Four and a half years ago I downloaded the World of Warcraft free trial and entered the realm of massively multiplayer online role playing games for the first time. “Don’t worry,” I told my wife, “I just want to see what it’s like. I won’t get addicted or anything.” Addiction is perhaps too strong a word to describe my relationship to MMOs and gaming in general but during these last four and a half years, “unhealthy obsession” would probably be a fair assessment. However after four and a half years of nearly uninterrupted nightly gaming sessions of 2-5 hours each I’m taking a break from video games for a few months and getting my priorities back in order.
While I’m sure it may come as a surprise for many of you, I’ve danced around this decision for a long time now. For many years I’ve prioritized this hobby in such a way that other aspects of my life— my role as a husband, a father, a church member, my vocation, my personal health, etc.— have been subservient to my obsession with MMOs. I’ve been the equivalent of a functioning alcoholic; mindful enough of my responsibilities not to completely neglect them, but so wrapped up in my video games and so protective of my time playing them that these other areas of my life have grossly atrophied.
For too long I’ve justified this behavior, but the reality is I’m not giving my wife and children the attention they deserve. I’m not focusing my resources, time, creativity, and affection on them the way I ought to; how could I? I’ve put my best into MMOs and the surrounding culture and reserved for my family whatever was left.
My relationship with Jesus Christ has also suffered as I’ve worshiped at the alter of my Steam account rather than at the foot of the cross. This more than anything else has crippled me spiritually, mentally, and socially. I’ve also let opportunity for professional growth slip by, let projects around my home go unfinished, and struggled to maintain a physically healthy lifestyle because all of these things have been slotted into my life with the assumption that 9pm -12am every night was off limits for anything but MMOs. And that doesn’t take into consideration the time I spent reading and thinking about the genre.
I want to be clear about something though, I still do not ascribe to the myth that video games are inherently addictive and wrong to enjoy. I believe they can fuel addictive behavior and be the source of its obsession but that makes video games no more responsible for destructive behavior than the a flame ignited by a carelessly discarded cigarette butt can be held accountable for burning down a house. I had an obsessive personality before I discovered MMOs, and I will continue to have one long after I’ve moved on.
The obvious implication here is that I will not be playing any MMOs for the next few months so that I can have the hard reset I need to get my priorities right. However I know myself well enough by now that I will also need to remove every other tangental source of gaming that I’ve insulated myself with over the years. I love reading so many of your blogs but for now I’ve removed feedly completely from my phone. MassivelyOP and BioBreak, which have been a staple of mine for years and were my earliest introductions to writing within the genre have been removed from my bookmarks. My own blog will be going dark indefinitely and I am going to take at least a couple weeks away from Twitter as well until I get use to the changes.
As difficult as this decision was to make and as sad as I am to be losing even temporarily my community, my blog, and the many MMO characters and worlds that have endeared themselves to me, I feel a relief that I haven’t felt in years. It’s as though a burden has been lifted and I have a freedom to move and grow again in ways that have been stifled for a long time.
I plan on spending a few weeks journaling privately about where I’d like to see change in my life, what kind, and how I’d like to implement it. Of first importance will be sleep, followed by a return to consistent prayer and Bible study. I also have plans for being more engaged with my children’s home schooling, an opportunity to take a volunteer leadership role at my church, an anniversary trip to plan for my wife and I, and a paradigm shift to flesh out on how I want to lead my team better at work.
This sense of freedom and relief has been the strongest evidence for me indicating how desperately I needed this change. Once I feel rooted in new habits and new priorities, I’ll reconsider the role MMOs should play in my life (if any) as well as this blog. Thank you all for your friendship, your encouragement, your banter, and your support of Waiting For Rez. Things will be quiet here on my front for a while, but you’ll hear from me again before long.
Please look forward to it.