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How I Broke the Vicious Cycle of Gaming Addiction


By Melissa Miller, Guest Contributor to TechAddiction

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in guest articles are solely those of the author and are not necessarily the views of TechAddiction and/or Dr. Conrad.


I was once helpless to the influence of a serious gaming addiction.

The time was 2006, and my game of choice was the massive multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) called World of Warcraft (WoW), a hugely engrossing computer game that currently boasts over ten millions subscribers worldwide. I was in my junior year of college, and I was in serious trouble of flunking out, though I hadn’t quite realized it yet.

A Typical Day

A typical day would look like this. I would wake up around noon after a long night of playing WoW, oblivious to the fact that I had missed classes earlier in the morning. I’d immediately get back on my computer and check the game to see if I had sold any items on the in-game auction house, then I would log off and go about my day for an hour or two. Sometimes I would study; sometimes I would go to a class, but whatever I did it inevitably led into playing WoW around 4 o’clock that afternoon. From about four to well past midnight I’d play WoW, periodically stopping to use the restroom, grab a quick bite, or answer a call on my cellphone. When I could barely keep my eyes open in the wee hours of the morning, I’d go to bed only to start the same routine the next morning.

It was a bad time.

 
 

Immersed in a Digital Universe

For those of you that haven’t played WoW or know about its appeal, let me fill you in briefly. The game is a simulated alternate reality, where you choose from a variety of fantasy races, job classes, and specialties to form a unique character that you use to achieve quests and travel a digital landscape that’s as big as a small country. The game offers an immersive experience that until then had never been possible.

The game designers are constantly building upon the game, adding new features to try out and territories to explore on a regular basis. There is no set end to the game, and the competitive nature of the cooperative online play encourages people to play as often as they can. No one sets out to spend most of their time on WoW—it happens to most people by accident.

Needless to say, I played as often as I could in 2006. I stayed in that destructive cycle for a few months before the bad grades and lost social connections started to get to me. My realization came very suddenly. One day I woke up to discover that I was on the brink of failing nearly every class I had signed up for that semester. I was even doing poorly in classes that I’d normally excel in. In addition to my scholastic perils, there were social repercussions for my behavior: the majority of my friends would no longer return my calls or texts because I had become a recluse over those months, refusing their invites to any and all social events.

Walking Away from WoW

After this harsh realization, I turned to WoW almost by reflex. While I was in the game, I looked at all the items I had amassed over months and months of gameplay. I looked at everything that I had worked so hard for in that game, and understood what a monumental waste of time it was. I couldn’t even look at the game anymore, I was so ashamed of my behavior.

It took quite some time to repair the damage that I had done to my life through my addictive gaming habits, but I did manage to graduate with a decent GPA and rekindle relationships with my friends. I learned a valuable lesson, though, one that I’ll never forget.

 

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