I have a long history with computer games. When you’re my age, you have a long history with all games. Maybe not as far back as throwing sticks to a pet dinosaur, but pretty far. Let’s leave it at I was already in double digits before computers came on the scene.
During my early days on computers, I played the more basic games, mostly arcade oriented like Joust or Tempest. These were games you could play for an hour or less and leave at any moment without cost. Later, as more advanced games for actual computers arrived, the involved nature of the games became addictive, especially to a person who already had some perfectionist tendencies.
Leaning more towards role-playing games like Bard’s Tale and Might and Magic, I could be found spending countless hours late at night (and early morning) trying to advance in the game. Surprisingly, my work didn’t suffer from the shorter sleep periods.
As the power of online connectivity improved, I first downloaded a role-playing game that could be played “single-player” (stand alone on the computer) called Mordor (changed later to Demise). As I grew more engaged in what turned out to be an open-ended game (you could continue to grow your character even after the quest finished), I started to dabble in the new-fangled concept of online server-based play.
This was an entirely new experience for me, playing in conjunction with other people and chatting away while slicing and dicing. I had spent many of AOL’s birth years chatting and IM’ing, but I had never done this while actively playing a game as well. My hours went up even further and ultimately I was added to their beta (and alpha) test teams. That was a fun time…but exhausting.
When I left my last company, I ventured into the social gaming arena using a variety of games provided by online gaming company Zynga. These games were very buggy, with spotty support, but they were free and heavily populated. One game was even shared between my last girlfriend and me, confirming the “social” part of the concept.
With so much added time on my “schedule”, I got more and more involved in playing these games, advancing my characters faster than a “normal” player would likely manage. The danger for me and my obsessive personality is that these games were also “open-ended”, with no upper limit on how high you could build your character.
I noticed I spent increasing amounts of time trying to reach higher levels that, upon reflection, provided no “tangible” benefit to game play. The games began to become burdensome, taking on an almost obligatory nature with having to “visit” people on Facebook to help them. Moreover, the time was being “stolen” from other real world activities that should have been more important to me.
This month creates a propitious opportunity. Between birthday-related activities, writing deadlines and other life demands, I have decided to cut ties with the games for a while…perhaps indefinitely. One thing I can say about these types of “obsessions” is that as soon as you break free of them, the allure fades quickly.
Of course, it wouldn’t be me if there wasn’t some sort of OCD tint to the actual cut-off. Based on my own affection for round numbers, I will wait until I reach certain “milestone” levels in each game before leaving.
When I hit those round numbers (nice, big round numbers), it’s game(s) over.