Four and a Half Years

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 lifeβ€” my role as a husband, a father, a church member, my vocation, my personal health, etc.β€” 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.

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24 thoughts on “Four and a Half Years

  1. If you still read this: I wish you good success. It’s a hard path you plan to go, but I know very well where you come from. I’ve seen way too many of my mates at university time fail their tests due to spending too much time on games.

    Others spent too much time on parties and other activities and i blame one extra year of university time on a girl who i first got together with just before a testing period, and who broke up with me two years later, a week before the testing period… but hey, things happen.

    So as you said, games are not the only reason to struggle, but when not handled with care, they can become a bad addiction and wreck your life. I can only respect your choice and wish you all the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m sad but proud of you at the same time. I totally support your choice and respect your strength in standing up and taking control of things when you feel its leading you off the proper path.

    Maybe in time, you can return and tell us about this experience. And give tips on how to lead a more balanced life! I know I struggle with the same things.

    Thanks for being a great blogger, good friend and excellent example. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sad too but also relieved. It’s a strange feeling, but one common to big life changes I think! And I really do enjoy writing/ blogging so I’d like to continue in some fashion. I just need to figure out what that is.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I think keeping a personal journal is a very good idea. Writing is a muscle that you lose if you don’t use it. And it also opens up opportunities to hear those quiet voices within that you might not always hear in the rush of life. When you’re sitting and focusing on that stream of thought in your head, you can discover amazing things… learn about what you need and who you are.

        Good luck with everything! Please come back when you can. And even if that means you decide to branch out into a non-gaming type blog in the future, I’d love to read it!

        Follow where He leads you!~ πŸ™‚

        Liked by 2 people

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  4. I’m kind of surprised because I remember you talking about needing to find a better balance before and that your new posting schedule was part of that – though to be honest I didn’t quite get how more frequent posts fit into it… but I guess that didn’t quite work out as planned.

    I wish you all the best in re-focusing your life and look forward to see you again whenever works for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the best way to explain is like this: when I first started blogging I was writing on top of a 15-25 hr. a week gaming schedule. When I started writing again in January I worked the writing in with the 15-25 hr. a week schedule. Realistically I need to spend like 3-5 hours a week gaming. And more than that, it was something I obsessed over. It was a distraction at work and at home. I was sleeping only 4-5 hours a night most nights which meant even when I was with my family I was too tired to be engaged. So while I would tell my kids, “daddy’s too tired to play,” I would still sit down to game when they went to bed like clockwork. So yes, it has been better but I’ve realized better isn’t good enough. Incremental change always went right back to bad habits. So I’m thinking I have to tear down the house so to speak and rebuild and then see what kind of room there is for gaming (if any).

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  5. Take your time! I wish you all the best.
    I can most certainly understand this feeling of having to preserve those evening hours- it’s a strange thing, because not only does it lead to us neglecting other people, but also putting our own desires in the backseat, strange as it sounds. Like to read a book? Sure, but it’s evening and “i should really level this character”….and gaming has become really exhausting with all those huge backlogs, sales, preorders and so on- it’s what Belghast wrote about these days.

    If you don’t mind, i’ll stay in touch. I wish you all the best and hope you’ll return in a lighter mood, able to enjoy that hobby without a bad conscience. Looking forward to it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I would definitely like to stay in touch. And I’d like to continue writing in some capacity which may take some time to figure out (Aywren’s post today is very insightful in this regard) so I plan on reentering our blogging circle and Twitter once I feel grounded in some of these changes I’d like to see happen in other areas of life. I just don’t know if I will return to gaming as a hobby, or maybe just not MMOs. I don’t know, and I’m not going to worry about it right now. I’m really greatful for the people I’ve met through games though, especially the blogging community. It’s interesting to see this trend of burn out or disillusionment though. Even one of the YouTubers I wrote about recently, The Lazy Peon just posted a video on Black Desert but with a lot of discussion about his own frustrations with the genre as a whole. It’s definitely not an isolated occurrence.

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  6. It’s more than a little depressing to read so many people thinking about hanging up their MMO hats or their blogging hats or both, particularly when, as in your case, they have provided me with such good, informative, amusing, entertaining and thought-provoking reading over the months and years. As someone who doesn’t have a particularly addictive personality but who’s spent time with those who do I recognize the need others have to close the door firmly on the things that are making life difficult to manage. I wish you all the best in your efforts to get back the perspective and control you feel you aren’t getting while you game.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t believe there’s anything much wrong with spending 15-25 hours a week gaming. It really depends what you would be doing with that time instead. Before I started playing MMOs I spent almost exactly the same amount of time watching TV. I think MMOs and particularly the creativity they have engendered have been nothing but a positive in my life. I had hit the point in the mid-90s where I really didn’t do any writing any more (having written all my life until then) and it was playing MMOs that brought me back to it, first on forums and latterly in blogging.

    I think that’s been better for me, and I believe the time has been better spent, than it would have been had I not come home that day in 1999 with that copy of EverQuest. Of course, having a life-partner who is every bit as involved and enthusiastic about MMOs has made the whole thing that much more of a net positive. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to have to fit the time commitments of playing MMOs and writing about them around the needs and wishes of a partner who doesn’t share the hobby.

    Good luck and we’ll see you when we see you!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree, the “right” amount of time spent gaming is going to be relative to the individual. In my case I was sacrificing sleep more than anything else, which I thought no one would notice, but when I told my kids I was taking a break, my daughter’s first response was, “maybe now you won’t be so tired and we can play more.” That broke my heart. I didn’t realize how perceptive my ten year old was, that she would associate that excuse I’ve made so often, “daddy’s tired,” with the time I spent gaming.

      More than that though, I do have an addictive/ obsessive personality type. Always have. When I’m fixated on something it becomes the center of my thinking and prevents me from exerting that same focus, excitement, energy, and creativity on other, more important things, like my family. The challenge for me right now is, how do I prevent the vacuum created by taking a break from games from getting filled with yet another obsession? That’s something I’m praying for and a need I’m really relying on God to supply.

      I think with the areas I see for improvement at home, at church, and at work, a realistic gaming schedule would probably be a couple hours one or two nights a week. And I think that, because MMOs are so feature rich and really have no end to progression I may turn my attention to single player games with a definite end. Or something like The Secret World where I wouldn’t worry so much about character power progression and just come back to play through the new stories as they drop.

      Right now the goal is to severe the bond I have to habitual gaming and allow a “factory reset” of sorts. I’d like to keep writing though and if I have something worth putting to paper in the next few weeks, who knows, I may pick up blogging sooner rather than later and either rebrand Waiting For Rez or start something new.

      Either way I’ll come back, to see how you all are doing and what’s going on in the blogging world. Since I’ve primarily been a solo player in MMOs, I’ve always considered you all a guild of sorts. Certainly the only constant community for someone playing multiple MMOs.

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  7. Will certainly miss seeing you around the Twitters and occasionally popping over to your blog, but this is certainly the right choice. If you feel that other aspects of your life are being neglected, it’s best to trust your gut. Some things can’t be repaired after the fact. In a very short time, I’ve come to consider you a friend and brother, and I wish you nothing but the best!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Brax, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you as well. And I’ll probably jump back into Twitter at some point, just need to cleanse the palate completely at this point. I look forward to reconnecting later. All the best for you and your family as well.

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  8. I salute your decision. I know making such a choice is very difficult, and on top of that it takes a good deal of courage to come out and speak so honestly about it.

    Best of luck with your efforts to reset your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well done Sir! Finally had a chance to read this post. Your family and your spiritual life will thank you for it. Worshipping at the alter of Steam was particularly insightful πŸ™‚ I think if the vast majority of us grown up gamers, those of us with children, spouse, responsibilities, took stock we would all have to admit there are times when we walk too closely to the line of good balance. And the social media aspect of the gaming community, although wildly entertaining by times, adds a whole new addictive layer to gaming than we had in the “ol’days”. I’ve missed out on gaming time some nights because of trying to get caught up on all you people’s tweets and blogs! πŸ˜‰

    For me I had a take stock period not that long ago. It was when I bought into Landmark, was all wide eyed about what EQN could be, and I really for the first time really enjoyed a gaming community. It is what sucked me into Twitter too. Anyway part way down that road I realised I was going to a level that I just couldn’t maintain wisely, and for what? The friends were real and I still follow some but the rest? It’s just a game! Compared to my activities of eternal significance or my family, how could I let either of those suffer at the expense of a game? But it’s subtle, it’s fun, and for me it is sometimes a great escape when perhaps escaping isn’t what I should be doing. Anyway, this is your blog, not about me. Enough to say nearly cold turkey was the only way that righted my ship and by and large I am not an addictive personality. Now gaming is back where it should be, I love it, but I don’t let it win all my time. So my BDO char is only level 17 and I only have two ships in Elite Dangerous, but that’s OK. The games will be there tomorrow or on the weekend. I’m not s blogosphere superstar or a YouTube phenomena but I’ll live πŸ™‚ So go with what you need, take care of the things that really matter, and I think based on the other comments I am speaking not only for myself, we’ll be around for whatever capacity you want when and if you return to the interwebs. Praying for you and your family!

    Liked by 1 person

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  11. Things come in cycles, and I find it interesting that so many of us are right now struggling with issues of when and if we want to be blogging. The big takeaway that I hope you get from this is… this community that we have built over the years, can absolutely exist without the games that originally supported it. So hopefully you still poke your head in periodically to at least the social circles and say hey πŸ™‚

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  13. It’s a difficult decision and one that I am also hovering over. I nod my head to everything that you have described; I was a functioning alcoholic for 15 years and your analogy was spot on. Drink has been more or less replaced with gaming in my case. I commend you for your ability to make a difficult decision – akin to excising a chunk of one’s own personality and identity, it must be – and wish you the best of luck with wherever life takes you hereafter.

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  14. I wish you the best in your prioritization, good sir. It’s important to feel whole in your tangible life before your gaming one. Don’t be a stranger–hop on Discord every so often and let us know how it’s going. Or maybe share a post on your thoughts about a bible verse you’ve explored deeply recently. We come here for the person, not the games. πŸ™‚

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