This is written by my husband, I asked him to write this, as I wanted him to journal his thoughts and ideas as he transitioned from hardcore gamer to actually putting me first and how he viewed things. So here it is.
As a start, I’m not normally a writer, but my wife (Karla) asked me to write this little segment for her. I figure it’s rather easy to appease my wife’s desires in this one, so here goes. The focus of the segment? A sentence that she sent to me. And I quote…”I was wondering if you could write a piece about how/why/what happened/your thoughts on how you changed your mind on gaming and your habits and putting me first.” In all, an undesirable topic, but one that I completely understand the need for it to be written about. Personally, I think the gamers out there and the gamer widow(er)s all have a generalized idea of what goes through peoples’ heads when they think about quitting gaming and getting back into what some in society might call a ‘normal’ life.
For me, my gaming was never -about- a ‘normal’ life. I started playing video games as a kid and never really have stopped since. I pick and choose my fascination…usually on a whim on the day I want to play something. From there, I set myself up and relax with said video game until either a) I get frustrated to the point of wanting to throw the controller/mouse away (I don’t do that…that’d indicate anger issues and I resolved those when I was in 3rd grade :P) b) I realize I have somewhere to be or something that I absolutely need to do… or c) someone wanted my attention and I felt that I was willing to give them that attention. To most gamers, I think, that pretty much sums up their desires in a nutshell while playing. If they realize that something absolutely -needs- to be done, someone they want to spend time with wants their attention, or they get frustrated with their game, they’ll stop playing and do something besides play.
When I started into the online gaming with World of Warcraft (WoW for short from here on), I had just gotten into a relationship with a girl (now my wife, Karla, thank you very much) and was playing all the time when I wasn’t talking to her or working in the US Marine Corps. I was introduced to the game by a friend of mine (my room mate at the time and still one of my closer friends), Jared. When I played, I lost track of time unless it was military involved, I lost track of anything I needed to do unless it had dire consequences and I basically didn’t have any desire to do anything else. The game was not necessarily -all- that mattered, but it was a large chunk of what I was thinking about all day long, every day for a while there.
My playtime waxed, my interaction with anyone outside WoW waned, and a lot of people started noticing that I was playing a lot. A big kicker was when Jared told me that he thought I was playing a little too much even for a hardcore gamer. He thought I was ignoring life. (there’s lots of background details with Jared, but let’s just say that the tables turned and he’s where I was and it’s not as easy kicking his habit as it was kicking mine…we’ll get into that later) Karla was getting upset because at times, when I said I’d call her, I would, but only at 4am the next morning (to me, the same night because I hadn’t gone to bed because I had been playing). Other times, I’d just sit there and not think there was anything important to talk about when she called, so not pick up the phone (the desiring to talk to her had kinda not pushed through my gaming…read the above reasons ‘worthy’ to interrupt gaming). About the only thing that was guaranteed to get me off the game was if I had to go to work. Even then, I was complaining about it.
So shortly after the 4am calls and the friend telling me I played too much, I started to realize that I hadn’t, in fact, been spending any time actually talking to my friends or my romantic interest. I felt that it was completely reasonable to be completely distracted by something sometimes, but felt I had gone a little ‘overboard’ with it. So I pushed away from WoW for a bit and started talking on the phone a lot more with Karla, started hanging out and doing things with Jared and other fellow marines. Basically, I weaned myself from the game bit by bit.
Then came one of the happier times in my life: marriage. Karla and I got married on June 24th, 2006 in my hometown. I brought her back home to meet my mother before I married the woman, and we had a pretty wedding in the middle of the Yakima Arboretum. Only the respective parents were there and it was very small and what most people would call ‘quaint’. Karla went back to Newfoundland for a little while whereas I went back to the marines, started the ball rolling on getting allowance to live off base and in my own apartment (well…we lived with room mates for the first 6 months and that was a disaster, but not part of this diatribe) and got everything ready for Karla to come down and stay with me. I also bought a new computer because my laptop fried itself. The desktop came in probably about early August. Between June and August, I hadn’t played WoW much. A little playing here, a little there, but nothing to even make someone say something about me playing. Then the computer arrived, and it was new, it was shiny, it ran fast, it had no issues playing WoW like my other computers I had played on had, and it was mine, all mine (yes ours, Karla, but at the time it was in my possession without anyone else drawing time off of it so MINE! :P). So I started playing WoW again. Not a lot at first, but between early August and Sept 8th when Karla came down to the states to stay with me, I went from playing once in a while to playing almost to the point of earlier, where someone was thinking I played too much again.
The killing blow on the whole ordeal was actually 3 days after Karla got down to the states to stay with me. I hadn’t thought about playing a lot and I really didn’t know how life with my wife was going to be. I figured I could work her in on the side somewhere alongside my gaming. I figured SO wrong. Karla, when she’s around, doesn’t seem like a dominating person. She seems nice, cuddly, bubbly, and generally just a great person to be around. I love her for that and SO much more…but when she thinks you’re doing something that you shouldn’t be doing and she is right there able to tell it to your face…well…she gets scary. Not as a person, no, just the way she wont take any nonsense, doesn’t allow you to weasel your way out of it and just stands right there and says ‘This is not right and I wont let something not right be around me’. Basically it got into a series of -huge- fights for us. To me, though, my relationship with my wife (and I must use the stress on the word wife because to me, every relationship prior to this was just a boyfriend girlfriend thing in actuality and in my head) was supposed to be about happy and generally peace-filled times. So from roughly mid-September for a few months there, I didn’t play at all. Didn’t get on to check anything, didn’t do anything, didn’t go near the computer. Yes, I played other video games, but I didn’t have anything to do with the dreaded WoW.
I must point out, at this time, for me to play just an hour a day seemed ludicrous. Anything having to do with WoW required at least a 3-4 hour time commitment and to spend anything less than that was a waste of time. So instead of playing WoW, I played Gears of War or Halo 2 or anything else that didn’t require time commitments and that I could put down at the drop of a dime to do anything and everything that my wife wanted. The problem still wasn’t fiixed by any means, but I had circumvented it to keep the peace. Around Christmas, there was a flareup of relationship issues that I wont get into on here, but basically, it caused me to re-evaluate how much I cared about my wife and how much I wanted to make everything work. So I looked at my gaming from an honest perspective and asked myself ‘can I honestly want to play more than I want to have a family?’ To me, it took a while to get the answer to come, but the answer was ‘no’. I wanted to take care of my wife. I wanted her happy. I wanted her to be completely, utterly blissful. Playing WoW wasn’t doing anything like that.
I don’t know when the transfer of thought processes from ‘I must play WoW!’ to ‘I want to be happy with my wife and later as a family’ occurred, but I know that it did. It all came down to me making the decision that the woman that I decided to spend the rest of my life with, well, I had to spend the rest of my life with her. I had to focus on her, love her, care for her, and pay the attention to her that she deserved as my wife. I think it’s a misconception that gamers don’t love their spouses. I don’t know where I’ve read that some people think that, but honestly, I know I’ve read it somewhere. Gamers -do- love their spouses. They just have found something that so completely entertains them and draws them away from reality that their spouses are just put on the back burner. I don’t know if that’s the case for everyone, but I do know that it was the case for me. My wife became my reality when I made the choice that she was the more important thing in my life. She was physically there, whereas WoW and all of its’ idiosyncracies was going to have to take the back burner. I never stopped liking the game and I still play it every once in a while. But the decision to stop focusing on it and becoming an actual caring husband took precedence over my desire to have fun and play a game that doesn’t really effect anything in real life.
So in essence, there was no real defining moment that took me out of my WoW-world. The decision that came upon me was influenced by a lot of outside factors besides gaming and my relationship with my wife. I think I just wanted to keep Karla happy. To me, that has become the end-all be-all of my world. If I can keep her happy, I think I’ve done something worth saying something about. If I can’t? Well, then I’m lacking as a husband, and I can’t stand the idea of being lacking in anything. My habits changed to make way for Karla as the fore-front of my world. I no longer play hours on end (often), I make sure that if I say I’m going to do something that I’m damn-well going to do it when I say I do it. I don’t make excuses to play or to spend time doing something other than what I should be doing. Basically, I became a completely reliable adult rather than a semi-reliable adolescent. The difference is slight, but the focus on doing what I say I will, how I say I will, -when- I say I will became and sitll is the focus of my world. My wife comes first always, and because of that, I’m satisfied that I’m doing a decent job as a husband and as a person. Gaming hasn’t gone completely away from my life, but the habits I had when I was playing WoW too much, the ideas going thru my head and the focus I put on them have changed. The decision to make that happen was just that: a decision. Best served with deliberation, intent, and a good helping of common sense. But in Karla’s words ‘common sense is remarkably uncommon’. So there you go.
I don’t know if this will help anyone to read this, but I hope you get a generalized understanding of at least -this- gamer’s passage from being obsessed with WoW to becoming a reliable, loving husband.
Thanks for reading.