I know that you love gaming, I get it, I totally do, I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t quite easily engross myself in Roller Coaster Tycoon for an hour or so at a time. But you know what? The real world is out there, the real world is calling, and if we aren’t careful, it’ll be gone too soon.
Last night, I walked into our lounge and I could hear the most awful clash of sounds – the sound Antiques Roadshow combined with a warzone.
“This is a.. *bang bang bang* from the era of.. *brrrrr* French artist.. *boom*
I skulked back into the bedroom and quietly closed the door. Picking up my earphones, I was about ready to lose myself in my own sanctuary. I was 30 seconds away from reinstalling anonymous rant/chat app Whisper and (most probably) finding myself in the grasps of some unwanted thirsty male attention when I felt a tap on the shoulder. That was close, too close.
“What’s up?” he asked. It was Matt.
“I’m fine” I said, conflict avoidant as ever.
“Is it the games?” he asked. I sighed.
“It’s just, I wanted a future with you, a life with you” I began, “you work all day, you have football on a Wednesday or you come home and then you’re on there. I’m wondering where I fit into all of this.”
Gamers, this isn’t only my plight, this is the plight of the people we do this to, the plight of the people we ignore while we spend our time gaming. Life is short, and the people we love and cherish most can slip us by while we spend our time gaming.
Let me tell you a true story.
One day, there was a little girl. That little girl had an online relationship in a virtual world which allowed her to buy accessories to jazz up her space and buy bonus clothes and hairstyles for her character. At the same time, that little girl also met a man from a foreign land, and for three happy years they were very much in love.
First, she was so besotted with him that she based all of her exam courseworks on their story. In her art class, she depicted pictures of how love could traverse the distance between her and her foreign lover. In her English class, she wrote stories about how proposals and weddings. Although she didn’t use their names, she used their story for inspiration. Her school were so worried, they invited her parents to her school to discuss the situation. Although she was a bright student, her brother got better grades than she did because she’d spent more time focusing on her lover. She wasted her education for him.
On another time, her grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. That little girl didn’t care. Grandad would get better, right? And if not, Grandad was old, anyway. Her grandmother used to tell her to put her mobile phone down, but she refused. Who was she to tell her to stop texting her foreign lover? 2 months later, her grandfather died. The little girl didn’t really grieve, she was too wrapped up in her own virtual world to notice.
Finally, she was going to turn eighteen. Woohoo! She was going to become an adult. She’d have a party, hire a limousine and all of her best friends would be there. She went to the bank to draw out some money to buy a dress and that was when disaster struck.
She had only £9 to her name. Not enough to buy her dream dress, and definitely not enough for the limousine.
In the end, she started off her adult life in debt. Her mother paid for the party, but made her cut up her debit card as punishment. All of her expenditures were monitored from here on out and she was only allowed £10 per month in mobile phone credit. Three weeks before her eighteenth birthday, her relationship even came to an end. She had no date, no relationship and she owed her Mum £650. That was before she had even legally turned eighteen.
That little girl was me.
When I was 15, I was addicted to Habbo Hotel and I was in love with a man from Pakistan. Although I still think he was a strikingly good looking man, we were never meant to be. What’s more, I wasted 3 years of my life on a game, three years when I could have got the A* grades that my teachers had predicted, I could have told my grandfather that I loved him (something I now deeply regret not doing) and I could have saved enough money for the dream dress and limousine, Instead, I wasted it.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you how to live your life. How you live has to be your choice and your responsibility. But you have to understand that just as much as you have a choice, so does everyone else.
It is unfair to expect people to want to be in the same room as you while you play video games, if it’s not something that they are interested in.
It is unkind to ignore the people who love you, and who want to spend time with you, because you would rather play video games.
It is unhealthy to neglect yourself, your education, your responsibilities or your finances for video games.
Don’t make the same mistakes that I did.
Unless you play professionally, handle video games for what they are – a hobby.
At the beginning of my relationship, Matt used to play CounterStrike Source and Starcraft. I’d pay £3.50 for a bus ticket to go and visit him, and then I’d get to sit and watch him game.
“It’s fine!” I’d tell myself, “he’ll spend time with you later.”
“He’ll grow out of it eventually!”
He never did.
Logically, I should have listened to those “dude, move” alarm bells that were going off in my head, but love makes us do funny things. At that time, I was going through a lot of turmoil at home. He didn’t want much to do with me at the time, but nobody else did and in an odd way he felt safest. Even if he did only want me for sex, he at least wanted me for something. At that time, it was a codependent, unhealthy relationship in the extreme.
Over time, things seemed to sort of resolve into a sort of more acceptable rhythm. He played Football Manager most nights, and that was fine because I could deal with it. Even if I’ve never understood all of the rules of football, I can at least be a little bit interested in it. As long as I could be with him, I was happy. As long as we had some time together and it wasn’t dominating our shared living space, I could deal. These days, we’re both currently building our own version of “The Best Park Ever” on RollerCoaster Tycoon 3. I’m still winning, by the way, even if my park has fewer visitors (It was a simple thing, really). Regardless, I’m perfectly happy with him managing Newcastle United while I watch the cops. We’re together, but each doing our own thing sometimes, and that’s totally chill.
So I suppose, when our lounge sounded like World War 3 had kicked off, I felt threatened.
I felt frightened that once again, I was going to find myself replaced. Abandoned, forgotten, neglected.
Forgive my moment of narcissism, but I’m just too damn good to be forgotten and neglected. That’s not just my opinion, “Wife of the Year” made a signed Newcastle United shirt appear on his birthday, she’s also makes his favourite bacon-wrapped pesto chicken appear on a plate once a fortnight. I do the things my husband loves because I love him, and in doing so, I hope that he loves me, too. It’s the pitiful attempts we humans make at appeasing those we love in order to maintain their affection. A flaw of mine, even by my own admittance.
But in my moment of fear, I lashed out. Not to hurt him, but to protect myself. I was afraid of being ignored and forgotten, and so I was seconds away from finding me someone else to chat with. Someone who, dare I say it, quite possibly had nefarious intentions. My relationship and marriage could have been thirty seconds away from a disaster because I was feeling hurt and neglected by my husband’s gaming and needed someone to validate me again, urgently. That’s an incredibly dangerous situation for us to be in. Fortunately, on this occasion, his pursuing me was able to save us.
I’m not saying don’t game, and I’m not saying my actions were perfect, either. We both have faults and responsibilities and we, like all things in marriages, are responsible for making sure we don’t do anything to hurt our partners. If you want to game, game by all means but do please, make sure that your responsibilities are taken care of and you don’t make the same poor choices that I did. Make sure that your job, your home and your health aren’t in any jeopardy and the people who you love and cherish most know just how much you care about them.
Over and out until next time,