Settle around the fireplace, my friends: Tyler has another one of those stories to tell. This time around, it’s going to be one of failure and humiliation. There are no happy endings here. I would go as far as to say that this was the biggest mistake of my life unless you count the time I bought a hundred bucks worth of steak from a passing meat truck. This is a tale about how I came to find social acceptance with others over the internet, let it be the defining reason I lived, and how it made me make the hardest choices in my life. Including this one.
I’m going to choose on telling you why I was kicked out of college.
We’ll first start with the fine year of 2009, and boy what a year that was! Senior year of high school: I was playing the tuba with flames at the fingertips, fighting a passive-aggressive battle with the other students on trying to find my place in the castes, and frankly, I was a smart guy with some heck of a depression issue. It wasn’t pretty, no sir or ma’am. Battling off a time where the parents were out of my existence for months at a time, alongside contemplating whether or not I should be some fake punk goth kid that cuts himself, and forcing myself into a child psych ward because I was sick of the way my generation treated myself and others in this world; yeah, it definitely wasn’t pretty, and kind of embarrassing when I think about it.
“Tyler, you said this was about college and video games, you haven’t said anything about-”
Look, this is my story, sit your butt down and wait for it. It’s called pretext.
Later in the school year, some classmates began talking some game in Calculus class, which by all rights was beyond me. I didn’t want to study the numbers anymore unless it meant leveling up and beating some boss a bit easier. The topic? World of Warcraft, most notably the latest expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. I had no clue what the game was about, beyond that one episode I saw from South Park. These guys were talking about with a passion I haven’t seen in my life; they were rapidly discussing character classes, races, some floating dungeon with a bunch of undead in it. I parrot some interest to them and suddenly they’re planning me into the books so they can get a recruit-a-friend bonus. I was already hooked on their hard sell on being a paladin, and I haven’t even touched my keyboard.
So I gave it a shot and I tried the trial, immediately falling down the rabbit hole into a whole new world. Granted, the graphics suck compared to what I was used to at the time, but there were real people playing and talking to each other. I never even saw my friend more than once for the first 50 levels, handing me a sack of gold and told me good luck! So I struggled with a game I didn’t understand, meeting random outcasts like myself to do a dungeon. Weeks and weeks in, I scraped myself a name and a character with guilds of reputable renown (see: raid or die), and as soon as I was fresh in college, I had my first max level character ready to do all sorts of stuff.
That’s where it began. I stayed up until 5 in the morning on the weekends, sleeping in as late as I could, ate a big meal, and then went at it again. Every single weekend.
I had no friends; my PS3 broke during this time so my roommate was no longer interested in playing Modern Warfare with me. In the intellectual bubble of Central Michigan University where isolation was almost welcomed, I was left to hit up my classes, get easy grades by giving it my all, and upon finishing my homework go straight into Blizzard’s hot MMO. I was able to keep the cycle in balance just right, keeping me from being bored or otherwise lonely from the world. Freshman year surprisingly went well for me. I halfheartedly wanted to be a teacher, and I wanted to learn as much of the core academics as possible to teach others in some fashion.
I really wanted to be the best Paladin tank on the Uldum server, though, too.
Come the beginning of sophomore year, I was flat out living WoW. A summer with a part-time job and absolutely nothing else to do, the end of the expansion was coming on nigh. I met a guild that accepted me and talked with me nightly. I’ll never know if they were also in the same boat, with their only joy to look forward to was to hop on the voice chat and play some random heroic dungeons.
I never asked my grandmother how she felt when she didn’t see me emerge from my basement room for days at a time, sneaking out at night to eat before sinking another 12 hours in the game. She never understood why I glared at her angrily when I’m clearly busy tanking for our group and her concerns on my health were ruining the raid.
We still couldn’t defeat the final boss, though: the Lich King. With 24 other people who may or may not ever bother to learn a strategy in their life, meant that every Tuesday night we’d charge in the Icecrown Citadel all fresh spirited, and by 2 a.m. barely scraped ⅔ of the bosses with multiple failures on people’s ignorance. It was frustrating. How can I, who understood and spent more hours reading on how to do this raid than I have ever studied a college class, find a way to convince these people to be serious about playing this game? Surely discussing this over with a 25 person call will work.
So I made four more champions instead and began the cycle anew.
I gave up going to classes entirely, having played from sundown to sunrise and eating when no roommates were home, hoping to fool them that I was a functional person. I lived on mountain dew and cigars (my roommate got me hooked on them, never understood why), and my life was my laptop. Without a doubt, I would have been suicidal if my computer ever took a dive. I was disgusting and filthy, stinking and sweaty for days, weeks at a time. My only time to willingly shower was Tuesday morning, when Blizzard forced down times for everyone. My bedroom became a lair, a nest of dirty clothes and empty two liter bottles.
On November of 2010, my guild finally beat the Lich King, the final month of the expansion. It was joyous, elating! I felt like my life, halted at this very fight, could go on. No longer was I bound by will to this game, having conquered all that I wanted, and gained the experience I desired since the day I installed the game.
I had missed over three months of classes, and I failed every subject already. How do I fix that which cannot be fixed? What does the Kingslayer title do for my Associate’s Degree, now out of my reach? I had no real solution, only denial, a desperate need for escapism from the eventual moment when my family realizes I am going to be a college dropout.
So I kept playing WoW and worked into the next expansion.
A month letter, I received a letter of expulsion, along with the reminder that I spent almost forty thousand dollars for nothing.
Forty-freaking-thousand-dollars. All for a chance to play WoW in a pampered fortress of solitude. It ruined everything I set in life, and others put out for me. I had no more scholarships, no more money, no more chances. Everything that was handed to me was wasted, gone.
At least I had a paladin tank.
I quit WoW that year, and although I come back to it now and then, I am subtly reminded every time I log in of my mistakes and regrets. It’s been six years since I let a video game addiction get the best of me and destroyed the most important time of my life; so I thought; until I met and remet friends, and fell in love. After becoming jobless and homeless for a number of months, I rode on the coats of friends and family as I tried to get my crap together, after many months and years of telling myself that everything was fine.
EVERYTHING WAS NOT FINE.
The denial was so corrupted that I hate thinking I let such easy habits trick myself.
So I took what I could and made the best of it. I got a bike and rode the bus, got a job at a gas station. Met a girl and fell in love, and I’m with her to this day. I made some money and trained at a truck school and obtained my CDL, and I finally began my career as a truck driver. I made so much money I didn’t even know what to do with it. Buy games, I guess. With the embarrassments of wealth I gained through sheer hard work, I reminded myself to never get carried away by one game. It’s never worth it, in the end. Being the best in a virtual world will ever compare to the sacrifices you give in the real world.
With that, the story ends with me, and the focus is now on you, my friend.
You may have experienced it, suffered it. That urge to play, surrender yourself to the life of a game. Sometimes it feels like life doesn’t matter so long as the controller is in your hands. You may want to breathe, take in anything that is the game, and soon enough, you will give up everything until someone stops you from giving your every minute to the game.
If this is you, friend, then talk to me, and listen to my advice: stop playing, and seek help.
I won’t judge you, because I’ve done it to the extreme. I won’t make fun of you, either; I’m not going to be a hypocrite about it. If you’re spending more time on a game, or even anything, than you are spending with your loved one, taking care of your household, or working, you are in danger of mental suffocation. You can’t feel yourself choking now because it’s the lack of emotion that is feeding it.
Please, breathe. There are people who need you and care about you. If no one will listen to you, call 1-888-480-5593 right now. It’s a hotline meant to help folks like us. No, they won’t chain you and take you to the funny farm. They offer 24-hour support and help you plan on changing your life. Talk with friends and family, and be serious about it. Don’t let this drag you down, not now, not ever. Do this for yourself. It took me almost four years to get my world together, don’t let this happen to you.