Might As Well Face It… I’m Addicted To Live

Oh my, it appears that you've uttered a profanity. However will I forgive you?

See what I did there? No? Ah well, perhaps I should have used a pun based on music from this century. Anyways…

What do you think the biggest advance in modern gaming is? Motion control? Cell Processors? Super duper shiny graphics and stereo sounds? No. The clue was in the title – go on, have another look at it and see if you can work it out while I go and have a cup of tea…

Ok, back. Did you guess? That’s right children – online gaming. To me, a recent convert it is like magical voodoo in your lounge. Magical voodoo that allows you to make friends and blow shit up/beat people up/race cars really fast/play UNO with people all around the world who you will likely never actually meet in real life as if they were sat right next to you on your sofa.

However, there is a dark side to all of this. Forget the Daily Mail baiting excesses of Rockstar, or the ridiculous ‘titillation’ (with the emphasis firmly on ‘tit’) of the DOA ‘games’. I’m talking about addiction. Real, solid 24 carat teeth itching addiction. The kind that turns the life and soul of the party into a homeless junkie drop out.

I can’t say, even though I am a fairly avid gamer, that I have finished many game campaigns in the last twelve months and, of those that I have, I bet that more than half were done co-operatively. LIVE has come to completely dominate my gaming habits, to the extent that even when I AM alone online (and my 360 is ALWAYS online when it’s switched on) I will still have my headset firmly strapped in place, like a baby clutching his security blanket even though it’s broad daylight and all his friends and family are in the room. There I will sit, often aimlessly going through the menus or absent mindedly playing Peggle or Geometry Wars, waiting for that distinctive ‘ping’ that announces a friend has appeared online to whom I can talk or with whom I can share a game.

The sad reality is that, if this were real, the numbers would rival Arlington Cemetary

This, I have to say, has not been an easy revelation to come by. It was in fact brought into sharp focus for me by recent events, namely the loss of my first 360 (which in itself was an event that made me feel I had passed some kind of gamer initiation test) Currently, my ol’ faithful (if that is an appropriate name for a piece of electrical equipment that lasted a paltry 18 months) is residing somewhere in a landfill, the result of my ill advised attempt at self repair to avoid the extortionate cost of M$ actually fixing their godawful mess. As money is tight in the G household of late, I was forced to ‘go without for a while’. It was the metaphorical equivalent of quitting smoking – in fact it was worse (I actually quit smoking over a year ago and found it relatively easy)I had everything – the shakes, the irritability, the constant feeling of unaccountable loss. And what was worse (and more telling for my point) I couldn’t bring myself to make the ‘effort’ of playing a game on any of my other numerous systems.

But, then came the good part. The shakes subsided, the irritability faded and I began to re-discover all the things that I had lost in my constant LIVE-fuelled haze of late nights, headshots and last ditch wins. I saw more of my lovely wife, we had had more time for ‘special quality time’ (if you don’t know what I’m referring to there you are definitely not old enough to be reading this – get out!) I re-discovered my love of reading (and indeed polished off dozens of books), watched more films, went out more, slept better and even finally kick started my potential future career in publishing by scoring a gig proof reading for a US publisher in my spare time. In short, I started living life again with all of those hours that LIVE was no longer taking from me.

Of course, this couldn’t go on forever. The Wii, DS, PSP, PS2 et al could only amuse for so long. So recently, with the pleas of my online friends becoming ever more strident, and my bank balance finally starting to look a bit healthier (thanks to the aforementioned proof reading) I finally took the plunge and bought myself a replacement Jasper chipped arcade, which t’interwebz faithfully promises will definitely absolutely not overheat (cause of death of the last one) RROD or do any other thing that we inexplicably accept as a community from a £150 electronic device every 6-18 months. Probably. Coming back has been both lovely, and also hard. You see, I have commitments now, as well as having recently re-discovered a whole slew of other interests that fulfil me every bit as much as gaming. But like that first cigarette after a long abstinence, the temptation is there to throw oneself in again wholesale, throwing caution to the wind as you chain your way through three packs in an hour. So to speak.

From feeling like a zombie without the XBox 360 to slaying them in co-op... I see a pattern emerging!

However, interestingly, my newly self imposed restraint has not been the hard part (would be a fairly dull article otherwise). Moderation of my habit has been relatively straightforward, especially with the support (and indeed temptation) of my lovely wife. Last Saturday night though, I arranged ‘a night’. You know the kind – pick a game, arrange a time to meet up and finish at ? o’clock the next morning. My wife approved of this ‘treat’ to myself, so the stage was set, and at 9:30 pm, I duly arrived online to hook up with my compadre to play some of the incomparable L4D2 campaigns. Zombie slaying all nighter? No brainer…

Alas, it wasn’t to be. My intentions were good, I promise, but by midnight it was obvious to me (and everyone else in the party) that I was flagging. My eyes were drooping, my reflexes were all to cock and my game (never admittedly particularly strong) had gone to shit. I tried to persevere, but the writing was on the safehouse wall – by 1am it was painfully apparent that I had to call it quits before I REALLY embarrassed myself, and I finally accepted defeat and hung up my pad.

So, is that it? Has my love affair with gaming ended? Have I finally done the unthinkable and ‘grown up’?

Have I bollocks.

This game will help to blow the cobwebs from the Wii... finally!

Since experiencing a lack of LIVE, I have re-discovered so many other passions, not the least of which was (eventually) gaming on other formats, something that when I came to think of it I hadn’t actually done all that much of at all since first getting LIVE a little over two years ago. I have a forty minute commute on the train to work. I have a DS and a PSP. It shouldn’t be a difficult equation. Yet I hadn’t been giving either machine any love at all. I was either playing the 360, sleeping or thinking about the playing the 360. Even my (whisper it) Wii has finally been dusted off and is getting some love (when I get some more cash I desperately want Monster Hunter Tri). It’s not just gaming that has expanded – my job has suddenly become a potential career with prospects and responsibility, and married life has become even more fun (nudge wink saynomore)

So whereas this may seem a bit of an odd piece for a gaming website, I actually think its a good message for all of us. Yes its a cliché, but clichés become clichés by virtue of being true, and never a truer word was spoken than ‘all good things in moderation’. Gaming is awesome, and will always be a HUGE part of my life, but I have come to realise that there is a thin line between passion for a pastime, and allowing the pastime to rule your life to the detriment of so may others.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my wife has THAT gleam in her eye again. Duty calls…

Last five articles by Greg



  1. Richie richie says:

    I wonder if people get PSN addiction or whatever they have on the Wii?

    I don’t dabble much with ‘me vs. random bastards’ type Live play but things like online leaderboards and party chat do make Live a bit special.

    Anyway, that was a good way to avoid work for ten mins. Back to the grindstone.

  2. The Rook says:

    LIVE is an awesome development for gamers, no more having to wait until your mates come to your house so you can play co-op/multiplayer or even have to share a split screen. However, for myself, online gaming is usualy restricted to getting achievements; I’m more of a single player kinda gamer, preferring to progress at my own pace.

    I’ve had the RROD too and that few weeks without the 360 just weren’t the same, even though I was still playing on other consoles. I didn’t even wait for the console to be returned (which ended up bein a ew one rather than mine being repaired) as I had bought the Elite model when it first came out, which was always the plan anyhow. Even today, my other consoles rarely get a chance to do anything other than sit in standby mode.

  3. Samuel The Preacher says:

    I don’t much bother with LIVE… have had a Gold subscription for nearly 2 years, but I rarely use it, and I managed with the basic silver for the first 18 months of my Xbox 360 ownership. The only times my Gold account actually gets used is when I play with people from my friends list that I already know (I agree completely with Rich about the kind of squeaky 11 year old idiots you find predominantly on LIVE public matches), or when I’m writing a review of a new release (when I have no choice but to play against other reviewers or the annoying 11 year olds).

    I also had my 360 RROD on me, twice. The first time it was in warranty and went to Germany for three weeks. I played on my Wii a bit and rediscovered my true passion for PC gaming in the mean time. I’ve never stopped reading to need to rediscover that. Then again, I was also dumped around the same time, so I had bigger losses on my mind, perhaps. The second time I fixed it myself. I guess it helps if you’re an engineer, but my 360 had never been so reliable as since I repaired and modified it myself, heh. But more crucially I couldn’t be arsed to do it for a good month or more, and I didn’t start shaking uncontrollably (well, I did, but it has nothing to do with the Xbox).

    I think what I’m driving at is, there’s a world of difference between thinking of yourself as a gamer and spending most of your time doing it, to actually getting withdrawal pains like a junkie when your Xbox is unavailable, or your internet is cut off. No offense dude, but it sounds a bit like you have a problem, and it’s not the Xbox’s fault…

    Interesting article and a fascinating thing to consider, even if I don’t personally understand the compulsion or what you’re describing first-hand.

  4. Kat says:

    “writing on the safe room wall” – I liked!

    Man, if my Xbox red ringed I would be straight off to the shops flexing my credit card. Am I addicted? Yes, possibly, but not to games. It’s definitely the social side for me. I went with minimal contact from fellows humans for a long time in my life *sob/sniff/tiny violins* but now I could sign on most nights and harass someone into gaming with me. The weekends are hardest when people go out and stuff. How dare they, don’t they know I need my fix?!

    That was a cool article. My last two inane points:-

    1. I lolled at the title, I assume this makes me “old”.
    2. I think you’re just rubbing in the fact you have sex and that’s MEAN.


  5. Greg Greg says:

    @ Richie – of course people don’t suffer from PSN addiction. Or wii online thingy addiction. You know why? Because a) they’re free (everyone knows you can’t get addicted to free stuff) and b) they don’t have the little ‘ping’ noise when peeople sign in/achievments are earned etc.

    @Rook – that’s exactly what I mean – other gaming is still there, its just somehow never as good once you have tasted the dark side

    @Preacher – not saying that I have an ACTUAL addiction like a drug addiction. That was exaggeration for artistic effect see? An article saying ‘my xbox broke down and I was a bit bored but I got over it’ wouldn’t be that much fun to read now would it?

    @Kat – You’re not old. Really. You’re not.

    Fnar at ‘rubbing it in’ that I’m having sex tho :P

  6. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    There’s this weird guy on my friends list, blag something or other, and he ALWAYS sends me a party chat request whenever I come online… I reckon he’s a virtual stalker ;) I lived without XBox Live for years with my original XBox and I think it was maybe a year after getting my 360 that I ventured into online territory… I think it was only so I could buy the DLC for Oblivion, if memory serves. I can absolutely take it or leave it… BUT…

    I’ve started to enjoy prancing around online with others, such as Borderlands and RDR, and it’s a shame that I can’t rope anyone in to Fallout 3 with me and drag them around to show them all the awesomeness that is the Capital Wasteland or join someone who already plays the game and take them on co-op missions with me. Yeah, the whole point to Fallout is that you’re more or less alone out there… but still… artistic license and all that… if I want to be a lone wanderer and I’ve paid good money for the game, then I expect to be able to drag a mate along with me.

    So, as much as I hate the XBox Live text messaging and party chat aspect, I do actually appreciate (now, at least) the multiplayer aspect of it. Only problem is when Peggles gets involved… then you’re screwed.

  7. Lorna Lorna says:

    Really enjoyed this…LIVE hasn’t been the same if I’m not bombarded with party chat requests while I’m in the middle of story based games ;)

    I think that LIVE is arguably one of the greatest achievements in the broader world of gaming in the last decade…it has been a runaway success that, despite its flaws, is fucking tops. True, I don’t multiplay a great deal, preferring to play alone (plus I tend to only get into games when everyone else has abandoned them), but the vastness of it…sometimes I just idle through, nosing through the store, looking at what everyone on my friends list is playing or who they’re talking to or what pricey avatar gear they have got themselves now….I don’t know…it isjust a way of feeling plugged into the wider world really…not quite alone.

    So, as ever, really enjoyed it Greg…however, you lose cool points for admitting that you played the Wii…I mean, seriously, did you have no egg and spoon in the house?

  8. Samuel The Preacher says:

    Hey, man, I was trying not to judge… glad to know you’ve not gone completely over the edge, heh. Some people out there really aren’t exaggerating when they talk about this kind of thing though.

  9. Adam Adam says:

    Truer Words have never been spoken Greg.

    I spent most of my teens playing Online PC, mainly with school friends but from their, we built an extensive network of friends playing different games across many PC platforms and in so many different forms. There were 2 seperate voice comms programs, gamespy lobbies, ingame lobbies, xfire chats, MSN and so many forums it took more time to get throgh them than I spent playing at one stage.

    When I started working retail, I just kept going, playing new games on the GBA/DS/PSP on the way to work (and normally at work too when the minions assumed I was doing important stuff) and even making trips to the public library on a break every now and then to check on a forum during times of crisis. It can be worrying but its just different people moving in different circles really.

    When I eventually ‘retired’ from all of that at the ripe old age of 19, it was so liberating to just be popping online, playing the twenty minutes I’d play anyway and then skipping the 4 hours of online life to be able to sit around on a friends floor reading a book.

    LIVE is fantastic for how it manages to seemlessly intergrate with your gaming by never taking you away from the game. You can be playing different games and be chatting without the annoyance of having to hold a phone and whenever you do want to hook up, LIVE has you covered.

    I sniggered quite violently at that last annecdote though Greg. I’ve had nights like that where I’ve gone back to something, more out of guilt than anything and then found myself ironically wanting to just shut it down, stick a dvd on and curl up on the sofa. It’s a social conundrum and you explore it well :D

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