WHEN THE GAME BEATS YOU

A TRAGIC LOVE STORY

by Devin Bradshaw

This was the moment I knew I was whipped. 

 

It happened so fast. The first time I laid eyes… let me tell you. I couldn’t help but stare all day. We ate together, hung out for hours. Not one second was I bored. I didn’t even want to do anything else. I couldn’t keep my hands to myself. Yes, we slept together.

 

I had never felt such a climax before. Never knew there were so many levels. Every time, I walk away feeling like I accomplished something. Our relationship has even connected me to some of my greatest friends. I wouldn’t be where I am today without this love of mine. 

 

But, as they say, anything in excess can be harmful. There is a dark side to our commitment. It brings out the worst of my anger issues. Passion definitely burns on both ends. I am ashamed to admit it, but when I lose my temper, I get abusive. What’s so crazy is nothing else in this world pushes me to those extremes. In fact, I find it hard to care about much else.

 

I don’t spend time with family anymore. I meant it when I said we’d be together all day. Sometimes, I can’t think of anything else. My brain is just intoxicated. I’d have these moments of clarity when we’re apart. This relationship is jeopardizing so many areas of my life. My production at school. My energy for work. My involvement in my faith. This isn’t a relationship as much as it is an unhealthy dependency. I know it, too. 

 

But that doesn’t matter once we’re together again. My hands start grabbing and flickering, my energy suddenly picks up, eventually I’m yelling and screaming. Next thing I know, it’s 4 a.m. Another night of not doing what I should have been. I can’t develop my future this way.

 

I’ve got to kick this video game addiction. It is ruining my life.

 

Video games are hogging my focus. I can’t hear my mom and sister barging into my room to tell me things. I’m completely consumed trying to win Super Bowls in my online franchise on “Madden NFL 19.” 

 

Video games are zapping my motivation. I try to do my work, try to work out, try to advance my life. But my competitive nature seems to only be triggered by building my MyPlayer in “NBA 2K19.” 

 

Video games are ruining my relationships. My real girlfriend believes I don’t listen to her, don’t want to talk to her. I can’t even tell her it’s because I’m visualizing my next binge on “Fortnite.” She is probably going to leave me anyway because I am not getting anything done with my life.

 

According to a February 2017 article from “Science in the News,” a publication by The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine when we do things that feel good to us. High levels are released when around someone we’re attracted to or having sex with, which makes us giddy, energetic and

euphoric.

 

Another chemical released is oxytocin. It is released in large quantities during sex. It is called the “cuddle hormone” because of its bonding activities, which is why it is also released during childbirth and breastfeeding.

 

Guess what releases in my brain while I’m playing video games? That’s right. Dopamine and oxytocin. This addiction is real. 

 

I know I am not alone. I imagine most people online with me at any given moment have an assignment they should be doing, a child they should be spending time with, a job they should be focused on. They, too, are stuck in the same toxic relationship. 

 

So might you be. You may not even know it. Or maybe you do and just can’t find your way out. I’ll be your cautionary tale. Maybe I can shame you into kicking the habit. The road to a solution begins like this: My name is Devin Bradshaw, and I’m a video game-a-holic.

 

My relationship with video games runs deep. We’ve been together for years now. It started off as just a fling, a Sega Genesis passed down from my uncle. It was on its last legs. The cord had to be taped to the back of the system just for it to turn on. It was not possible to sit through an entire session without blowing on the game cartridge once it inevitably crashed. 

 

Next came a Nintendo 64. Games like “Pokemon Stadiums,” “Hey You Pikachu” and “Madden ‘99” dominated my time. This is where my love for Madden was cultivated.

 

Finally, the Sony PlayStation was brought into my life. It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. It was also the worst thing that ever happened to me.

 

I remember being so excited when I got it. 

 

I bet my cousin didn’t even know he was ruining my life when he passed it down. I wasn’t lost in gaming yet. I was still a kid, so there was a balance. 

 

And then it was gone. It happened so suddenly. It was like a top pick in the NFL draft tearing his ACL in the second game of the season. So many promising hopes dashed on a single play. My cousin Ross stepped right on my PlayStation, and it was gone. My heart was broken.

 

I eventually got another PlayStation, and I loved it even more. My urge to play advanced with each new system. Healthy gaming was out the window once I got a PlayStation 2. Going over to my best friend Corey’s house almost every weekend to partake in couch co-op, “WWE Smackdown vs Raw” became weed for me. It didn’t help that I would lose almost every game. My drive to win was too strong, and the worst it got was being up for two straight days playing matches. It was the most fun I’d ever had. 

 

I loved my PlayStation 2, but with the PlayStation 3 my gaming spun out of control. Sony introduced the PlayStation Network, and that opened up a whole new world. I was on to crack at this point. I could play the game all the time, but now I didn’t have to be in the same room as other people to play with them. I was introduced to my first ever shooting game, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.” Now a whole new genre was in my grasp. 

 

Thing was, I was hot garbage. But again my competitive nature kicked in. I worked and worked hard until I was good enough to compete, and it didn’t matter how long it took because to this day it is still the greatest game I have ever played. The problem is, it took time away from everything else, mainly school, but that didn’t matter because I didn’t need to give my best in high school to get by.  Some game releases, especially the NBA 2K series, became a yearly holiday for me. A fake sickness would develop every year like clockwork around release date. 

 

The PlayStation 4 came out just in time for graduation. College freedom was on the way. I got my PlayStation 4 for Christmas 2013 with my addiction in full swing. It was all I wanted for Christmas. I even sold my PlayStation 3 just to stay up to date with releases. When I got to Sacramento State, my addiction overtook me. I blamed it on depression but in truth I was struggling with an addiction that I still could not see. 

 

It wasn’t until a couple years later, while writing an article about gaming addiction, when I really started to piece it together. Reading about the nature of addiction started to open my eyes. At first I was looking for other people who had this problem, and it turned out it was me all along. I couldn’t write this article about anyone else. It had to be me. 

 

Me, a guy who can’t put a controller down. The guy who can’t go to sleep until he wins a couple of fights in “EA UFC.” The guy who has to finish his challenges in “Fortnite” before he can do anything productive. That’s who it had to be. Not anyone else. 

 

After I figured this out, I tried to go cold turkey. Just put the controller down and stop. That was counterproductive. I didn’t last a day without touching my system. Throughout my day, all I wanted to do was feel the controller in my hands. These thoughts consumed me until the point where I gave in to the craving and I didn’t put the DualShock controller  down until 3 a.m.  

 

Now I am taking things slowly. I’m trying to pull out of that world into a more healthy relationship with gaming. Starting with limiting the number of hours I spend on any game. Spending more time with people in the real world. Spending more time actually talking to people around me. Spending more time outside of my room and house. It’s refreshing to have a break away, but I know that a complete breakaway is not possible. I will always love Sony, but I need to take control of my life, and I know I am going in the right direction now. 

© 2018 Naked Magazine. A student publication of Las Positas College

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