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Overcoming World of Warcraft Addiction, or Six Years Single

While doctors and psychologists continue to debate whether or not such a thing as online video game addiction exist, those of us that have been through it continue to chronicle our tales. Anthony Rosner's short film IRL demonstrates what happens when World of Warcraft becomes your life.

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While the movie is a bit tongue-in-cheek in content and presentation, it certainly stirs memories of my time with EverQuest back in the day. That feeling of importance you get when you're a key player in a top guild is incredibly intoxicating. And relationships? I burned through several in-game girlfriends before finally determining that anyone playing EverQuest as much as I was wasn't likely a balanced individual.

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But that's a story for another time. This is Anthony's story. It's sad enough as it is.

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I'm an MMO addict. I know that. I can't think of a time when I haven't played an MMO of some kind since the age of 19, when the addiction began. I had just started University that year, and the whole family thought that I would be the most successful member of the family in years. I had a great talent with computer programming and math and physics, scoring in the top one percentile on numerous national tests.

I was already a bit of a game junky at the time, spending a lot of time with Baldur's Gate and Planescape Torment and Fallout and such. I had hoped that my education would lead me to a job in the industry.

Then I saw a brand new game in the store with a hot lady wizard and dragons and giants and orcs and the grandiose title of "EverQuest." I played it a bit, obviously being new to the MMO scene, as the MMO scene itself was still new. I killed spiders, I looted things that I could turn into other things. It was an RPG... but I was playing with other people! Wow!

My grades quickly sank and when the first semester of my second year ended, I knew that I was just wasting my parents' money and quit University to move back in with them until I could find a job. I stopped playing EQ at that time because I didn't really know anyone. I'd not spent much time in it yet.

I found a job eventually that paid decently, had nothing to do with computers, but I thought I would have fun with given my love for all things medieval and my ability to ride horses and act. It was Medieval Times. Since my parents lived over an hour away, I had to look for accomodation. Luckily, a coworker there was also looking for a new flatmate. Unluckily, he also played Everquest. When he found out that I used to play, he told me I HAD to come play on his server. He had tons of friends, was an officer in this awesome guild, and he could hook me up.

Everquest consumed 10 hours a day at the computer farming, raiding, grinding xp. The game had introduced an evil treadmill since I last played called "AAs" or Alternate Advancement points. After reaching max level, you continued to earn xp to spend on these points. Thousands of them that you could spend to improve your character and gain new abilities. So the xp grind never ended.

I spent time in the top guilds, I spent time raid leading, officering and met a lot of good friends that I still chat with from time to time. But around the time that I told my guild that my dad had died (which he hadn't) I started to realize I had a problem. Of course, the fact I was doing lines of coke and smoking crack at the time probably didn't help much, either.

I was fired from my job because of too many "sick" days. I was living in squalor, barely showered and cared nothing for my appearance. Hell, I almost never did laundry despite my socks being caked with sweat and dirt from the arena's dirt floor. The one girl at work that I had the hugest crush on and finally had the guts to ask out... I dumped her within a week because I didn't see how I could juggle a girlfriend with Everquest. I mean, I'd have to shower and leave my apartment and maybe even miss a raid now and then. That just couldn't stand. One of the biggest regrets in my life, because she was a sweet girl and she didn't deserve it.

As I barely put any effort into working, I never got a job in time to cover my bills and ended up moving back in with my parents. By the age of 24, I was still pretty much single. I had had a few EQ girlfriends that didn't last very long. I had held a few jobs as a waiter or other low-income things that wouldn't get me out of my parents' house.

I had since quit EQ and dabbled with other MMOs. Spent some time in FFXI and Guildwars with one girlfriend (she was married and I was her secret cyber affair.) Then I heard that Everquest was launching a new server that was going back to its roots. At the time, EQ had something like 8 expansions. This server was going back as close to the original game from 1999, and as the players "beat" each expansion, a new one would be released. It sounded like fun, so I gave it a shot.

Ended up meeting my wife-to-be on that server. I dumped the FFXI girlfriend because we were always fighting. I can be a real prick in MMOs, when I'm actually a fairly nice guy in real life. Funny how that works.

Anyway we were married in 2007, went through hell and back again with immigration issues (Canada/US immigration is insanely difficult for married couples, by the way) and now have settled into a life of normalcy with two toddlers and two teens (from her prior marriage.)

We both still dabble with MMOs. I play more than she does. Currently having fun with SWTOR in moderation, but I worry about the cycle repeating again because this time it'll be more disastrous. I'm self-employed and work from home, which means apart from meeting client deadlines I have nothing preventing me from playing games all day.

It's hard to be home, knowing I can either work, play, or be with family and making the time between the three the "right" one. There's no way I could cut games from my life, I know that without a doubt. But juggling three major life components instead of two is still a balancing act I'm adjusting to.

I wasted so much of my early 20s that I will probably never see my dream job now. Instead, I'm stuck programming business apps and websites. And now that I have a family and roots down, is it even responsible of me to seek out a gaming job, when they are known for hiring and firing per project?