My first acquaintance with a computer and computer games occurred when I was 7. I was in the first grade. The teacher was ill, so a group of classmates (including me) was sent to the computer class, so we had something to do. In the computer class we were allowed to play some kind of old games (a variation of “Bomberman” I suppose) on the IBM machines for about an hour. The computers and consoles were not that popular and distributed widely in my city those days, so those simple computer games looked like absolute magic to me.
The time passed by, and some of my classmates started getting brand newDendy (the clone of Nintendo Entertainment System) and Sega consoles as the presents for their birthdays. I was rather jealous. At last, at the age of 8 or 9, my parents bought me the Dendy console. I was absolutely happy, but since that day my obsession began to grow stronger also.
At the age of 11 (if I recall correctly), my grandfather bought me ZX Spectrum computer. I didn’t spend much time playing games on it – all of the games were recorded on the old tapes of low quality, so it required a great patience to load a game. Nevertheless, I’ve gained some basics of Basic programming language due to the problem with game tapes.
It was October 1998 when parents presented me PC (based on Pentium-200Mhz CPU!). I was happy again as when I had got the Dendy console – I could play all the popular PC games (Warcraft II, for example) at last. However, that event tremendously accelerated the progress of my computer games addiction as well. I’d say, from that point, my “hobby” of playing games started turning into the addiction.
Also, during the last year of my addiction I played the board role games based on D’n’D system with a group of pals.
Houston, we have a problem
The early period of gaming (up to 14 years) didn’t cause any harm to the other spheres of my life actually. That was the way I spent my spare time from time to time. But getting the PC at the age of 13 had made things worse. Here is how my obsession looked like.
I couldn’t spend a day without playing computer games. I had made several attempts to have at least 1-day computer fast, but I couldn’t help but push the “Power” button every time I was beside the PC. When I came home, I was so eager to start playing, that I skipped my meal regularly.
My thoughts were absorbed with computer games totally. If I was not playing a game at the moment, I was dreaming about playing it soon. I remember as I was sitting at a lesson in school and figuring out how to defeat that group of doppelgangers in the Baldur’s Gate RPG.
If the school and homework somehow distracted me from playing computer games on the weekdays, but the weekends mostly were spent playing all day long – for about 8 hours a day. Nevertheless, I didn’t see any problem with it at that time, of course. Playing so hard spoiled my eyesight a little, but I didn’t consider it as a problem to be anxious of.
Computer games gave me emotions I couldn’t feel doing any other activity. As a fact, I wasn’t interested in anything else that much, as I was interested in walking through the next game. I didn’t remember any other activities I was doing in a period 15-18 years old, except gaming.
I had very poor social life, because I preferred playing games to the social activities. Whenever a friend would call me with the idea to hang out with me, I’d likely refuse. I used spending my birthdays and New Year’s Days playing the computer games, no parties with friends. I wasn’t good at socializing, so instead of developing the skill of communication, I escaped into the worlds where I was a mighty hero, the savior of galaxies, blah-blah-blah.
If I was asked to characterize myself of that period, I would use the following adjectives: apathetic, passive, weak, sleepy, non-social, frustrated. Though my abuse of computer games didn’t hurt my school marks much, however, teachers at my school noticed that I became more passive and less interested in studying.
Nevertheless, I adored computer games and I was sure that it’s my vocation in this life to create games (though I hadn’t created one, because I was playing them all the time instead of programming). And when the time to enroll in the university came, I applied for the IT faculty (and was enrolled). However, everything changed dramatically in half a year after my enrollment.
The Turning Point
In the beginning of the year 2004 I experienced the panic attack for the first time.
Briefly, panic attack is a kind of state, when it seems like you’re dying and going crazy simultaneously right at that very moment. If you’d like to learn more on the panic attacks, you can read the Wikipedia’s articleregarding this topic. (Though the Wikipedia cannot be considered as a 100% trustworthy source of information, I can say, that the article describes the flow of a panic attack pretty accurately.)
Due to constantly awaiting a panic attack to strike again, the depression became my close companion for a long period of time.
However, despite the panic attacks and following depression, there was quite a good moment in that situation: I was sure that the cause of panic attacks was the excessive abuse of the computer games and a computer overall. Of course, I’m not a qualified to doctor to state it, but I strongly believed that playing computer games too much is the root of my brand new problems. And that was the key point in getting over the computer games addiction and, at last, losing interest in gaming at all.
What happened next? Well, I didn’t give up on playing computer games completely right at that moment. But after the first panic attack, I began to feel very strong resistance towards the process of playing. I was walking through Warcraft III, when I started experience attacks. I still managed to complete its single player story line, but that was rather hard. I literally forced myself to play it through the resistance. I didn’t want to play anymore that much as I used to.
During the year after all these events I made several attempts to return to gaming, but playing a game didn’t capture my attention for more than a couple of hours. I didn’t feel so strong resistance, but that was the lack of interest I think. As you remember I was studying at the IT faculty when all the above was taking place. Most of my university mates liked to spend a night playing Diablo II, Starcraft 2, etc., via LAN. So they were quite surprised every time I refused to take part in their gatherings. But that was true – I didn’t enjoy playing computer games anymore.
The Present Day
These days I play approximately a day a year. Well, of course, the idea to play some game for a while comes to my mind more often than once a year, but I don’t implement it, because it’s more troubles than fun from my point of view: I have to visit a shop, to choose a game, to buy it, to install it, to download patches. After that I’d play it for a couple hours and forget it forever. So I ask myself: does it worth it? The answer is “no” in most cases.
For the last 5 years I walked through only 2 games: Fallout 3 and Call of Duty Modern Warfare’s story line. Well, of course, I buy the significant ones from time to time, like GTA or TES V: Skyrim, but only for the purposes of checking out how far the technology had stepped for the last time.
The other reason why I don’t play that much today is that working as a programmer, I spend the most of my day in front of the monitor. So in the end of a day my eyes are really tired. And I don’t want to hurt them even more with playing the computer games in the evening.
Another reason is that the games overload my head with unnecessary information. I have other important things to think of, than how to defeat that boss.
Plus, I can’t relax playing computer games. It feels like kind of work to me. For example, exercising in a gym is more restful for me than gaming. And if it doesn’t bring any pleasure, what’s the point then?
I started considering playing computer games as a waste of time. I feel like I’m not doing anything useful while playing. I am sure it’s better to have a drink with friends to refresh or strengthen social skills if you have a spare evening.
Playing computer games is a fun activity actually. It used to be fun for me. So I’m not against of spending time this way. My mistake was that I abused it too much and as a result I lost the interest in this activity almost totally. As you see, panic attacks and depression turned out to be the key point of overcoming the computer games obsession in my case. Thus, I can’t give any recommendations here except telling about my feelings and experience in this article.
January 4th, 2012