03. It’s just a game

Headshot! Ultrakill! Monsterkill! I stacked up the digital corpses under the disguise of my alias, resulting in a superb kill/death ratio and multiple rage-quits among my competitors. This made me the temporary ruler of de_dust and de_dust2. It took quite some hours of practicing to end up at this meaningless position. Finding the required time wasn’t a problem at all. Well, actually, I should have been at high-school. But I simply bypassed that obligation since skipping classes (with overly bad excuses and fake signatures) became my expertise. It provided the opportunity to jump in front of the PC for an extensive gaming session, starting with ‘some rounds’ of Counter-Strike. I skipped breakfast and lunch since I lacked any appetite. Someone can get ‘sucked into it’ so intensely. Seas of time that passes by unnoticed. The mind that gets completely silent. Physical and mental needs that got completely numbed. There’s no going around it anymore. Online gaming was the activity that brought me into a deep state of intoxication.

In all my weakness, I experienced the true power of the mind. Partly fueled by my ‘everything or nothing’ mentality, (online) gaming became my main pastime. Strategy games, simulation games, first-person shooters or a mix of genres: I devoured it all. It was something that required some of my tactics, (spatial) insights and creativity. I couldn’t just play with others on servers; they were also a chat-room in which I could express my true thoughts. Wandering around, fulfilling specific roles, operating vehicles, cooperating and experimenting were all part of these online games. With today’s knowledge, it turned out to be a harbinger of what was yet to come. In all my youthfulness, I was so ignorant of my undiscovered motives, unfulfilled desires and unused talents. Deep inside, my oppressed ‘self’ was looking forward to unpredictability, taking risks, having adventures and making discoveries. But I was powerless to make it happen as a closed-off teenager. I didn’t know what to do with myself. All my inner conflicts and insecurities frustrated me to no end, as did the life-phase I was in. I hated being a scholar. Teenage years of fooling around, I didn’t feel like it at all. That’s why I constantly skipped classes (to play video-games). And this is how an innocent hobby gradually turned into a compulsive vent, driven by a dormant dissatisfaction of which I was so unaware of.

Dinner commenced after quite some screen-time, a meal which I’d rather skipped due to its awkwardness. I mainly owed that to myself since I increasingly closed myself off from the outside world. The main reason was that I didn’t felt understood, which intensified feelings of misunderstanding, alienation and loneliness. As usual, I remained dead silence while eating. After I finished the meal, I disappeared like a mysterious ghost. I went back to my room, my safe space, the only place that I longed for. It was the entrance of a rich fantasy world without traditions, expectations, borders or cultural limitations. I had all sorts of daydreams while wandering through the immeasurable dimensions of the internet. One day, this exotic bird will spread its wings to fly around. Digital explorations would be swapped for extensive journeys through far-away places. Deep ties will be forged with folks from all nationalities and walks of life. Simulated adventures on a screen would evolve into real ones that I’ll experience in all their intensity.  

Game Over. My fantasies ended abruptly when I stared at my desktop. It was already night time. The emptiness, the silence, something didn’t feel right anymore. I looked up the statistics of my Steam account and witnessed a disturbing amount of gameplay. It was valuable time that I didn’t spend on proper relations or skills. With great uneasiness, I wondered if this wasn’t some form of escapism, addiction, a vicious circle or something like that. I thought about the diminished social network, my deteriorating mood, the hobbies that gradually disappeared out of my life. Hastily I searched for ‘gaming addiction’, ‘compulsive gaming’ and ‘excessive gaming’, which wasn’t widely investigated or recognized at the time. I discarded the confronting stream of thoughts after browsing through some websites. The crack in the door was slammed shut in utter denial. Don’t exaggerate. So many teenage boys game a lot, so what.

The door opened a crack again. I compared my self-imposed luxury problem with the disadvantaged situation of others. Structurally suppressed people, people in extreme poverty, people with incurable diseases or those who are prosecuted for having certain political views or sexual preferences. Millions of people crave for any (small) opportunity and take them with full appreciation when they come by. Me? Incapably I squander all sorts of possibilities that those folks can only dream of. I’m such a weakling. Or perhaps I’m just a forerunner of the herd, I thought all of the sudden. Perhaps I taste a sample of what’s to come. Who knows if this becomes a society in which the mass overvalues a digital fake world. One in which mindless entertainment (at the expense of others), abundant non-information, indifferent passivity, one-sided imagery and impulsive decision making becomes the norm. One in which whole tribes mostly communicate by fleeting chat massages while being glued to their screens. One in which attention disappears as quickly as a block of ice in the Sahara. Being lived by self-limiting habits, constant rush and misleading realities, what a shallow scenario. Maybe it will be like this one day, who knows. But what the hell do I know as a nerdy teenager. I closed my eyes with this self-loathing conclusion. It was time for a brief sleep; after all, I was very busy with absolutely nothing.

Perhaps it’s time for games and adventures in the real world; surely they will be beneficial to me.

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