Gaming is essentially one of the most selfish pastimes there is. Much like any addiction it requires self-sacrifice. To be even competent in any game, it requires hours of practice of the mechanics, a couple of hours of study on YouTube and a healthy dose of insomnia.
While I constantly find myself in a state of disrepair owing to my (over) exertions, the toll it takes on a stable family life is much greater. It has been brought into stark focus for me as the release of Assassin’s Creed 3 cast its long shadow over me. It is supposed to be a casual game and to the outside gamer it is. Yet I have around 100 hours invested in that series of games. I have bought blacksmiths, crafted bombs, burnt numerous towers to the ground and ploughed my way through thousands of dudes. These dudes probably have wives and families. They may even have been dudes who were trying to pay their way through university. Assassin’s Creed 3 had its own systems and hooks with which it would grab my balls and twist them round my neck. But it was the story of an angry young man battling to find his own place in a changing world – while respecting his heritage – that ruined my life for a week. Connor exuded none of the charm of Ezio Auditore or the aloof nature of Altair. He was troubled and needed an avenue to vent his frustration. I could identify with that. My eyes followed Connor’s journey through Boston, New York, the frontier and the seven seas while my body yearned for sleep.
My wife and children were oblivious to its existence. For those ‘that know’ there is a sense of inevitability about what the coming days and weeks a major release may leave in its wake. Yet we as gamers yearn for it. We need to feel that game in our veins, much like the evil entities that roam the game’s towns, towers and fields. We give over our entire bodies to walk a mile in the shoes of our heroes. For a few hours every night I can escape the dirty nappies, housework and monotony of life. I can replace them with tales of heroism, wonder and awe. Yet, when the credits roll my life is once again still, waiting for the next injection.
I can’t bring the subject up at dinner. My wife tries to understand but she doesn’t. She remains convinced that my virtual life will overtake the real one. That the internet memes, monikers and handles that I talk about actually mask deeply attractive, young females who have much more in common with me.
She doesn’t really understand the internet aside from Facebook and social media. It is a place fraught with unknown mysteries and predators. Well, of course, that’s true, but the ones in my life are a totally different type of annoyance than the people she is associating me with. Long shot snipers, macro masters and micro kings are my enemies, my Everest to climb and defeat.
As my young family grows up I wonder whether I should dissuade my daughters from pursuing this life of personal solitude and seemingly anti-social behaviour. Gamers are cast as loner, deviants and outcasts because their interactions are confined and personal. In reality I am more social than nearly anybody I know, I constantly interact with others, I meet new people all the time, including many multi-nationals – a truth many of my friends can’t begin to fathom.
However, it is clear that there is good reason why so many gamers have serious bouts of depression. The rewards of experiencing fantastical worlds and taking on incredulous personas is one which leads to lulls where there is not a game adequate or different enough to fuel this expectation. Real life can sometimes seem so shallow in comparison; since we have forsaken many of the relationships we have built to pursue the next dragon.
I love my gaming life. It is every bit part of my persona and the makeup of who I am. But it has a cost. One that I make others pay and for that I am sorry and thankful that they let me be the person that I am. Be thankful for them and their sacrifice.