a coder I was taken in by the sheer beauty of games. The airless wonder of the early games, the grunge and decay of the more current ones. I still find Homeworld and Tera to be high art.
I would write business database software all day just hoping to be able to one day create such crazy and wondrous programs. I didn’t end up doing much game design though, the abject laziness I had fallen into made it so that I was unable to overcome the hurdles of learning game design. It is quite involved after all.
When did you notice it becoming a problem?
I knew it was a problem in one way or another since forever. I just had too little willpower to even try to do anything about it. Real life made me feel sad and unwanted, at least in games I could beat a boss or level up every now and then.
What consequences did you start to experience?
Well, let’s see. I let my business fail, I lost everything in 2008. Pension, savings, 401K, medical insurance. I had an office for my business downtown, I would show up there at 8AM and come home at 11PM having done nothing but game all day.
On weekends I went in anyway, even though there was no work. It took well over a year to burn through the severance pay (mostly because I had the foresight to pay off my mortgage rather than refinance it 30 times to get a boat or go to Hawaii every year).
When did you decide to quit?
I thought of what my tombstone might look like. Here lies Bryan Valencia, Consumer of Entertainment. Or even worse, Here lies Bryan Valencia, Mediocre Gamer. Take a walk in the cemetery once. You’ll see epitaphs like Beloved Father and Husband. I thought about that, and I realized I was not anything like that. My legacy was checked out loser.
To me, the legacy I leave behind matters. My family, my achievements. I had fallen into a state where I didn’t think anything I wanted was possible. I was in a frustrated, lonely and hopeless place. I would get fed up that I had played a couple years in SWTOR and maxxed out all my characters.
I kept playing until I got all the first level PVP gear. I didn’t know at the time there were lots more levels of gear. I would queue for a dungeon and get trounced. You can’t get better gear unless you win, so I got frustrated, gave millions to some newbies, and uninstalled.
I had done this many times with many games, and I always went back to another game within a few months. I wanted this to be the last uninstall. I had no games left on my computer, but I had nothing else to fill my 40 hours a week, so after a week I loaded another game. I felt like such a failure that time.
The last couple of times, I found that my life still sucked, and I had lowered everyone’s expectations so much that they were living their lives without me. I found that I had NOTHING to fill my time with. I spent days bingeing on Netflix and YouTube.
Then I googled for how to quit video gaming.
Did you seek help or support? Start the detox? Relapse?
When I found myself unable to work, I saw a doctor. He got me started on meds. I’m still not sure how well that’s working out.
I started the detox as soon as I read the forums and the material Cam supplied. I made it all the way through on the first try. So far I have not relapsed. I’m over 100 days now. I also started taking a few classes at SkillShare. I actually went to the symphony! I have stopped hoping everyday that my wife will leave the house so I could game undisturbed.
What benefit(s) have you gotten from quitting?
Well, it’s early yet, but the primary thing is I have found hope again. I no longer feel helpless and trapped. I feel like my life may amount to something after all.
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