Playing games has been a huge part of my life since I was six years old. I started my gaming hobby at my early age, which later turned into addiction, from Playstation 1.
When I was first introduced to Playstation 1, the console looked nothing more than a mere gray plastic box which magically reads CD and displays moving pixels on TVs. Being a naive child I was at the time, I grew up fondly with Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, Tetris Plus, Pac-man World, and many more.
Time moved on, and the golden times of Nintendo Gameboy, DS and Sony’s PSP came. I remember how everyone in my elementary school had a Nintendo DS and we played Mario Kart together. I also borrowed my father’s PC to play Starcraft: Brood War, and Age of Empires III. Those two games would later define Real Time Strategy (RTS) as one of my favorite gaming genres.
Early Signs of Gaming Addiction
As I also had Playstation 2 and Nintendo Wii, I would go to a gaming store and buy around five games a week and play them one at a time. I remembered one moment where I woke up early in the morning everyday just to feed virtual dogs in Nintendogs. To this day I still cringe remembering that I would comply to my own addiction, and knowing that timed-event games just use their on-device clocks.
I carried my gaming hobby-turned-addiction to high school, where Starcraft II was recently launched. I was really happy at the time, and ended up playing the Wings of Liberty chapter immediately. This is where my addiction worsened. When I was on my campaign streak, my father came in and said something that would ring in my mind years later:
“You won’t achieve much of what you want in life if you keep on playing games. You are just sinking all of your time into games that do not translate into real life.”
Certainly I was pissed because he ‘ruined’ my gaming mood. I understood what my father was saying – I could be doing something more meaningful than just playing games. But if I stopped playing games, I would be losing one of my favorite hobbies since childhood. So I kept on playing quietly without my parents knowing.
Over the years, I also joined a band of friends playing Dragon Nest. I recalled the time where we spent sleepless days completing the highest raid available from 40 cap to 93 cap level era. I grinded gears, watched YouTube videos, read future content, and got as many achievements as I could in the game.
I did keep my school grades above requirements, but only for a short period. I was almost out of my mind at that time. I neglected my future academic life and only applied to one overseas university. The addiction hurt my grades badly and I barely passed my exams. Still, it was not the end of my gaming craze.
I Wanted to Quit Gaming
Before going to university, I said to myself I won’t be playing video games anymore. One of my friends just said “That’s BS, you’ll be playing again in a few months. Otherwise you’ll burn yourself out.” Again, I brushed it off as if nothing happened.
Before ‘cutting myself off’ from gaming, I went on a full-gaming month playing Tree of Savior. I slept from 2am to 10am and played the game as soon as I woke up. I made sure I got the most satisfaction out of gaming before quitting. After leveling up my character to level 200, I stopped playing, but only for only four months before buying Overwatch and getting addicted for another year.
Initially I was enjoying the game, reliving the fun I had playing games with friends. However, as Overwatch is an online multiplayer game which is heavily dependent on teammates’ performance, its nature slowly drew out the toxicity within me.
I would get frustrated and often blamed strangers on our team. I tried really hard to not blame my friends, accept criticism and feedback from them, although sometimes the toxicity still got the best of me. This would go on for weeks. I was sleep-deprived, frustrated, and wanting more of those PotGs and worthwhile wins. Looking back now, I am still happy (and surprised) I did not flunk my grades during my addiction.
Things Were Getting Worse
This continued on until summer 2018. I was doing an internship at a startup, while all of my university friends were having internships at big and well-known companies. I felt inferior to them. I was not even enjoying my internship.
What was I doing in my life? Just play games and sink all of my time in them? Those thoughts haunted my mind, followed by the insulting jokes from my university friends. On top of that, my family notified me that my grandmother recently passed away. I cried that evening, thinking of how all the life events turned around against me at once. I was burned out from my internship, looked down upon my friends, and lost a family member whom I was very close to.
I felt worthless and depressed for two to three weeks. It was my lowest point in my university life. I was helpless, and decided to seek help and shoulder to lean on from my friends.
Suddenly… It Happened
I had no urge to play video games anymore. I stopped feeling guilty for not playing games. The whispers inside my head went from “Why are you not playing your games?” to “Those rewards and statistics you’re getting are meaningless in real life.”
One time my friend invited me to play Starcraft II and I joined. While I was clicking around, making buildings and controlling my army, I felt nothing. That proud feeling of having strong base and army, satisfaction when I crushed the enemy bases. Those feelings were just not there. I could not continue after around 20 minutes and I told my friend I was going to stop playing for a while. And that was the first day I stopped my addiction.
Ever since I stopped my addiction, I have been meditating every morning, expanded my social circle with people and being in tune with my friends’ emotion. I listen more to my friends about their life and spend more time laughing with them. I also spend my time going out to live concerts, and I’m on my third book now.
Currently I am on exchange at a university with a rigorous Computer Science program. I struggled with the academics at first, and I felt like giving up. But I pushed on and kept going.
After getting a hang of my courses, I went on to meet people in tech events and conferences in various cities, while expanding my professional network. I also applied to tons of internships worldwide, and, to my surprise, I got my first interview offer from a well-known company. Even though I have not received the offer yet, I feel more confident in applying for internships around the world.
I was still shocked with the fact that anyone could achieve dreams that were once their fantasy. Applying for worldwide internships was never in my reachable goals while I was addicted to games.
What I am really grateful for is that, after putting my effort and time into real life, I get to see the tangible rewards and experience. My lifestyle and studying habits become more organized and productive. I become more confident. My emotions are more stable and I rarely lash out with anger at somebody else. Looking forward, I believe better things will come as long as I put in the effort into my life, families, and friends.
To those who are still struggling to end their addiction, I want to note that stopping addiction may happen differently for everyone. Some will stop when they are their rock bottom, and some will stop when shit just happens. Others will stop when they have something to fight for.
Stopping an addiction is not about ending the gaming streak glamorously, or saying “Just one more game and I’ll stop”.
It is about realizing the harsh truth, the negative impact you have been carrying along with your addiction. It is about confronting your real life fears. No more making excuses, no more what ifs, no more “what happens when I stop playing.” You need humility, mental resilience, and commitment. There will be people who disregard your addiction, and people who acknowledge your burden. Seek those who will help when you really need it.
I really hope what I share here will be an inspiration to those who are still finding the motivation to stop playing games and start a new phase in life. One way to picture life is as an MMORPG. You grind experience, develop skills, take on new challenges, and get the actual rewards. Real life, in my opinion, is more challenging, fulfilling, and rewarding if you put the necessary time and effort into it.
For those who are on their no-gaming streak, I also had moments where I relapsed within this period. I played some mobile games when I really had nothing to do and wanted to have a dopamine boost.
Upon playing for 15 minutes, I got bored, and uninstalled them immediately. Although I plan to play casual RTS games after my exchange, I also filled my future schedule with physical activities and socializing with my family because I know I get bored fast playing games now.
The important thing is when you realize that you can’t play games for extended hours without getting bored and you have more important things to do in life, you are already set for a better life.
Story written by Slitz_Treaver
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