I consider myself an intelligent, rational, well-rounded woman. I’ve always loved reading, writing, and sketching. Those were my tools to release my stress and anxiety. But back in 1990 I met a man who introduced a new interest to my life. He was a co-worker and a great friend. His name was Herb and he was the catalyst to my addiction. Role playing games! Herb was an avid gamer. RPG’s were his preferred genre. He talked about his gaming with such passion and animation you would have thought that he was talking about actual people and places.
At that time I was a divorced mother of three and playing video games was not an option. Up at 4:00 a.m. and not back in bed until 11:00 p.m. My life was hectic and filled with work, kids, and school. Gaming was something my children did. I couldn’t imagine myself ever engaging in that type of activity. But Herb was unrelenting. He told me that the games were a great stress reliever. So, after weeks of his trying to sell me on the notion of just trying one game, I gave in. My first RPG experience was with StarTropics made by Nintendo. Within the first hour of game play I was hooked.
StarTropics was only the beginning. I later became a fan of the Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Sims series. Herb was initially my “supplier.” Every “addict” has a “supplier.” He would loan me a new game every other week. But then I started purchasing my own games. My collection of RPG’s was a sight to behold and I rarely loaned them out. My discs had to be kept pristine and in mint condition. I even became a member of Herb’s gaming group. We discussed strategies, upcoming releases, graphics, systems, etc. My free time soon became dedicated to game play. I would play for hours on end. No food or drink, just bathroom breaks.
At first the impact on my life was subtle. My children who were still in elementary school, actively participated in my game play. They coached me through dungeons, battles, and maps like old pros. But gradually, I stopped socializing. I wouldn’t go out, I stopped answering my phone, and I stopped writing when I was playing a game. My reading material soon included game magazines. On my morning commute to work I would find myself mentally working through a dungeon or puzzle I couldn’t get through the prior night. My gaming went from being restricted to weekends only to almost daily.
Then in the first week of January 1994 my brother who had been seriously ill for a very long time took a turn for the worst. He was my younger brother and I knew that his death was inevitable. So I went to see him in the hospital one last time. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. The image of him emaciated and just barely holding on will haunt me for the rest of my life. To cope with the grief that I was already experiencing I started playing an RPG. I can’t recall the name of that particular game right now. But what I do remember is playing that game day and night for a week. Right up until Jan. 10, the day my brother died. I was so focused on that game I didn’t have time to think, feel, or cry. I was just numb and that’s just what I wanted at that time. It was when I stopped playing that I finally broke down.
I didn’t work for that week while playing that game. I couldn’t. And I no longer play as fervently as I once did. Like shoes, we outgrow certain things at different stages in our lives. I’ve overcome my addiction by focusing on other interests and pursuits. RPG’s are no longer a focal point in my life. Don’t get me wrong, every once in a while I’ll pick up a controller and indulge myself. But only for a little while. The illusion of escape that I once found through and in the role playing games is no longer there.