On reSTART…

There was a time when the idea of video game “addiction” applied to simply any young fool who spent more time with their hands magnetised to the controller and their ass into the bean bag chair under them. When the weather prohibited pale-skinned nerds such as myself to compete with the skateboarder down the street, we conquered the next level in Super Mario Bros. or mastered the screw attack against whatever Mother Brain threw at us in Super Metroid. But nevertheless, our time came to an abrupt end when the power cord was pulled or the controllers magically found their way onto the highest shelf in the closet, right next to your hopes and dreams. I never even considered the idea of video games being a socially destructive practice…at least not until I found the world of Norrath.

Years of grouping and god-knows-how-many deaths sunk into Everquest and World of Warcraft later, I stand corrected.

I was heavily invested in WoW as my first year in college started. Oddly enough, it actually became a saving grace that year as I quickly learned my studies and grades had to come before my 7pm start time in Molten Core with the rest of the raid. As I look back on it, I dont think my grades were ever better than those windswept 9 months. But while my virtual presence declared victory, my social status suffered greatly. Parties were something of a myth to my sophomore self after I quit the guild, and my nights were quickly opening up to incredible adventures with booze, girls and some concoction called “green dragon” that my suite mate came up with. I believe myself to be a fortunate exception to the rule that internet addiction can ruin lives, as it seemed to delay the temptations of getting wasted on a Thursday night when I KNEW I had a philosophy exam at 9am.  But for every lucky soul like me that thrived in college, there were dozens more that waved the white flag to their professors and found their own way out the door. I felt bad for them, truly I did. These were the people I would ultimately end up hanging out with at rush parties and bars, swapping stories of mitigating DPS and spamming rank 5 renew. In my eyes they were my colleagues and equals, and they had every right at being in college as I did… but their commitment to the internet worlds became the most important instinct to satisfy.

As dubious as I am for this rehab for Internet Vets, it does reveal the gradual acception of society to those who find too much satisfaction in virtual reality than in their social one. What many considered to be just a kid who couldn’t interact with others now has a form of diagnosis and medication… but for the price, however, I’d rather have my roomate throw my PC out the window. A heavy price tag is hard to overlook, especially considering I would only be spending 45 days there while a doctor whispered into my ear, “Holy specced priests can’t solo Grayson, you know that”.

Internet addiction is real. I believe it exists, and it is a problem. What I do not agree with, although, is the wide breadth of excuses people will use this clinic as a means of attacking our beloved past time. If one could argue, the majority of our society exists through their broadband connections to corporate websites and e-mail servers. Entry-position cubicle workers stare at a screen just as much–if not more–than even I do, and most of them don’t even enjoy it. In any given day, I know I spend more time gaming and perusing my various websites more than I go outside, or run regularly scheduled errands I know I should be doing. But does that mean I have an addiction? Is my life slowly degrading into a gamut of wasted potential? I’ve met hundreds of respectable people in my former guild who played just as much as I did; their lives seem to pretty well organized.

The road to recovery is a long one, and demands a steel-nerved willpower that must be nurtured and developed; gamers cannot quit cold-turkey. There will be those who do need to enroll in this clinic and work toward a more healthy standard of gaming, but as for the majority of us who game as much–or as little–as we please, don’t treat this place as an Arkham asylum for the overly committed. Instead, encourage the acceptance and helping hands of those reaching out to the game-crazy. After all, they’re not that much different from us.

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