Friday, January 18, 2013

My Shameful Addiction

I have a shameful confession to make. I want come clean before I'm ousted by my teammates. The thought of having all of my awards and high scores revoked... The public humiliation, the ridicule and derision…all culminating in a tearful, soul-bearing appearance on Oprah.  It's just too much to bear.

I have an untreated addiction.

I'm a gamer.

It started sometime in the early 80s with a computer game series called Ultima that had to be played on 5-1/4 floppy disks because my Apple IIc didn't have a hard drive. Oh, I'd had an Atari as a kid, but back then I only used recreationally--Pong, Spaced Invaders and Defender. And I flirted with Zork but I never did get past that damn troll.

Ultima led me down a darker path. I started hanging out in video game arcades, feeding countless quarters into Mrs. Pacman and Joust. In those days I managed a double-life, maintaining good grades and something vaguely resembling a social life.

High school destroyed any residual chance I might have had to ever be normal. I joined the chess team and played for two years on the varsity squad—one of two girls in the state. I lettered in third board varsity.

Still, I held onto good grades and books—they were all I had left.

College brought a 486PC into my life and the array of games available to me multiplied like crazy. Using my student ID, I would sneak into the Maclab in the evening and on weekends to play SimCity with a stolen password.

In the 90s, I met a guy who introduced me to the mind-altering world of tabletop roleplaying. Dungeons & Dragons. Shadowrun. RIFT. Chaosium. And the very worst—White Wolf. High on pots of coffee and Jelly Bellys, we crouched over dice and character sheets, playing into the late hours of the night. After graduation, we broke up and I moved to another state, but I continued to roleplay. My current group has been together coming up on twenty years.

In California, I met fellow addict, a man who shared my obsession, and who also possessed the technological skills necessary to build a good gaming computer and maintain a network in the wonky Wild West days of the Internet. I married him.

Computers got stronger, faster, more powerful—and games grew more complex. Simulations took over my life. I micromanaged the lives of tiny virtual people and worlds—The Sims, Masters of Orion, Civilization. Ooohhh, Civilization.

Warcraft. Starcraft. God forgive me for the hours I wasted.

Eventually, I noticed a troubling trend—the increasing prevalence of first-person shooters. For a girl with terrible hand-eye coordination and tortoise-like reflexes, it was a worrisome development. I did what any sensible woman would do—I had boys and passed my addiction onto my children.

Alas, my oldest son has been led astray into the world of Pokemon and non-violent fantasy games. But my middle child, at the tender age of four, he could whup the asses of full grown men in Halo. By ten, he could out shoot a marine and had fingers that danced across buttons faster than the human eye could follow.

Jobs came and went, and so did my first husband. Mr. Snark and I met and married. Reproduced. I took a solemn vow over my newborn daughter to protect her from my addition but I've already failed. At the age of two, Miss Bear is already more computer savvy than either of her grandmothers.

In the 2000s, my addiction had gotten out of control. I hit rock bottom. Facebook games. For a time, I seriously considered quitting my job to become a farmer. Writing saved me, because I had to prioritize my time, choosing what really mattered. I stopped farming.

To this day, I remain a PC gamer. I've been slow to warm up to counsel gaming. But then I discovered Minecraft, and fell in love with a world conceived in cubes. The recent release of TellTale Games' The Walking Dead has brought me further around to the Xbox 360 as a way of playing, but I still get hung up on those pesky action sequences that involve shooting zombies in the head.

A panicked wail rises from Mrs. Snark as the walking dead rip her to shreds for the fifth time. "Boy!!!  I need you!"

And her youngest son comes running, flying down the stairs to see if the house is on fire. Upon spotting the carnage unfolding on the TV screen, he rolls his eyes. "Really, mom. You died again?"

"I died again," Mrs. Snark explains, sobbing. "I can't shoot to save poor Lee's life."

He flips out his hand. "Give me the controller."

I've got to go. By now my energy meter for Top Stylist will have recharged on my phone.


  1. ROFL!!!! You are so darned funny! I would never have guessed. LOL!!!! I would have to say that my addiction is collecting Barbie Dolls! There isn't a space on our walls at home that isn't taken up with a doll. We've become known, shamefully, as the dollhouse and are nearly listed as a museum in my neighborhood. I guess we all have our addictions.

    1. Lisa,
      I've never been much of a collector, although I do have enough books to supply a library. Not sure if those count. :-)

  2. You really got me where I live! lol! My hand-eye is terrible. If I was a cat, I'd be dead by now. Right now I have an addiction for Bejeweled, but I've tried to keep it at a minium.

    1. I love color sorting and shape sorting games too. My favorite is Tetris. :-)