Gamer’s Anonymous – The Parisite Response
Geez, the internet is great… I’ve been outed as an addict.
A Gamer Addict… By my friend the Parisite.
He has this to say on Gamers Anonymous [to which I don’t belong – in fact, we merely speculate at its existence].
Are the twelve steps something like: ↑, ↑, →, ←, □, ○, x, L1, R2, ↑+□, R2+x, ↓ …?
— The Parisite
I hope he tells his gaming problem story on his blog soon.
— The Parisite
Well, probably not in detail – it’s kind of embarrassing. Not to mention that I get the ‘urge’ just thinking about it. I’m not fussy… in times of desperation, once I noticed that Windows Solitaire numbers each ‘random’ hand, I started to play them sequentially and got to 200+ before I stopped.
I first realised I was an addict while playing ‘The Sims’. I was congratulating myself on teaching my avatar to get up, go to work, pay the rent and maintain a relationship, when I realised I was late for work.
Two days late.
And I hadn’t paid the rent either.
So how did it begin?
I still remember playing one of the early arcade games ‘Maniak’ (?) in the downstairs room at Papa’s in Fremantle – where the illicit gambling is alleged to have taken place.
Yep, it was a den of vice, waiting for me to fall in. Figuratively, that is, I do remember being able to negotiate the stairs without incident. I was hooked.
My family never had much money, but somehow Mum scraped enough together for a second-hand Vic 20, but it wasn’t too long before I’d disappear to go to friend’s houses to play C64, then Amiga or even the Sinclair ZX Spectrum (ah…. Elite!).
Years later, Timezone opened across the road from Papa’s. I was a high-school drop-out by 16, at which point the manager offered me a job, on the basis that I was there all the time anyway.
Skill puts the cost/minute ratio in the gamer’s favour, and I had already started to get hooked on pinball games as they didn’t ever ‘end’, making it possible to play a single game for up to 45 minutes or so, all the time racking up free games…
I took the job, thus radically reducing the amount of time I had to spend playing games – a fourteen hour shift every two days meant that while I thought I was getting every second day off, it was more like working all day, sleeping for a day and going back to work…
This may have contributed to my surly disposition towards customers, but it was just as likely to be the frequent death-threats I’d get from bogans somewhat outraged by the fact that a geeky kid like me had the keys to all the games in the place.
I won’t tell you why I was fired, but I will say that the manager’s daughter had this tattooed on her ankle.
Classy place, classy company.
Next stop – servicing arcade games for an independent opeartor, and eventually building juke-boxes and other amusement machines… this is at about the time PCs started to become more common, but seeing as I was pseudo-homeless for the next year or so, I had neither the money nor anywhere to put one.
On the other hand, I did learn to play guitar. A real one.
I’m learning Rock Band now.
I ended up working with the independent operator, using the sideshow alley stalls he ran at the Royal Show (WA), the Ecka (Brisbane), Moomba (Victoria), Luna Park (Sydney and Melbourne) to travel the country a bit, but mostly based out of Melbourne, where I ended up running one of his juke-box hire companies, where I convinced him he really needed internet.
Next step – completely addicted to ‘Sanity’s Edge’ – a text based MUD (Multi User Dungeon) with a cyberpunk theme. People I met only as words on a screen, some of whom I am still acquainted with today. [Fuck me, it’s relaunched. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Just when I had learned to have a real job/life/wife. FUCK!]
Do they introduce themselves using their handle/avatar, “I’m Draganslya44 and I’m a game addict”?
— The Parisite
They’re not all that self-reflexive, but it’s kind of true.
During the height first extended period of my addiction, I had many friends whom I knew only by their ‘nicks’ (who says ‘handle’, anyway?). I was friendly for years with a guy I only knew as ‘Bug’, whom I had ‘killed’ because he was true to his name… he was bugging the buggin’ bejesus out of me when he joined up as a ‘noob’.
In Sanity’s Edge, ‘death’ meant being saved at the last minute by paramedics, who would then rob you and throw you out of a moving ambulance into the centre of town. Moments after I killed this annoying newcomer, a voice came over the (text-based) radio…
Now I am small and have no pants.
In a world that pre-dated massively over-hyped pieces of video software that ask you stare at the shallow gryrations of a half-dressed elven women avatars being made to dance by their presumably less desirable overlords, a statement such as ‘Now I am small and have no pants’ simply meant that the guy had a good sense of humour and knew how to take a joke.
I don’t even know how to explain Bug’s friend ‘Hadley’ except to say that it looks like growing up in Canberra fucks you up… in a kind of amusing way. Put it this way, I just tried to track down Hadley and he’s left this up on a forum as his supposed website address… It’s like he doesn’t want me to find him. On the other hand, my signature file on that forum contains the following Fight Club parody, which is strangely appropriate to this discussion.
You are not your magic fireball,
You are not your fancy costume.
The crudely animated MUDs soon followed, which is about when women who had liked MIRC started to play games too. Shortly after this, cybersex started to become commonplace, although I didn’t realise this for some time… I’d be happily hacking some computer-generated foe to pieces, quipping for my life when I realised that the rest of the party was being suspiciously quiet. This is because gamers can use ‘scripts’ which tell their character what to do so they can gain experience while simply ‘chatting’ on ‘intimate modes’.
No, I don’t cyber. I have counselled lonely would-be cybers but that’s a whole other post, which will probably be called, ‘It sure is dark in this dungeon… wanna cyber?’. Nope. My character would be out the front, killing and joking, with an entire party set to automatically ‘follow’ and ‘assist’.
The internet is a waste of time, and that’s exactly what’s right about it
— William Gibson
I should also point out that these games were fun and more importantly, absolutely FREE.
Anyway… as some of you may know, I ended up being a pop culture reviewer for X-Press Magazine, where I suggested I write a computer game review section, which was transitioned into an X-Press offshoot magazine, ZebraPerth.
And that was pretty much the beginning of the end…
I’ll be in later baby, I have to finish this level…
No I won’t come now. IT’S MY JOB!!!!
I don’t tell YOU how to do YOUR job!
Under the guise of ‘reviewing’ I had free games coming in from developers which I argued I was morally obliged to finish before I reviewed them. Unlike some music reviewers, I liked to watch the whole gig before making comments. Same with my movie reviews… And if the game says it offered 60 hours of continuous gameplay, I owed it to my readers to make sure that was true.
That’s what I told my girlfriends and that’s what I told myself. Even after the girlfriends left.
My wife was the most significant of these girlfriends, and she will quite happily tell you that at various stages of the last ten years, my addiction to computer gaming has threatened to kill our relationship.
In November 2007, I killed my computer by chainsmoking for two weeks playing World of Warcraft next to a PC without its sides on while my wife worked on an extended campaign. The motherboard is apparently coated in tobacco resin and cannot be fixed.
Which brings me to one of the Parisite’s other observations:
Do they need to stay away from pretty much any electronic device because that would be an enabler?
— The Parisite
I no longer own a PC.
I no longer own a PS2, and I never bought a PS3 or an X-Box.
I’m glad I never bought a Dreamcast, and I’m sorry for those who did.
My phone only has one game on it. I have finished it probably 100 times.
I still play free online games when my wife isn’t around.
I’m not proud.
But I’m happily married, I pay my rent and I get to work on time.
Except for when I’m trying to blog in the morning.
It’s for the readers…