Over the years, hundreds of cyber-addicted folks have trusted me with their stories. I am sure that one of the big factors in such trust being placed in me comes from my willingness to share my sordid tales of cyber madness. I am not just someone who helps cyber junkies; I am one myself.
I have always enjoyed video games, even back in the days when they required an endless supply of quarters to feed the Pac Man machine at the Laundromat that was walking distance from my house. My mother was one of the stingiest in the neighborhood when it came to doling out quarters, a fact that definitely helped delay the onset of my cyber addictions.
In the summer of 1993, however, I was living in Ann Arbor, taking only one class at the University of Michigan. I had lots of free time and discovered a game called Civilization, a multifaceted strategy game. When I was twelve years old, I bitterly lamented the rising reality that I was getting too old to play with my army men, of which I had a vast and diverse selection, from cowboys and Indians, World War II commandos, to Roman soldiers in chariots.
Civilization was like playing army men and magically entering the battlefield as one of the wax soldiers I used to set up on our family room floor. The “Civ” addicts at UofM had installed the game on every computer in the central campus computer lab. Unlike my childhood, I neither needed a quarter, nor had to set anything up. All I had to do was pop in my floppy disk and, thirteen hours later, limp out of the lab with nerve pain in my wrist and an aching back.
I binged on that game with the fervor of an addict who had found a new and improved drug. It became the most important activity in my life, eclipsing friends, family, and school—I came close to not turning in the final paper for the Political Science class I was taking!
After five months or so, I had beaten the game with each and every civilization on the hardest level, and so became somewhat bored with it. But a few years later, I received another game for Christmas, one that would really swallow up my life: Age of Empires. My longest binge on that came amounted to just shy of fifty hours, an “accomplishment” that sent me into the chiropractor for a year! My addiction to this game grew in severity once I realized I could play online. This feature meant that my play was no longer limited by “beating the computer,” but rather, I acquired an endless supply of worthy opponents all around the world.
I wasted and lost years of my life due to my cyber pursuits, not just games, but also social networking and online chatting. I tell my story to hopefully connect with those who have similar struggles. I believe that, by and large, cyber junkies are an adventurous, highly intelligent, and creative group. But our talents often stagnate as we sit in front of the computer screen.