Addiction: compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance… characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal (Merriam-Webster). Catchy first sentence, huh? I can already guess what you’re thinking, just another thirty-some year old guy who lives in his grandparents' basement trying to get more attention by writing a self-pity story. Well, let me set some things straight: I’m a teenager, I’m athletic (play sports year round, minus over summer), and I have plenty of friends. In other words, I’m the kid that you wouldn’t expect to have an addiction to a video game. However, I am going to tell you my story of addiction and how it affected my life then and now.
It all started about four years ago. A friend of mine showed me Runescape, and I was hooked pretty quick. Back then the best weapon was the fabled whip, and the graphics were so low-detail that you could play on practically any computer. The more I played the game, the more I started to get into it, learning the ways to make money, gain levels, etc.. I soon got my dad to subscribe me to a membership, and lo and behold the only time that I didn’t have that membership for the next three years was when my dad had to switch credit cards. This subscription would end up having one of the biggest impacts on my life in the coming years.
When reading this article you must keep in mind that during this three to four year period I was in grades 6-9 (Middle School/Junior High- Freshman year of High School). As I’m sure you all know these are the years when the average kid starts going to movies on their own, having sleepovers, and in the later years getting in more serious girlfriend/boyfriend relationships. Little did I know, my subscription to Runescape would have a profound effect on this little sliver of my life. Soon enough I got into playing Runescape in what I would call a serious way. Due to the fact that I didn’t have a very hard time in school I was able to play anywhere from 1-3 hours on schooldays, and more on weekends. Runescape in a way started to take over the free time that an average kid my age would devote to chatting on IM or hanging out with friends. At this point however, I didn’t mind. To me Runescape was just as fun, if not more fun, than doing things outside of the house. Who would argue? I was making lots of friends in this virtual world, and I was at a point where I could at times be looked up to by other players. I’m still not sure exactly what I found so mesmerizing about Runescape. Maybe it was the fact that there was always something more to achieve (which was one of the major factors that made it so hard to quit). Whatever the reason, Runescape was replacing what I consider to be the “normal social life” of someone my age.
I understand that some look at the game as just a fun thing to do, and that there is nothing bad with the game. I fully and completely embrace this idea and I also have no problem whatsoever with it, so before you blow off what I am saying, just listen to what I have to say about my experience and understand that I am not trying to spread some belief that Runescape is terrible, etc., etc.. I am simply attempting to share my experience so that others may see a side of the game that is often considered a taboo subject.
By this point I was what I consider to be an addict. That’s right. I was addicted to Runescape, hard to believe. Unlike some others, I can and will back this up with facts. First of all, I began to dream about Runescape. I would wake up imagining that I had gotten a Dragon chainbody. I would think about Runescape on a constant basis: during class, at break. Some of you probably know what I am talking about. The game would affect my moods at times to the degree where I would be extremely upset at my parents if something went wrong, or I would be the polar opposite and be unexplainably happy. These characteristics go hand-in-hand with an addiction. I cannot speak from experience, but from what I know drug addicts spend nearly every waking hour thinking about how and when they can get their next high. About two years into playing Runescape, in the 8th grade, my addiction began to take a bigger effect on my life than before. By this time, I had quit playing all the sports that I had previously played because I wanted more time at the computer. My grades began to slip from A’s to some B’s and even a C or two. Then came a couple of events that began to open my eyes to my addiction. There were two times that I went on trips where I didn’t readily have internet access. Both of these times all I could think about was getting back to the game and what I was missing. I was suffering withdrawal, yet another sign of an addiction. So that I don’t bore you too much, I will get on to the events that finally allowed me to quit Runescape. Thanks to some help from a great family friend who knew me very well (and had no clue about Runescape), I made a life changing decision of switching schools. Although I still was going to school in the same city along with some of my friends from my last school, the biggest change was getting away from my friends that played Runescape. This was my first step towards kicking the addiction. Something that counselors tell drug addicts is that they must totally remove themselves from their former friend group, that they must essentially start over. This began to have its effect on me, and I became less interested. I quit within the year and have been “clean” for about six months at this point.
I would venture to say that getting rid of the addiction to Runescape was one of the greatest things that happened to me in the last five years. It wasn’t pretty; I nearly relapsed once in the last week of my membership. To this day I still play video games, more than I would like at times (not Runescape), but I am getting there. The overall point that I want to convey with this article is that you really need to take a step back and look at your life. Live each and every day to the fullest; live with no regrets (if you must). My addiction took away years of my life that I can’t get back. I still feel the repercussions today. I’m not telling you to stop playing Runescape, or to completely change the way you live. Just ask yourself, is this how I want to spend this part of my life?