They say the first step in dealing with an addiction is admitting that you have a problem. I do in fact have an addiction, and it’s one I think some readers of Platform Nation can relate to. In the interest of possibly opening a dialog with others and maybe even bringing about some needed healing, I’m going to tell you about my addiction.
I’m addicted to video games. Or, more specifically, I’m addicted to purchasing video games.
In the 21st century, it’s so easy to find bargains on video games, whether it’s a purchase on Ebay or getting that 10% discount at Gamestop. You see, I can’t afford new games, so I’m always seeking out bargains.
I can even remember when this first became a problem with me; it would have been in 1982, when I was 14. We had an Atari 2600, and several games; however, my family was pretty poor, so it wasn’t likely I’d be getting any new games. I can remember one day looking through the yellow pages (essentially Google in book form) and finding a store in Portland that you could trade Atari 2600 games, two for one. What a deal! I grabbed a couple games I wasn’t playing and headed into Portland. Before long I had a brand-new game in hand: Parker Brother’s Spiderman.
Before going further I need to mention that this particular addiction of mine seems directly related to another issue I seem to have with video games: difficulty in actually finishing a game. As I can recall, I never did finish Spiderman as I got bored with it.
Despite my age, when it comes to video games I seem to have the attention span of a spastic squirrel; if a game fails to pull me in within the first ten minutes, I’ll stop playing it (I’m looking at you, Halo: Reach). Even with games that do pull me in, what can happen is that at some point in playing I’ll want to play something else. As a result, the time between starting a game and my actually finishing it can be years. For instance, when Half-Life 2 came out in 2004, I started playing it on my computer, but didn’t actually finish it until 2010 on my Xbox 360. I have an embarrassingly long list of titles I’ve started but have yet to finish: Bioshock, Dead Space, Grand Theft Auto IV, Red Faction: Guerrilla, Mass Effect…the list goes on and on. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the games; sometimes I’ll get stuck on a particular level and just decide to put the game aside and try something else. Over the past year I’ve only actually finished three games: Modern Warfare 2, Splinter Cell: Conviction, and Fallout 3.
Things were pretty bad during the years 2001 and 2007, when I was primarily a PC gamer. Back then Gamestop sold used PC games, so every week or so I’d head over and make an impulse purchase or two. Or three. And before long I had hundreds of games, and I rapidly began running out of places to store them . These were the days when the game came in a large box with large instruction manuals. And of course back then, before games were put onto DVDs, you’d have a game with six, eight, or ten CDs. My computer desk looked like a Gamestop had exploded in its general direction. In those days I was married, and my wife eventually talked me into getting rid of some of those games, so I managed to get the collection down to a couple hundred games. The one good thing about my addiction is that, apparently, many of my old PC games are actually worth money now. One of these days I’ll get around to selling them. And use the money to buy…more games.
These days I only play games on my Xbox 360; my gaming rig died a couple of years ago, and I haven’t been able to replace it. I live in a neighborhood where there are many places to purchase video games at fantastic prices; one store in particular carries original Xbox games, usually around the $4.95 price range, and now I own more original Xbox games than Xbox 360 games, and those Xbox games are gathering dust since I’m not really playing them.
I’m not really sure how to deal with this problem. Gamefly has helped a little bit; if I get bored with a game I can just add a different title to my queue. But in the two days or so that it takes for a game to be shipped to me, I at times will get that feeling that drives me to the used game shops to hunt out the bargains.
I suppose as addictions go, needing to buy games isn’t as bad as having the urge to play games in marathon sessions. At most I’ll spend two hours at a time playing a game. Thanks to my shifting attention span, I’m driven to do something else after two hours.
People say addicts are never cured. I was laid off from my day job a couple of months ago, so out of necessity I can’t really afford to indulge in my addiction. However, when I again have a steady source of income, the impulse to purchase used games may return.
I suppose I should find a higher power and try to make it through the other 11 steps. I wonder if Bill Gates is an acceptable higher power? I’ll need to find a sponsor and ask.