When Gaming Gets Too Real: My addiction story

Do you remember the first time your fingers wrapped around a video game controller or gripped a mouse, ready to dive into your first epic gaming adventure?

I try to remember, and while I don’t have an exact memory, I’m sure it was at a very young age, around 5 or 6 years old, in the ‘90s. I recall being that little kid with plenty of time to kill, eagerly waiting to come home from school to sit at the computer and play Crayola or some other children’s game from that era.

A couple of years later, the Game Boy Color came into my life. Although I wasn’t fortunate enough to own one, I would always watch my friends play and longed to have one myself so I could spend countless hours playing Pokémon or some other popular games of the time. I remember borrowing it from my friends to play and experience that rush, knowing the fun would end when the batteries ran out.

Throughout my childhood, I had various consoles: Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, and a few questionable Chinese gaming consoles. Not to mention the wave of PC games I played during my childhood, teenage years, and adulthood.

It all started with the Nintendo 64. I spent hours playing Kirby, Mario Party, Mario Kart, Banjo-Kazooie, GoldenEye 007, Doom, Pokémon, Donkey Kong, and many more with my siblings and neighborhood friends. We would gather almost every afternoon and weekend (basically all day if our parents allowed it) to play until our fingers hurt from holding the controller. It was a great time because I was rarely alone and was almost always surrounded by friends. Those were afternoons filled with laughter, arguments, teamwork, and battles to see who could win the most.

The PC Gaming Era

Later, a world of possibilities opened up with PC games. I discovered The Sims, Resident Evil, and some online games. It was hard to find time to play because the computer was shared with other family members, and we took turns using it. Seeing that my gaming time wasn’t enough, I started sneaking out of my room at night to play on the computer in the living room without anyone noticing. I guess here’s where everything started.

Around the same time, I had the chance to visit a local internet café and discovered my first tactical FPS game (first-person shooter): Counter-Strike. The sensation of playing in first-person and knowing I was playing with others present at the café made it much more fun and exciting. We communicated not only through chat but also in real-time, in person. At the same Internet cafe, I started playing GTA: Vice City, San Andreas, and my first RPG: MU Online. I tried to go to the internet café every day after school, and without realizing it, I spent practically every afternoon and weekend there. I went so frequently that my father opened a prepaid account for me so I could go whenever I wanted without having to pay upfront; he would handle the bill at the end of the week.

On days I couldn’t go to the café, I played Call of Duty: Black Ops at home. I got hooked on this game because it had missions, and I felt like I had a goal to achieve. The game made me feel like I was making progress at something. Every time I leveled up, got a kill, or won a game, I felt rewarded. That told my brain I didn’t have to go out and achieve anything because I technically already did. Unfortunately, it wasn’t real.

By the time I was about to start high school, I had my first computer in my room. It was a room and a computer shared with my siblings, but I used it the most since they had PlayStation and preferred that. During my teenage years, I discovered Habbo Hotel. It was simple but entertaining. I immediately connected with it because it was a mix of playing and socializing, but most importantly being part of a community for the first time.

Gaming as an Escape

It was a tough time because the games felt like an alternate reality where I always wanted to be. After years of bullying at school and in the neighborhood, I finally felt part of something; I finally felt like I belonged and felt cool. I started making friends through the games and even developed a long-distance relationship with someone I met in one of the games, which hooked me even more. I just thought about getting home from school and logging into the computer like there was no tomorrow.

I’d say it was one of the hardest times in terms of giving my body a break. I felt like I couldn’t stop and had no control over my need to play. I would stay up all night playing until 5 or 6 AM, knowing I had to wake up for school in a few hours. I event spent real money on the game to customize my character and have a “status” within the game.

I stopped studying for many exams, couldn’t concentrate because I just thought about playing, fell asleep in class and during recess, and struggled to socialize or focus on face-to-face interactions because I felt the people I met in the game were cooler and understood me better. I even got into trouble at home because the computer’s light and keyboard noise disturbed my siblings’ sleep. I played at night in secret so my parents wouldn’t find out, although they caught me a few times in the middle of the night and always ended up being punished for disobedience.

I spent almost an entire year like this, isolating myself from friends, skipping meals, not getting enough sleep, failing at school, and neglecting my schoolwork.

I lost control. That’s what happened. I wouldn’t blame the games themselves, but rather my loss of control over them. I let myself be carried away by the fun, connections, and refuge I found in video games and took it to the extreme without realizing how much it was harming me. At the time, I couldn’t see it because I was young and didn’t give it much thought. 

Andrés’ Story

The story of Andrés, our CEO, started with GoldenEye 007 for the N64 when he was very young.

“I think that was one of the games that got me most hooked in my teenage years. The single mode was so challenging and fun to play… In school I was thinking about it, arriving home and starting to play. I don’t remember exactly how many hours it was, but a lot. Especially at night, it was a fight at home not wanting to go to sleep. At least I played sometimes with friends, which was really fun. That was the game that hit me the most, but there were many others too.

Looking at the first draft of this newsletter, in which we put some recommendations, like setting a maximum time to play, or not going to bed too late… It wouldn’t have worked for me back then. I never thought I was addicted. Playing video games was what I wanted to do, and I enjoyed it a lot.

But the reality was that apart from being hard to get up in the morning, I was not going out with friends. Not playing sports, not meeting new people. And not going out with girls, of course. It didn’t help that I was very shy either, and my social skills didn’t develop. It was not the time spent playing, although sometimes there was some anger, but everything that I didn’t do.

Luckily, a few years later, I spent two years in a boarding school, being away from home during the week. That separated me from video games, and then when I started university, gaming was just a couple of hours here and there, in a healthier way. But still, up to this day, I have suffered from the lack of socializing during those school years. And I still do. Looking back, I’d definitely try to help anyone going through a similar situation."

Finding Balance

Like anything in life, it’s essential to find the right balance. When gaming starts to interfere with your personal life, relationships, or responsibilities, it might be time to take a step back and reevaluate. That being said, I’d love to give you some hints that can help you understand if you’re going through the same thing and how to take a step back to find the balance between your personal life and gaming.

Recognizing the Signs

It's crucial to recognize the signs of when gaming is becoming too much:

  • Neglecting Daily Activities: Are you skipping meals or missing out on sleep because of gaming?
  • Ignoring Responsibilities: Is gaming getting in the way of your schoolwork, job, or household chores?
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Do you feel irritable or anxious when you can't play?
  • Social Isolation: Are you spending more time gaming than hanging out with friends and family?

If any of these sound familiar, it might be a good idea to take a break and assess your gaming habits.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

Here are a few tips to help keep your gaming in check:

    • Set Time Limits: Allocate specific times for gaming and stick to them. 
    • Take Breaks: Make sure to take regular breaks to stretch, hydrate, give your eyes a rest, and take off your OMBRA for a bit. 
    • Prioritize Responsibilities: Make sure your daily tasks and responsibilities are taken care of before diving into a gaming session. My #1 rule for myself: no gaming until all my work and household chores are done.
    • Stay Social: Balance your gaming time with social activities outside the gaming world. John from customer support found that scheduling weekly meetups with friends helped him keep a healthy balance.

    We Care About You

    At Metadox, we believe in the power of gaming to bring joy and excitement, but we also believe in the importance of maintaining a healthy balance. It's all about enjoying gaming without letting it take over your life.

    Reach Out

    If you or someone you know is struggling with finding balance in their gaming habits, don't hesitate to reach out for help. Here are some resources to support you in ensuring gaming remains a positive part of your life:

    Remember: gaming itself isn’t bad; it’s the excess that can be harmful.

    Nakira from The Metadox Team 🎮

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