When fellow blogger, Leigh Alexander, tried to abstain from playing video games for an entire week and found it nearly impossible, I said to myself that that wasn't me. I'm not addicted to video games. In fact, I've gone weeks without touching a single game. I'm usually far too busy with school or work to make games my priority. And I have a healthy dose of secondary interests to satisfy my itch for entertainment.
A couple of days later, the unthinkable happened. The Verizon DSL service in my area went down. My first reaction was, of course, confusion and panic. Was there something wrong with my modem? Was my computer attacked with malware? I called Verizon and literally went through an hour of waiting and providing information before customer service tried to help me reset my PPP connection. It worked. My computer was finally online again and I could continue my daily Internet routine.
Twenty minutes later, it went down again. And thus, I called customer service and this time, they told me my modem was broken and offered to sell me a new modem for $65. I declined and called my friend, who is much more technically savvy than I am, and he told me that the network was probably down. The only solution was to wait it out. But how long would I have to wait? A couple of days? The entire month?
The prospect of being disconnected from the Internet almost gave me an anxiety attack. I felt depressed. I tried to play some video games to get my mind off the problem, but I couldn't get myself to play them. I picked up a book that's been on my reading queue for a while and I only got through four pages before my depression compelled me to stop. I did manage to marginally forget about the situation when my technically savvy friend invited me over to his house for the weekend. We watched the entire fourth season of Alias in one sitting, but the moment we finished the season finale, I was reminded that I had nothing to do when I returned home.
Fortunately for me, my Internet was back up the following day. I was ecstatic. Feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation were all instantly gone in one moment. It was then when I knew I had a problem and I started investigating its origins. In my discovery, I realized that I didn't particularly have an Internet addiction; I had a video game addiction. I have over 100 RSS subscriptions, all but two are related to games. The guys I chat with the most online are fellow enthusiast gamers and the girls I chat with the most often play against me in casual web games like Boggle and Scrabble.
I was addicted to games, but not in the same way that Ms. Alexander was. I could go weeks without feeling a game controller in my hands. But going a few days without reading the latest gaming news and previews, without chatting with friends or posting in forums about games, without checking gamers' blogs for their insights on the medium, was just too much for me to handle. When I made my triumphant return to the Internet after a five day hiatus, the gaming community had moved so quickly ahead of me that I felt like I had been living under a rock for a year. There was so much backlog of news in my RSS feeds, it took me two days to catch up to the world.
Now at work, whilst everyone else has their headphones on to listen to music, I'm listening to three game-related podcasts a day. In my browser, I'm constantly running my RSS reader and checking it every hour or two. Next to my bed are a stack of game magazines and a pile of game theory books. On my desk are some philosophy and cognitive science textbooks and a copy of my unfinished dissertation about games. It's funny how I spend much more time reading, writing, watching, and talking about video games than I actually spend playing them. Is that abnormal?