This a post for this week’s NBI writing prompt.
Gaming has always been something I’ve been around. My parents had an Intellivision, and an Atari 2600. I remember being fascinated by the artwork in some of the manuals, but disappointed with the game’s depictions. I remember my parents buying an NES, and it was always around. My dad liked to putter about on it, and I would occasionally get to play, but inevitably I would somehow get recruited to try and explain to him how to play a game to the best of his ability. He seemed to want to enjoy the games, but somehow, couldn’t quite figure them out himself. I remember when he discovered Final Fantasy, and my mom getting upset because he racked up a huge rental fee for it. It was neat to watch, but as I was never given a chance to play, it was a distant love.
It was after my brother passed in ’89 that I discovered that gaming could be an escape. Oh, and what a glorious escape it was for a nine year old boy. I spent hours playing Legend of Zelda 2, among other games. Then I got a Game Boy. Suddenly, I could play games whenever I wanted, no constraints beyond the batteries. The Game Boy, and games like Final Fantasy Legend allowed me to escape all the troubles around me, like my parent’s constant fighting, and our seemingly never-ending poverty. It still holds a special place in my heart, and I have owned every handheld Nintendo since.
I was never allowed to do extra-curricular activities. Heaven forbid I infringe on my parent’s time and cigarette/beer money. So books and gaming were what I had. Later I would discover a knack for art, but it was always gaming and books that I fell back on to soothe the pains in my life, and ignore reality. I discovered computer gaming pretty quickly when my mother got a 386 running Windows 3.1 . The bundle they got came with some games, which included King’s Quest 6, and other games that I don’t remember as I spent every minute playing KQ6. Not long after I discovered the mythical Gold Box SSI D&D games. Meanwhile, I also discovered the joys of tabletop RPG’s. Werewolf: the Apocalypse was and still is my favorite, as I could empathize so much with creatures trying hard to control their rage at the world.
It should come as no surprise, with my ever increasing reliance on gaming to escape my problems (like not getting into college, or not even being able to afford it if I could get in), that when I discovered Everquest, I developed am addiction. Here was the escape I craved, one not even LARPing could recreate. Cost me a job and girlfriend before I walked away. Wasn’t the only costly gaming addiction I developed. Magic the Gathering and Decipher’s Star Wars CCG’s ate up a lot of my money from the part time job I worked in high school. I think my parents would rather I found drugs.
A breakdown was inevitable. Everquest was a catalyst, but not the cause. I gave up the game, and stepped away from computer gaming for a while. Was easy enough, I didn’t live with my parents, so couldn’t afford internet. Then the group I LARPed with imploded, in no small part because a lot of us had sort of lost touch with reality. I played a villain, and they couldn’t see the real me through my character. So I walked away from that. It would be the better part of ten years before I returned to MMO’s, and I don’t think I’ll ever LARP again.
This has gone on longer then I intended, but it was incredibly cathartic. I still struggle from time to time with gaming vs. doing more important things, like spending time with my wonderful children and wife, or doing household chores and necessary repairs.
As a final note, I hope it is clear that I am in no way blaming games for my problems. As with anyone who suffers from OCD, it is incredibly easy to fixate on something and obsess over it, and one of my fixations happens to be games. It is not the only one I have, but it is the one most relevant to the blog and the prompt.