Dealing with my Addiction
My addiction came and went in a flash. The process was simple: identify and then remove.
Who’d have thought a video game could have such an unrelenting, addictive grip on someone? Not me! This addiction isn’t quite as immediately destructive as others and some may scoff at the thought of classifying it as such… However, I experienced physiological effects which classified this as an addiction. It wasn’t fentanyl, alcohol, cocaine or sex (ya know, the cool ones), it was a video game: League of Legends.
I’ve played countless hours of video games in the past, it’s how I relax and spend my free time. I have a strong propensity toward multiplayer games, specifically competitive - player vs player. There’s something about going against other real-life people and defeating them using skill and strategy that sends dopamine straight to my brain. I’ve gone through a variety of games, with the likes of Halo, Overwatch, Quantum League, Apex Legends… All of which I have consistently been able to place in the top 5% of all players. So, needless to say, I’m good.
Games transform depending on how you see them. Comparing 12 kids all running after a ball in soccer is very different to adults using space to their advantage. They’re both playing the same game, yet one group has a better strategy on how to win and using this strategy changes your perspective on it.
Same with video games. Rather than running around mindlessly attacking anything in sight, you can be consciously aware of your every move and look to optimise as much as you can. To draw an analogy to chess - you’re looking a few moves ahead and predicting how your opponent will respond, rather than randomly moving pieces. This is when it changes from playing a game to playing a match. It almost becomes an art form.
Despite my attraction to different competitive video games, League of Legends is a different ball game. My initial career in League lasted around 6 years, I started shortly after it came out - playing every day either with friends or by myself, grinding away, slowly climbing up the leaderboard. However, similar to other games, I moved on. It wasn’t until mid-November last year that I decided to give it another crack. I recovered my account, opened it up and hit install.
I messaged my friend about it - kind of as a joke - asking if this was a bad idea and his response was “Everything is okay in moderation”. Very reasonable. And he’s right, it is okay in moderation.
However, I was physically incapable of this. You’d think it wouldn’t be too hard to simply stop playing and do something else. But this is an addiction we're talking about.
From my first game back, I was hooked. I started to cut my usual daily activities short, or outright neglect them, to squeeze in a few more games. I’d convince myself that I’d only play 1 game before doing some actual work, only to find myself 5 hours later queueing up for yet another match. If I couldn’t play League, then I would be thinking about it, watching others play, or looking up YouTube videos on how to get better, so I could try to implement this into my games that evening. It was all-encompassing.
This part is fascinating: during a match, I caught myself thinking “I can’t wait to play another game after this”.
Huh? I was already playing, yet I was anticipating the feeling of going into my next game. I couldn’t enjoy what I was doing because I was already looking forward to another one. Utterly bizarre, and telling.
So I gave myself till the end of December to indulge.
I decided I’d sink as much time as I wanted into it before uninstalling. I was unable to control my behaviour so it needed to go. It was eating away at important aspects of my life and I could not afford to let 5 hours a day go to, what I considered, a waste. That time could be spent honing a more useful craft.
I guess I am lucky that my addiction wasn’t as immediately destructive as other addictions are and I’m in no way comparing mine to others, however, I felt the strong grip it had on me, and had I not removed this from my life the results would have been catastrophic.
I could see it coming. It was going to be death by a thousand cuts.
Here’s the lesson I learned: I was able to identify it as a problem and I didn’t try to manage it. I didn’t try to cut down or only play on weekends - no. Like a cancer, it needed to be gutted from my body and removed. I’ve uninstalled League. This step makes it 100x harder for me to log in and play.
If you struggle with food as an addiction, don’t buy as much food in the first place. Suppose you cannot help but buy snacks at the supermarket which you would later consume at home - do online shopping instead. Don’t let yourself have even the smallest whiff of temptation.
I love League of Legends. It hits that competitive itch that needs scratching. If I could have a lifetime to play this game non-stop then I would. But I only have one life to live, and I think the time and mental energy can be otherwise well spent on writing and creating.