It was 12:35, on a Tuesday afternoon. The desks in room 141 were filling quickly as college students came stumbling in before class. Spots were quickly occupied, except for that awkward, marginal space in the back that no one dared invade. By the time 12:40 rolled around, only one seat was empty.
There was a perfectly sound reason. Nearly two hours before class started, something changed for me.
I bought HALO: Reach. Math class was no longer relevant.
Since my sixth birthday, video games were an integral structure in my life. Mario got me through elementary school. High school’s taint was tempered into a bittersweet thrall by Zelda and HALO. Video games were comforting friends, or an escape from a difficult, even harsh, reality. Unfortunately, sometimes those realities involved homework, among other responsibilities and obligations. Due to my ever-increasing fondness for video games, I found myself struggling with grades throughout high school, a struggle that would continue into college. Each missing or ignored assignment would pile on pressure, a pressure that I would inevitably strive to alleviate through more video games. A proverbial “vicious cycle”.
I always ignored the signs, though. Like a cancer patient in denial, or a chain smoker turning a blind eye, I never really attempted an in-depth analysis. As time went on, I became more and more firmly entrenched in my addiction. Still, I always was a wave or two behind the technological cruise line, which seemed to keep me somewhat grounded in reality.
That all changed when I upgraded (finally) to my XBOX 360. That was when things started to get ugly. Suddenly, I was in the midst of gaming glory. New games were being unveiled in a constant morphine drip of pixelated nirvana. I dove wholeheartedly into the ugly, churning grey current. The ugly reached its peak when I finally purchased an XBOX Live subscription. I had sworn years previous that I would never do so; some aspect about the notion repulsed me. Merely buying the XBOX 360, however, turned out to be an awful gateway drug into the online bedlam.
The tantalizing thing about video games is that they seem to have an endless supply of things to do. Whether you’re mutilating zombie Nazis, or saving Hyrule from a particularly nasty ginger bent on destruction, you always have something more to accomplish. As I plunged further and further into the dark crevasses of gaming, I found that there was always a feast available for my insatiable desire for virtual antics, especially once I entered the world of online gaming. Since it was such an unquenchable thirst, I found that I had to keep pushing the limits (mainly of time and money) to satisfy my addiction. Classes became easier and easier to conveniently ignore. The addiction even began to affect any jobs I had, to the point of calling out sick just to spend more time gaming.
The day I realized it had to stop was, oddly enough, a day that I didn’t play. I had been trying for some time to focus on goals that I had; namely, writing and music. In an attempt at motivation, I had given myself an ultimatum: I no longer allowed myself gaming for more than an hour and a half per day. This particular day, I was struck powerfully by a new revelation.
I realized that I was having a hard time limiting myself. I was having difficulty confining a waste of time and energy into an hour and a half. I realized that I was addicted to something that had no benefits, no growth, and no opportunities. I was addicted to a black hole.
Once I had this epiphany, the next step was easy. Now it might make some cringe, but this is what I did.
I sold the XBOX 360.
I still keep in contact with some of my old friends. Sometimes I spend a little while cruising around with Mario, or chilling with Link. But because I took the initiative, and acted for myself, I am able to confidently assert my independence from video games. They can be a great source of distraction and recreation. However, knowing when to let go is paramount.
It is, after all, just a game.