Photo: Unsplash/Glenn Carstens-Peters

How I Got Out of the Game: My Love and Obsession With Video Games

Video games have been a big part of my life for a long time. Growing up in the ‘90s with three other siblings, we routinely kept ourselves entertained playing games such as Captain Comic and Gorilla on the Windows 95 computer as well as Duck Hunt, Super Mario, Contra, and several sports games for the NES. My love for video games quickly grew into an infatuation. Of the four of us, my brother and I were the serious gamers; between us both, I was the obsessive freak.

As a testament to my gaming obsession, I’ve accumulated well over 10 consoles and hundreds of games over the past 20 years. When I was young, I got what I wanted by means of begging, trading with friends, and spending whatever savings I established from my two-dollar weekly allowance as well as money I accumulated from birthday and holiday gifts.

During my elementary school years, one of my fondest gaming memories was playing Pokemon Silver on my Gameboy Color. It came bundled with my new Gameboy, and it was the first time I had been exposed to Pokemon. While I didn’t have the privilege of playing the first generation of the series like most retro gamers, Pokemon Silver gave me an opportunity to explore and immerse myself in a completely new world.

Gameboy and Pokemon Silver

It felt like I was on an adventure of epic proportions, and one that I could share with my siblings and friends. In those days, trading Pokemon and battling friends meant buying a link cable to connect the two Gameboys. Huddled together in close proximity – the cable linking you together wasn’t much longer than a foot – you and your buddies would tune out your surroundings as you tried to best each other in battle and make strategic trades to bolster your Pokemon roster and increase your Pokedex.

I am truly a completionist, so, naturally, I was determined to ‘catch ‘em all’ and collect all 251 Pokemon to finish the game. I meticulously reviewed the guidebook that came with the bundle and used the internet to find tips and tricks. In total, I managed to collect 231 Pokemon with a play time clocked at well over 600 hours. Then, one day, I went to turn on my Gameboy and something suspicious occurred.

“…Where’s the load game sign???” I exclaimed out loud.

A tinge of panic crept through my body. I frantically tried any trick I knew to get my game progress back. I toggled the Gameboy on/off switch a dozen times – nothing. I pulled out and reinserted the game cartridge – nothing. I blew inside the chip and the Gameboy – nothing. I even shook the Gameboy vigorously, hoping for some sort of miracle that would restore my progress – nothing worked.

I was completely dismayed. All that time and effort. All those hours of leveling up and chasing legendary Pokemon seemed to disappear in an instant. I wallowed in misery. How could this happen? I was so close, yet I never managed to finish the game. And even worse, I was totally unaware of the cause. I had to know what happened. I had to try and fix it. I decided to take my game to the local GameStop and talked to the sales associate.

After taking a look at my Gameboy, the associate said, “Yeah, it looks like the battery went dead.”

“…Um, that doesn’t make sense. What does changing your Gameboy battery have to do with losing my progress?” I asked confoundedly.

He explained, “Not those batteries, the actual game cartridge; it has a battery you know.”

“Whaaaat???” I responded, completely disconcerted by the news. “You’ve got to be kidding me! You’re telling me I’m supposed to change the game battery?”

“Yup, you have to have someone open up the cartridge and change it before it dies: Once the battery dies, your saves are gone.”

I stood there feeling confused and bitter: How did one CR2 battery manage to ruin my life? At the end of the conversation, I didn’t want to look at the stupid cartridge. So I sold it for three bucks over the counter.

In retrospect, that would have been the most opportune time to call it quits and acknowledge that gaming was becoming too big a part of my life. But I was young, and I loved video games.

Despite the misfortune I had with Pokemon, I beat plenty of other adventure titles. Some were best-selling, award-winning games, including my all-time favorites The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Banjo-Kazooie. Some were more obscure games like Mega Man Legends and Sudeki, which unfortunately met with poor reception from both critics and fans.

Yes, I am guilty of replaying “bad” video games. Why? Gamers know all too well that enjoying a video game is in the eye of the beholder – or to be precise, in the hands of the gamer – and I was addicted.

Sometimes people complain all too much about the terrible controls or the graphics not being realistic. Even if the storyline is arguably cliché or unsophisticated, for me, it comes down to those ruthless challenges, the ones that at first glance seem all too easy, but, in fact, are not!

The prime example would be boss battles. They are almost always beaten in the same steps: (1) memorize the boss’ motions; (2) execute counter attacks; (3) fail; (4) rinse and repeat until finally victorious. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve screamed into a pillow or flipped off my character for not dodging a fireball a frame faster or an inch off the ground higher. I hate losing! But that’s part of the challenge and appeal of the game. I’ll fix every damn mistake I make if that’s what it takes to beat it!

There is no denying the glorious satisfaction after finally beating the last boss or reaching 100% completion; that’s what I relish most in any game. But another aspect to gaming involves sharing the experience with friends and family, whether it’s jumping in to play easy-to-learn games like Mario Party and Diddy Kong Racing, or more skillful games like Halo or Call of DutyHalo was a much better game, by the way.

Halo Video Game Characters

Co-op and multiplayer is one of the reasons that I managed to play video games all the way from elementary school through college. See, I grew up with a group of friends since elementary school, and we all loved gaming. Being the rowdy bunch of guys we were (arguably might still be), we would compete for masculinity and dominance: For us, video games were a way to bond and compete with each other.

Our “guys’ night out” meant going to a friend’s place to play games like Super Smash Bros. 64 or Mario Party. This was part of our routine; I would venture to guess that we probably did this around 50 out of 52 weeks in a given year. Nonetheless, those were the nights we cherished because despite whatever was going on in our lives, these nightly sessions kept us connected for all these years.

However, looking back, I still feel ashamed for having wasted all those years sitting in front of a screen alone. With the dozens of games I’ve beaten and hundreds of games I’ve played, right now, all of it amounts to nothing.

I made a conscious decision to stop recently after graduating from college while I was on the job hunt. Unlike before, when I failed to quit in elementary school, I made a commitment so I could focus my time and attention on personal and professional development, getting career experience, and making some real money. During the six-month job-hunting hell period, I began to notice several changes in my overall well-being.

What was once an empty white board posted in my room was now filled with reminders for me to incorporate reading time throughout my day, finish drafts of writing, and hone my photography skills. Overall, the quality of my life increased significantly from what it was before: I would describe the feeling akin to removing a cast on an arm and being able to write with greater ease.

I found that I was more social and would engage people in conversation instead of simple formalities such as asking, “Good morning, how are you?” in passing. I was learning more and refining a lot of the skills that I already had. Basically, anything that I saw myself doing routinely that was not essential in the development of my well-being was done away with. I don’t know what would have become of me if I had continued on the path of hardcore gaming; should you ask, I find the thought of it disheartening.

You might be wondering: Have I made a vow to never lay my hands on another controller? Of course not! Video games give me a competitive thrill that will never go away. I just know now that I won’t be spending half of my life in front of a screen anymore. I now spend more time playing the game of life and taking on the challenges and endless adventures that await me there.

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How I Got Out of the Game: My Love and Obsession With Video Games

Video games have been a big part of my life for a long time. Growing up in the ‘90s with three other siblings, we routinely kept ourselves entertained playing games such as Captain Comic and Gorilla on the Windows 95 computer as well as Duck Hunt, Super Mario, Contra, and several sports games for the NES. My love for video games quickly grew into an infatuation. Of the four of us, my brother and I were the serious gamers; between us both, I was the obsessive freak.

As a testament to my gaming obsession, I’ve accumulated well over 10 consoles and hundreds of games over the past 20 years. When I was young, I got what I wanted by means of begging, trading with friends, and spending whatever savings I established from my two-dollar weekly allowance as well as money I accumulated from birthday and holiday gifts.

During my elementary school years, one of my fondest gaming memories was playing Pokemon Silver on my Gameboy Color. It came bundled with my new Gameboy, and it was the first time I had been exposed to Pokemon. While I didn’t have the privilege of playing the first generation of the series like most retro gamers, Pokemon Silver gave me an opportunity to explore and immerse myself in a completely new world.

Gameboy and Pokemon Silver

It felt like I was on an adventure of epic proportions, and one that I could share with my siblings and friends. In those days, trading Pokemon and battling friends meant buying a link cable to connect the two Gameboys. Huddled together in close proximity – the cable linking you together wasn’t much longer than a foot – you and your buddies would tune out your surroundings as you tried to best each other in battle and make strategic trades to bolster your Pokemon roster and increase your Pokedex.

I am truly a completionist, so, naturally, I was determined to ‘catch ‘em all’ and collect all 251 Pokemon to finish the game. I meticulously reviewed the guidebook that came with the bundle and used the internet to find tips and tricks. In total, I managed to collect 231 Pokemon with a play time clocked at well over 600 hours. Then, one day, I went to turn on my Gameboy and something suspicious occurred.

“…Where’s the load game sign???” I exclaimed out loud.

A tinge of panic crept through my body. I frantically tried any trick I knew to get my game progress back. I toggled the Gameboy on/off switch a dozen times – nothing. I pulled out and reinserted the game cartridge – nothing. I blew inside the chip and the Gameboy – nothing. I even shook the Gameboy vigorously, hoping for some sort of miracle that would restore my progress – nothing worked.

I was completely dismayed. All that time and effort. All those hours of leveling up and chasing legendary Pokemon seemed to disappear in an instant. I wallowed in misery. How could this happen? I was so close, yet I never managed to finish the game. And even worse, I was totally unaware of the cause. I had to know what happened. I had to try and fix it. I decided to take my game to the local GameStop and talked to the sales associate.

After taking a look at my Gameboy, the associate said, “Yeah, it looks like the battery went dead.”

“…Um, that doesn’t make sense. What does changing your Gameboy battery have to do with losing my progress?” I asked confoundedly.

He explained, “Not those batteries, the actual game cartridge; it has a battery you know.”

“Whaaaat???” I responded, completely disconcerted by the news. “You’ve got to be kidding me! You’re telling me I’m supposed to change the game battery?”

“Yup, you have to have someone open up the cartridge and change it before it dies: Once the battery dies, your saves are gone.”

I stood there feeling confused and bitter: How did one CR2 battery manage to ruin my life? At the end of the conversation, I didn’t want to look at the stupid cartridge. So I sold it for three bucks over the counter.

In retrospect, that would have been the most opportune time to call it quits and acknowledge that gaming was becoming too big a part of my life. But I was young, and I loved video games.

Despite the misfortune I had with Pokemon, I beat plenty of other adventure titles. Some were best-selling, award-winning games, including my all-time favorites The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Banjo-Kazooie. Some were more obscure games like Mega Man Legends and Sudeki, which unfortunately met with poor reception from both critics and fans.

Yes, I am guilty of replaying “bad” video games. Why? Gamers know all too well that enjoying a video game is in the eye of the beholder – or to be precise, in the hands of the gamer – and I was addicted.

Sometimes people complain all too much about the terrible controls or the graphics not being realistic. Even if the storyline is arguably cliché or unsophisticated, for me, it comes down to those ruthless challenges, the ones that at first glance seem all too easy, but, in fact, are not!

The prime example would be boss battles. They are almost always beaten in the same steps: (1) memorize the boss’ motions; (2) execute counter attacks; (3) fail; (4) rinse and repeat until finally victorious. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve screamed into a pillow or flipped off my character for not dodging a fireball a frame faster or an inch off the ground higher. I hate losing! But that’s part of the challenge and appeal of the game. I’ll fix every damn mistake I make if that’s what it takes to beat it!

There is no denying the glorious satisfaction after finally beating the last boss or reaching 100% completion; that’s what I relish most in any game. But another aspect to gaming involves sharing the experience with friends and family, whether it’s jumping in to play easy-to-learn games like Mario Party and Diddy Kong Racing, or more skillful games like Halo or Call of DutyHalo was a much better game, by the way.

Halo Video Game Characters

Co-op and multiplayer is one of the reasons that I managed to play video games all the way from elementary school through college. See, I grew up with a group of friends since elementary school, and we all loved gaming. Being the rowdy bunch of guys we were (arguably might still be), we would compete for masculinity and dominance: For us, video games were a way to bond and compete with each other.

Our “guys’ night out” meant going to a friend’s place to play games like Super Smash Bros. 64 or Mario Party. This was part of our routine; I would venture to guess that we probably did this around 50 out of 52 weeks in a given year. Nonetheless, those were the nights we cherished because despite whatever was going on in our lives, these nightly sessions kept us connected for all these years.

However, looking back, I still feel ashamed for having wasted all those years sitting in front of a screen alone. With the dozens of games I’ve beaten and hundreds of games I’ve played, right now, all of it amounts to nothing.

I made a conscious decision to stop recently after graduating from college while I was on the job hunt. Unlike before, when I failed to quit in elementary school, I made a commitment so I could focus my time and attention on personal and professional development, getting career experience, and making some real money. During the six-month job-hunting hell period, I began to notice several changes in my overall well-being.

What was once an empty white board posted in my room was now filled with reminders for me to incorporate reading time throughout my day, finish drafts of writing, and hone my photography skills. Overall, the quality of my life increased significantly from what it was before: I would describe the feeling akin to removing a cast on an arm and being able to write with greater ease.

I found that I was more social and would engage people in conversation instead of simple formalities such as asking, “Good morning, how are you?” in passing. I was learning more and refining a lot of the skills that I already had. Basically, anything that I saw myself doing routinely that was not essential in the development of my well-being was done away with. I don’t know what would have become of me if I had continued on the path of hardcore gaming; should you ask, I find the thought of it disheartening.

You might be wondering: Have I made a vow to never lay my hands on another controller? Of course not! Video games give me a competitive thrill that will never go away. I just know now that I won’t be spending half of my life in front of a screen anymore. I now spend more time playing the game of life and taking on the challenges and endless adventures that await me there.

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