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March 29, 2010

Reality vs. Fantasy

Yesterday, I had "the talk." No, not the birds and the bees. I had that talk long ago. This was the gamer's talk. The one where your family says that you are wasting your life and you've become this hollow shell of the wonderful person you used to be. Anyone familiar with this?

Maybe this isn't the place for me to say these types of things, but this is a blog about by gaming life. If you don't want to read it, move along and come back later.

For anyone who's still reading (well, it's mainly two people), thanks.


Unfortunately, this isn't a chat that I can say I never heard before. Of course, it's always coming from the same person and not everyone I deal with. So usually I just brush it off and move on with life. This time, I really lost sleep over it. I went to bed unusually early and then woke up at midnight. After trying to force myself to go back to sleep, I simply said forget it and fired up FFXI, thinking I'd see some friends online. Then I started thinking.

Am I really an addict to games? Does the simple act of asking that question imply that I am and now seek some form of justification to prove that I'm not? Have I really pushed the few friends that I had away because of games, or did we just grow apart?

I asked myself those and so many more, and I'm still looking for answers. I don't know what to think. I find myself trying to explain this to people that don't play games as much or at all. Of course, I receive the quizzical expression as they struggle to understand how a game could actually mean something to a person. Games are beyond the ping-pong / Pac-man stage now. It boggles my mind to see how people refuse to understand that.

I grew up with games. My father bought my first console when I was six and I've loved them since. Videogames, Lego sets, all that neat stuff. I found a comfort in gaming. As I grew and changed, so did gaming, both in the technical aspect and the overall content. Character development & engaging plots are no longer the exception; they are requirements. It's easy to find yourself laughing out loud at some of the silly things game characters do, or to be pissed at one of the "evil" characters. We even cry at some of the things we see and get attached to the characters we play.

MMOs have even more of an effect. It's not just a game character I'm looking at when I'm in parties, events, or whatever else. There are people on the other side. I've never met most of you and the chance that I ever will is next to non-existent, but does that mean my experiences with you don't mean anything? Is it stupid to consider some of you my friends when all we do is hang out in a virtual world? Hell, what defines a "friend"? Is a friend a person that I have to be face-to-face with? There are people I've "met" here that I consider to be some great people, and I also choose to call them my friends...but am I wrong to do so since we've never done anything other than FFXI-related events?

I've been told that life is passing me by and all I ever seem to want to do is game. Sometimes, yeah I do want to just sit and game for a day. Other times, I feel like going somewhere. However, I'm not the type who likes to do things alone. I just don't find enjoyment in solo activities. So if no "real friends" are around, then I fire up my game and do something there. Then when some of those real people do come around and want to do something I have no interest in, everything is immediately blamed on the gaming. I've been called every synonym for anti-social and hermit that there is, but I am social as hell when I'm at work. When I get off work, I go the the gym and chat with some people there. I may not have a lot to talk about, but I do make an attempt. Then I come home and want to relax. So I game.

I've never been one to watch much television. Cartoons and a few movies were pretty much the extent of it. News is depressing and is always full of who got raped, shot, robbed, or some other event that points out how violent and stupid the human race is. We're constantly told how crappy the economy and job-markets are, as if we're incapable of seeing the long unemployment lines or sky-rocketing gas prices. Regular television is now littered with "reality" shows that are anything but real. When is the last time you saw a reality show where nothing happened? When people just got up, went to work / school, had a boring-ass day and that was it? The car didn't break down; the whorish daughter didn't have the football team fondling her in the garage and then post a youtube video of it; the misunderstood boy wasn't cutting himself in the kitchen, and the parents weren't arguing about who gets to screw the gardener? I apologize now since that type of stuff doesn't interest me. TV just bores me. There are a couple of shows I enjoy, but even they are cookie-cutter in design.

Yet, because I find gaming more entertaining than the rest of these things, there is something wrong with me. I can't actually give a damn about any of you because you aren't real. You're all a bunch of avatars that wander this virtual landscape who don't actually give a damn about me or anyone else you come in contact with over the course of your gaming lives. These games are killing my life and will be the reason that I spend the rest of my existence alone. Nothing good will ever come from me playing a game. Ever. No friends, no job, no relationships. Just fake accomplishments and digital gear that will never do anything to further my goals in reality.

That is how is constantly presented to me.

I have always fought to believe that the nay-sayers are wrong. It's been my firm belief that a friendship formed in an MMO can be just a strong as one formed in the coffee shop down the street from me. Today I questioned it, and now I feel lost. Are any of you really my friends, or am I just naive? Am I supposed to engage in as many shallow activities as I can fit into my life all in the name of saying that I lived to the fullest? Does it mean that something is missing from my life because I can honestly say that I'm happy when I'm gaming?

I'm not a little kid who has never seen the world before. I have traveled across the globe; met many different people; took part in several different experiences; loved, cried, laughed, and so much more. I work everyday; pay bills / taxes; help people when I can; and I'm there for my family when they need me. I'm not some social reject or embarrassment to society.

Still, I find myself wondering: Has it all been a waste? Was I supposed to follow the path that everyone else did and leave the gaming world that I've known and loved all my life?

Is there really something wrong with me?

9 comments:

Matheus said...

Who hasn't come up with this kind of questioning about gaming, I wonder.

Of course we all do. I constantly think of myself the same ways family tell fellow gamers: wasting my life, etc etc etc....

I agree with them in certain aspects. Yes, I've turned down a lot of RL friends invite to be gaming and stuff, but the fact is, I just wanna do what I'm up for it.

When I was single I felt this need of going out every single fucking day of the week to get drunk, party, etc, just to make me feel "sociable", or "accepted". The fact is, while I was somewhat happy, I was never entirely. I mean, the other ppl thought I was happy just cause I socialized and went partying a lot. While other ppl thought I was happy, I just wanted to say FUCK YOU and stay at home playing FF12 at the time, stoned out of my mind.

So after all, I do agree in somethings they say. But in the end of the day, it's only a waste for them. I think it's a waste to watch soaps, or play farmville, or stay in MSN/twitter/facebook. But now it's sociably acceptable to do that. Each one with its own addiction.

I only think its bad when you don't work and spend all day gaming, wasting someone else money. But if you work, pay your bills, is happy, then you're free to do THE FUCK YOU WANT!

Matheus said...

I hope I managed to express my ideas, sometimes it's difficult for me to do it in English. lolz

Preciouskitten said...

Assessing an addiction level comes down to the same questions, no matter which addiction is being assessed. There might be more to consider but the answers to these questions are very telling. And no, asking is not proof of anything except a person's willingness to think about themselves. The bottom line is, this is something people need to decide for themselves. The fact that it's your hobby of choice, does NOT make it an addiction. The following does:

1) Do you neglect other things, important things, as a result of your "addiction"?

-Do you miss special occasions or times with your partner, with your family, because you are involved with your addiction?

-Have you ever missed something really important because your addiction came first?

-Do you feel badly having missed those events but know you would miss them again if you had to choose between them and your addiction?

2) Do you continue your "addiction" despite having psychological and physical problems with it?

-Is your addiction causing breaks in your life, i.e., moments when you know you are not the same person you used to be?

-Psychologically, are you further away from your problems than when you started?

-And now physically, can you feel the results as well?

3) Do you feel anxious, irritable, etc. if you can't get your "fix"?

- Do you need to get to your addiction first thing in the morning, or immediately after work to feel complete?

- If you are away from your addiction, miss a "hit" for a day, do you feel a craving for it? How strong is that craving?

4) Do you find yourself spending more money or time then you intended to limit yourself to?

- Do you lose sleep to continue your addiction?

- Do you buy more and more to support your addiction?

5) How do you treat others that interrupt your addiction?

- Do you hide your addiction (time spent, materials, etc)?

- Do you resent interruptions, even for important reasons?

Not sure how you could handle the person pressuring you. Maybe go over these points with them and explain the difference between a hobby and an addiction. Give examples of how you don't fall into the addiction category, such as meeting your responsibilities and not overextending yourself or your resources to continue playing. I hope this helps.

Jacinda said...

Thanks for the responses you two. See, I told you only two people read this regularly. ^_^

I looked over the questions and gave them an honest answer.

1) Do you neglect other things, important things, as a result of your "addiction"?

No. I make sure that I have the things I need to take care of done and out of the way prior to signing on. I miss several in-game events and gatherings weekly due to things going on in reality.

-Do you miss special occasions or times with your partner, with your family, because you are involved with your addiction?

I'm single, but I can't say that I have ever missed an occasion or event due to being online.

-Have you ever missed something really important because your addiction came first?

I did forget to tell someone happy birthday, and I honestly feel bad about that.

-Do you feel badly having missed those events but know you would miss them again if you had to choose between them and your addiction?

No, if I feel bad about missing something, then I take steps to make sure I don't miss it again.

2) Do you continue your "addiction" despite having psychological and physical problems with it?

-Is your addiction causing breaks in your life, i.e., moments when you know you are not the same person you used to be?

I can think back to several years ago in my life, and if I had to point out reasons for any personality shifts, it's been due to many of life's experiences.

-Psychologically, are you further away from your problems than when you started?

I only wish. The problems I had prior to gaming are still right in my face today. Well except the ones that I managed to resolve.

-And now physically, can you feel the results as well?

I don't know if it's gaming or general laziness. Sometimes, I feel like being lazy and just keep gaming or go to sleep when I know I should go to the gym. Of course, I tell myself to get off my ass and go workout, so I do.

Jacinda said...

3) Do you feel anxious, irritable, etc. if you can't get your "fix"?

- Do you need to get to your addiction first thing in the morning, or immediately after work to feel complete?

Sometimes, yeah. I want to get home, get all of my cleaning and whatnot done, then jump online and see what's going on. See some friends, do some leveling, etc. I can't say I feel incomplete if I don't do it, but it is something that I want to do when I have free time.

- If you are away from your addiction, miss a "hit" for a day, do you feel a craving for it? How strong is that craving?

I do think about gaming if I'm not doing it, but I can and have stepped away from my system for weeks or months at a time if I don't feel like playing.

4) Do you find yourself spending more money or time then you intended to limit yourself to?

- Do you lose sleep to continue your addiction?

I have a general time that I go to sleep, regardless of what I'm doing. I don't go out late at night if it will pass my "bedtime" and I won't usually stay online past midnight on the weekdays.

- Do you buy more and more to support your addiction?

When I need to save money, I do. There are many games out right now that I simply just can't buy. If I neglected other obligations, sure I could. Though I'd also be without food and a place to live.

5) How do you treat others that interrupt your addiction?

- Do you hide your addiction (time spent, materials, etc)?

No. I don't make any attempt to hide my gaming. Anyone who knows me knows all about it. If someone calls and asks what I'm doing, I have no problem telling them.

- Do you resent interruptions, even for important reasons?

I don't like interruptions for anything I'm involved in. Eating, talking on the phone, watching a movie. I don't like distractions in general.

However, I don't snap at people who do interrupt me. My friend's daughter comes by all the time for homework help. If I'm online, I'll tell people I have to go for a bit to help her and that's that. If other people need me for something, I go help them as well. My little cousin likes to come in and talk my ear off while I'm online, and I'll spend time with him as well.

I know I game a lot. I won't deny that. I just don't know if I should feel bad because of it, and if I'm supposed to stop gaming to be considered responsible.

Evilpaul said...

Criticism from people who don't understand gaming calling it a waste of time I wouldn't take too seriously. Obviously, when you're playing a videogame you're not doing something productive. But people do lots of unproductive things because they're fun.

Gaming isn't inherently destructive or harmful, so unless you're neglecting serious responsibilities if you're enjoying yourself I don't see a problem with it. There's people who won't "get" it, but there's recreational activities other people enjoy (i.e. Golf) that I don't get.

I've been playing videogames since I was five or six too, so I've run into quite a few people who had similar attitudes. About half the time you can turn them around if you hook them on a good game. ;-)

Preciouskitten said...

THREE readers! You're way more popular then you give yourself credit for. ^_^

Dizzmal said...

I get these questions time to time from people at my work more than anything( I tend to do my FFXI blogging and forum stuff @ work.)

My answer normally is that "It makes me happy." I spend time with my son and my wife when they are open to do so. My wife works nights and when my son goes to day, I end up on FFXI. I wouldn't worry about it coming from a non-gamer because they will never understand. Tell them to accept you as you are or keep moving alone because you don't need their input to live happily

james said...

There's nothing wrong with choosing a different medium for activities, it's like berating a chess player for staying inside all the time... I enjoy coming home from a long day, sitting down, and spending time with my friends. On my days off it's gotten to the point where I do it if I don't have anything else on the go now, but I'm busy. Other times I'll spend 3 days straight getting something done and never leave the house. Note I'm writing this at 3am, I wonder which it falls under this time around? :D Many of the friends I've met online will likely never head up to Canada, much less Calgary. It doesn't make them any less real, or make the friends next door any more so simply due to geographic location. You get up, you go to work, and you spend your free time with your friends/family. Sounds pretty normal to me.
~Bhinasha