From Fun Hobby to Divorce: How Gaming Addiction Impacted My Life.
“My parents just wanted me happy, though they didn’t see the monster that was evolving inside of me.”
Games: a fun past time to play with family, friends, or by yourself. Gaming has evolved into something incredible in contrast to the early 90s. In my early days it was Commodore 64, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Game Boy Color, and PlayStation.
I remember how much I loved to get off the bus, run inside, drop my backpack, and turn on my gaming system. I’d usually be interrupted by “You have homework”, or “supper’s ready”. I enjoyed games from the Super Mario franchise to games like Riddick Bowe Boxing and Donkey Kong. I didn’t have one certain interest, I just loved to play.
It was my only ambition at that age: Play the game, beat it, and be the best at it out of my siblings. My competitiveness and poor sportsmanship showed greatly in games like Mario Kart or Madden Football, as I’m sure it did with anyone at that age.
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Gaming Wasn’t A Problem (Yet)
I was an energetic young boy who loved the outdoors just as much as I loved my games. I loved spending time with my family also, whether it be a game of baseball or a game of Super Mario 3 on an early Saturday morning with my brother and two sisters.
But my interests continued to grow in gaming, especially when I got my first taste of online multiplayer on my Dad’s PC. I’ll never forget the game that I indulged into: Delta Force 2. I loved working my way to the top of the scoreboard, becoming better each time I played, and meeting other players along the way.
My addiction to gaming went into full force with the introduction of this game. I day dreamed about playing while I was in school, drew pictures of battles I imagined myself playing in, and stayed anxious on the way home to bring my computer to life so I could once again battle it out on one of my favorite games at the time.
My attention to my education took a dip and stayed down for the years to come. Years later after I got bored of Delta Force 2, my uncle gave our family a collection of old computer games, and in that collection lived another first person shooter that once again sparked my interests.
When I first read the front of the case, I didn’t think much of the game. A man with what looked to be a hard plastic suit with a symbol on the chest didn’t really excite me, but then I turned the case over and read that this game was a winner of over 40 Game of the Year awards. That made my jaw drop a bit, and without a second thought I began to install the game onto my computer. Amazed by the storyline I was instantly hooked.
Years later my uncle gifted us an Xbox with an inclusion of various games from Halo to Ghost recon. I went through game after game, defeating one after another, wanting to buy more games as I went. I’m sure I put a hole in my parents pocket with the interest I had, but I know in the end they just wanted me happy, though they didn’t see the monster that was evolving inside of me.
Down the road, my Dad bought a game that without a doubt was another cause of my obsession with first-person shooters: Call of Duty. Little did I know that, once again, I would be immersed in the multiplayer world.
The gaming world in Call of Duty was so in-depth compared to the other games I had played. Players took losing seriously and was adamant on becoming the greatest gamer they could be. Clan after clan existed throughout the community, and I was excited to become a part of it. I convinced my parents to buy me a stand up microphone and I found headphones my sisters used to use to listen to their portable CD players.
If I would be able to go back in time and stop myself from becoming addicted to games, this would’ve been the point where I would’ve tried to convince myself that there was more to life than gaming.
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I was in awe of the graphics compared to my previous system. I couldn’t believe what the new generation of gaming had produced. My dedication to becoming the top gamer doubled, and so did the amount of time spent playing. My attention to education dipped further than ever with my focus on the gaming world as I fought to become as great as I could be, perfecting my kill/death ratio, win/loss ratio, and accuracy percentage.
Let’s step out of the story for a moment. So far I had been in my obsession with gaming for about 8 years, and I had no realization that I was working towards nothing in a literal sense, but in my eyes, I had made this my life. I felt like I was someone in the gaming world. It was my reality, and the world outside was just a nightmare in my eyes that I couldn’t wait to get out of when I picked the controller back up and continued on my journey to being the best.
I had a circle of gamers I played with and as a result stemmed to playing other games, as my brother took over the Xbox as basically his own to play. This was the beginning of the crumbling of our relationship. Before, we were close. We played games together on Xbox, PlayStation, and all the other systems we owned. We played outside together, and pretty much did everything together, with the exception of arguments that escalated quickly to physical or verbal actions, but all in all, we bonded.
With my interest in PC gaming, his interest in Xbox 360, and our passion to be competitive, we parted ways with playing together. We both would spend hours upon hours on our beloved games, only to take breaks for dinner or whenever needed. We talked less to each other and more to our friends of the gaming world. My social life in school was already an empty shell, and gaming kept it at bay.
Gaming at School
In the mornings before school began, I would go to the library, boot up one of the computers, and play games such as Quake 3 or the Halo demo. There were a group of kids like myself who liked to game early in the morning and we would all get on computers and play. The sad thing was I didn’t even know who the others were I was playing with, nor did I try to find out.
Any opportunity I had to play a video game at school, I would take it. I would skip out on doing work assignments also. I remember lying to my teacher, telling her I had an essay to do online, so she allowed me to go to the library where I played Quake 3 for the remainder of the class.
When I was 16, I got into my first serious relationship and took some of my focus off of gaming (I still played a lot). I grew up a little, got a job, and came back into reality. I continued to focus on my relationship and left little attention to gaming. Time went on, and when the year came, I graduated high school (somehow), and began college that following fall.
My gaming obsession quickly slipped its way back in during my short lived college life. I wasted my reimbursement given back to me from college on a $2,600 gaming laptop. I would skip out on class to play my favorite PC shooter, or literally be in class at the back row playing a game. Yes, I literally ignored listening in class and ignored focusing on my career goals to game. I failed several classes due to skipping class and playing video games while I was in class. When I was about 18 I found out I would be having twins and that my whole life was about to change, and that it did.
My Girlfriend Got Pregnant
I dropped completely out of college and began working towards a career in the underground coal mines. The job paid well, but it wasn’t the ideal dream occupation. Gaming went to the back burner for the time being until I landed a job at a local company.
During the pregnancy I began developing a want, or a need in my eyes, to occupy myself. Maybe it was the fear of what was to come, or just the stress in general, but my obsession with gaming made its debut in full force once again in my life. I had the money so I bought myself a nice Xbox 360 with all the accessories and rejoined the community that I had secretly missed and been away from for too long. My girlfriend didn’t mind much, since at the time we didn’t live together and through the week I pretty much stayed at my house.
I worked 2nd shift and she was still in school at the time, so I seriously had a lot of free time to do whatever. I said I would quit cold turkey when our kids arrived, although I should’ve known I was kidding myself.
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I had my laptop setup playing an online MMORPG in the hospital room when it was getting close to delivery. When my twins finally did arrive, I stuck to my word to not game, but as time went on, I went back to my old ways. I would skip out on going over to her house to see them to play Modern Warfare, or would be on the Xbox while they were at my house.
I sadly even have a picture of one of them in my lap while I was playing Xbox when they were a year old. I was hooked again, and by the time we had got married and moved in together, I had spent over $1,000 in gaming gear such as a headset, video recorder, custom controllers, and games. My relationship with everyone around me suffered greatly, more than it ever had.
My Relationships Deteriorated
I was already distant from the family that I grew up with, and now I was separating myself from the reality of my family that I created. After I had got a full time job all I did was work, game, eat, and sleep. I never talked about games much at work because frankly, I was embarrassed by myself. I had been since I was young and knew I played video games way too much. I remember when I was younger my dad was asked by someone if I played any sports, and he told them “no, he likes to play computer games though”. I think my face got so red from embarrassment that it could’ve popped.
The sad thing is I couldn’t honestly tell you what the first few years of my children’s lives were like. I was working 12 hour shifts, but when I had those few hours of cherished time with my kids, my priority was leveling up on whatever game I was playing.
I’m left with regret of missing out on the most memorable times, and there is of course no way to get it back. As time went on, I began battling myself to quit gaming and focus on life. I knew I was making a negative impact on my family and realized there was no way for me to manage my time with gaming because I didn’t have the self control.
Unfortunately, I would always find an excuse to stop myself from getting rid of everything permanently. The excuses would be from “I can make money gaming by playing in cash leagues” or “I’ll only play a few hours a week”.
I Missed the Wake-Up Call
I had a lashing out over losing in a game that it should’ve been my wake up call. I remember it clear as day, I was getting owned in a team deathmatch on Modern Warfare 3. I was already cursing at the screen like I had done in the past ever since I began multilayer gaming, and got to the point where if I died again, I was done. I, of course, got shot in the face and in that same second, I quickly stood up, threw my controller, and then threw my headset from my head so hard that it broke. Then I took my Xbox and slammed it to the ground not once, but twice. It was beyond pathetic.
After that incident I didn’t game for a little while because well, I couldn’t, due to a broken Xbox. It wasn’t long before I made the excuse that I’ll buy another Xbox and eventually repair and sell the other to get my money back… yeah, that made a lot of sense.
After spending another $500 or more on new gaming equipment, I had everything back. I had the most expensive headset, the new version of the Xbox, a game recorder, and a custom scuf controller. I went straight back into gaming for six hours a day on the weekends and when I could through the week, ignoring what mattered in my life most.
I strayed further and further from the person a father and husband was supposed to be and dove deeper into the gaming world. I began trying to start a YouTube channel (which was a joke), that consisted of reviews for gaming gear, and gameplay videos… none of which I was good at setting up or presenting.
I needed alone time and peace and quiet to have an uninterrupted video so my wife at the time and the kids stayed in a room upstairs while I recorded. I later moved on to dedicating myself to playing in gaming leagues for cash where I easily spent more money than I made. I wasted money on resetting my stats because I was such a stifler for having the perfect win/loss ratio, wasted money on more gear, and wasted my time indefinitely because in comparison to other gamers I was terrible, despite my expensive gear and years of experience. I did win a 1600 Xbox points card, but needless to say it wasn’t something I chose to sell online for money, and rather used to buy online accessories, like changing my gamertag.
Marriage in Free Fall
What really sent my marriage and relationship to my family into freefall was choosing to switch from day shift/2nd shift rotation at work to straight nights for the sole reason of being able to have more time to game through the day.
What ran through my mind was having the ability to stay up past my kids bedtime before I had to leave to spend time on gaming, and have the following morning before the kids and wife woke up to game as well. I purposely sacrificed sleep to game more when I could. I got what I wanted in my own selfish ways and continued to make those around me who needed my attention suffer.
My gaming obsession slowed a bit when my marriage took a big hit. I died down to playing single player games, sold a lot of my gear, and came back to earth so to speak. I still played multiplayer games from time to time, but the hit my marriage took was a stronger focus than Xbox ever could.
I eventually got to the point where I realized gaming wasn’t getting me anywhere and that I was wasting my life away, and it was like looking back and seeing the things I had destroyed… looking at the rubble of structures that were my marriage and relationships, the dust of my empty ambitions, and the pieces that were nearly impossible to put back together of my life.
Within a year my marriage took another hit, and that was it. Despite having children together, we separated and I began a new chapter of my life. Games left a sour taste in my mouth because I knew the damage it had caused ever since I began playing them. After moving back in with my parents, I decided to sell everything and quit all at once. It took something so catastrophic such as my divorce to make me realize how much I missed out and ignored in life. I lived in a virtual world and ignored reality.
I hate that I never had the self control to manage my time or just put the controller down and focus on what mattered. There’s nothing I can do about it now, and the only thing I can do is do the right thing from here on out.
I found the woman of my dreams. My children are in a more stable home, my marriage is doing great, and all in all, I’m who I should’ve been a long time ago. I still struggle with a gaming addiction such as having the want to download a game on my phone, PC, or Xbox from time to time.
But the thoughts always stick with me: What’s the point of playing this? What else could I be doing? Do I really want to dip my foot in this ocean of addiction again?
It usually brings me to putting the controller/phone down and walking away, because I know that, for me, if I let myself go a foot, I’ll go a mile. Instead I focus my time on what matters, on what’s going to make a difference in what I love: My wife, my family, my goals, and my life.
Some of you may be dealing or have dealt with an addiction like this, and I hope and pray you find your way. Whether those who are addicted will admit it or not, some of us just can’t manage our time and don’t have the self control to break away into reality. We’ll make every excuse in the book to continue playing games and make it seem like it’s okay. That’s the struggle with any addiction, though.
Video Game Addiction is Real
The definition of addiction is the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity. Several doctors and sites label an addiction as a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences (Wikipedia).
Drugabuse.gov describes an addiction to drugs “as a chronic, relapsing brain disease”, but upon removing the mindset of drug addiction and replacing it with a gaming addiction, it still fits the answer to the question: is gaming addiction an actual thing? It continues on about “compulsive seeking and use despite consequences, and is characterized as a brain disorder because of how drugs change the structure of the brain and how it works.”
Whether you believe it or not, your addiction and mine to gaming has altered our brains, especially from excessive and extended use. We’ve deteriorated relationships, missed out on learned vital life skills, burned bridges, and the list can go on.
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If there was some way I could have the ability to go back and stop myself from ever touching a game, it would at least be at the time when I began getting seriously addicted, because I wouldn’t want to completely erase everything. I would be wiping away moments I cherished with my family playing harmless video games together, laughing, and enjoying ourselves all the way.
Here I am, 26 years old with around 17 years of gaming under my belt, and I am still struggling with it today. I have had several relapses of downloading five to ten games on my phone/computer, enjoying myself for about a week, feeling guilty, and then deleting all the content I had installed.
I’ve even went as far as writing out a vow that I would quit gaming and that I would instead strive to be a better husband, father, and person. Not even a week in I broke that vow, making the excuse that I just need some leisure time in my life. The addiction to gaming will still linger no matter if you’ve defeated and overcome it or not. You’ll see the release of the next chapter to that game you always loved to play or a remaster of an old game with stunning graphics with the storyline you fell in love with. It’s just like any other addiction.
You hear about it, see it, or just plain fall back into it. Before you know it gaming is on your mind again, and it’s all you look forward to everyday. Everything else in your life seems dull and boring without gaming in it. I don’t know how long I’ll last on quitting gaming cold-turkey once again, but this time I hope it’s for good. I’ve done enough damage to my progress in life to let it slip back in and cause my destruction.
Invest Your Time Wisely
I’ve grown to realize how many things I don’t know now that I should’ve learned by now. I could’ve mastered guitar playing. I could’ve graduated college already. I could’ve done things right the first time if I would’ve put those things first in my life. I could be at such a higher level of progress than I am now. I can’t say anything else but coulda, shoulda, woulda. Dwelling on these things isn’t going to get me anywhere. It’s what I choose to do now, what I choose to strive for today that is what is going to get me somewhere.
Will there be setbacks? I guarantee it. Will I overcome them? I hope and pray so. The first few steps are the hardest, just like when a baby is trying to learn to walk. But the more steps I take forward, the easier things are going to get, all the while filling the void that gaming has left after years and years of use.
It’s never going to be easy, but I know that with prayer and support from my family, especially my wife, that I can do it. I’ve overcome it before for almost a year, and I can surely go for another, and another after that, and before I know it, I’ll be gamer-free for 20 years.
Today I make a vow to become game-free. I vow to become closer to my family than ever before, and to strive towards improving my relationship with those that I love, and to strengthen my faith and knowledge in God. I vow to fill the void with my callings and passions backed by Grace, and to always continue to step forward, and at those times when I stumble, I’ll pray for God to lend a hand in my times of troubles. This is the beginning of a new day.
What will you do?
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