Foreword: As some of you might know, I’ve hated Dota2, CoD and games with similar toxic community for a very, very long time. About 9 months back, I decided to walk away from the game altogether. It lasted for 5-6 months before I was back at the same game. Did I succumb to a supposed addiction once again?
And if it is so, what caused me to?
Game addiction has a more social factor to it than most people would think.
In those 5-6 months, I felt cut off from my friends. As much as I refuse to admit, the DotA series have not only been a key ingredient in our bonding for the past 6 years, for some of us it was a cornerstone. Some of us wouldn’t have met were it not for these games. What could have just been mere acquaintances, passing of a vaguely familiar face on the street, brushing of shoulders with that random dude in the other classroom block – transformed; or rather it matured.
Like how I like to think we’d all grow old together.
“Pfft”, you must think: “You’re telling me a group of birdbrained youths matured by shouting at their monitor screens?”
In a sense, yes. It almost feels self-derogatory to say this: but it is only our relationship that has matured. However virtual and superficial those moments of in-game life and death moments might be, our character and personality would undoubtedly be revealed. Perhaps when it all first started, all we could catch was a glimpse of each other’s character; like a vaporous tint or an elusive hue – every now and then misjudged in the guise of anonymity provided by physical separation.
One thing led to another, and the games worked themselves into a schedule. Everyone would definitely be on at 8pm after dinner. If anyone went missing or was late, questions would be asked, hypotheses tossed around, and a couple of miss calls would find their way into the cell phone of his beloved.
We learned more and more about one another, and slowly what was a mere dash of color is now a full spectrum of colors, and felt like was within grasp. Whenever one of us sounded particularly tired, sadden or happy through Skype or even through mere text carelessly blurted out in game, we could identify with him.
The games we played together, primarily Dota, became more than just a game.
It was a physical manifestation of our friendship. A monument of our teamwork, a commemoration of camaraderie. Incredibly cheesy, I know. But the more we stood together in those pixelized battlefields, the more we found ourselves standing together in real life. A pack of youths with rather contrasting personalities all brought together by a common interest.
Then one day, I could no longer see myself partaking in name-calling, unjustified criticism and disparaging comments. No one deserves this, not me, not you – not even after you claim of extravagant escapades with my mother. Most of my friends responded negatively aggressively to such comments, and at certain times become perpetrators.
I don’t want to stroke anyone’s ego, not even my own. I grew sick of all the pride and prejudice being bounced around.
So I just left.
6 years of co-op, no more. It wasn’t easy at first: trying to dodge those game invites, making excuses not to join their Skype conference call(game related topics, mostly) and outright refusing to boot up the game. Once it hit 2 or 3 weeks, they slowly understood what was going on. So they left me, like how I left them.
Time passed. And 3 months later you could say I had minimal contact with the group. I learnt how to appreciate my new found solitude and the quietness of the night. I’d tap away at my keyboard, typing out my blog posts and replying to chat messages. I made a handful of new friends, and it fulfilled my social life. It was a bare minimum, but I was largely content. Except a thorn in my heart remained, piercing me with memories that would come rushing back to me on some occasions.
An irritation that I’ve learned to live with. That is, until when a member of said group was to be drafted into the military. Knowing the pain that he would go through (the rest got drafted for national service earlier), we all decided to make his final week as a civilian as joyous as possible. We went out for dinners, slept over and played board games, talked throughout the afternoon and did a whole lot of awesome things together.
Then he wanted to me to play. A game that we all used to be so fond of. After much deliberation, I yielded.
I wanted to see for myself, whether that irritation that I had was truly due to a monstrous gaming compulsion I’ve been hiding behind a facade. And so we played.
I felt slightly better.
So we played another round.
And another, then another.
Then it hit me – that it wasn’t the game. Throughout this entire week, I’ve been reliving the life of the past that I had once chosen to throw away. I stopped going out with the gang because I was afraid that I would be sucked back into that rancid online community, so I avoided my friends.
The irritation was the fear that one day, the gang would really forget about me, the one day the IRL invites would also stop; and the week together rebuilt the fading bond.
We did everything we used to do together, aside from gaming.
And when we finally did, it acted as the final puzzle piece.
And everything clicked into place.
“If anyone of us needs help, then we’ve got your back.”
They gave me space whenever I needed to. But I was never forgotten.
It didn’t matter that our friendship was built upon a chunk of pixels.
It doesn’t matter how your relationship was brought together. But if that friendship was to be reliant on your religious dogma, supernatural beliefs, ethnicity or alignment of opinions – then it is not a friendship worth cherishing.
For all genuine love needs is but a sincere human being as its source.
Thank you, my friends.