Abstinence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder
You know what sucks? Having to be an adult. There is so much stuff that you have to do, and 99% of the time you don’t want to, so those precious minutes of the day that are dedicated to you and not to work/chores/family should be yours to spend as you will, right? In 2007 I started my undergrad degree, and I was intent on seeing it through. Being the first in my family to go further than sixth form, I didn’t want to waste any opportunity I was given. I worked hard in my first year, despite the fact the grades didn’t count towards my final grade.
As well as maintaining a healthy social life and getting all of my essays finished on time and to a more than satisfactory standard, I was able to fit a couple of hours (maybe more if I denied myself sleep) gaming in each day. Come the weekend I would spend most of my evenings and early mornings on the Xbox360, and the rest of the day counting down the hours until I could reclaim the TV and start again. It was a good time. I was a hardworking student, and I could still while away the hours on XBL.
But then it came to my second year and things changed. I no longer had the safety net of my grades not counting. I NEEDED those grades for my degree. It came to a point in my life where I hit one of those metaphorical crossroads. You know, the ones where one side is sunny and has little baby bunnies hopping around the side of the golden, sun baked path, and the other is coated in shit and will most likely leave you with several broken bones. On the one hand, I could continue on as I had in my first year. I could enjoy some regular gaming therapy on the Xbox and maintain an average grade or, on the other hand, I could work extra hard and really feel that I had earned the grade at the end. I soon realised, that for me, there was no middle ground. I was going to have to make an adult decision. Now this wasn’t easy. Trust me. And it wasn’t a choice I undertook lightly, but banning myself from the Xbox seemed like the right thing for me to do.
Throughout my second year of uni I abstained from gaming altogether. Of course during the summer break I did very little else, but throughout term time and short holidays I focused on solely uni work. The only respite I had from my gaming ban was when I was visiting my then boyfriend or gaming friends. If I had got my work done in advance, I was allowed a couple of days break. This suited me well, and I found other more relaxing hobbies that didn’t suck hours of my time to wind down with. Crafts, mostly, kept me sane in my breaks between literary behemoths, and sleep and chores took care of the other hours in the day.
And then I reached my third year. Third year. The words still make me tense. Now, as well as Uni and chores and friends and family, I had to hold down a part time job too. Finding time to eat a sandwich was hard enough, and weekends with friends were nearly forgotten. Time at my boyfriend’s was spent studying, and crafts were a thing of the past. And so was gaming. I missed gaming so much that I tried incorporating it into my dissertation, but such a sly move backfired as, while writing it, it evolved further than I could imagine and claiming that an hour on Left 4 Dead was ‘research’ just wasn’t cutting it anymore. As time moved on I started to notice that I didn’t even care about new releases. Very little was catching my attention and, what’s worse, I didn’t really miss gaming that much either.
I think the lowest point, for me, came when I realised it had been well over a year since I had turned my Xbox on and, other than the cost of a Gold membership going to waste, this didn’t really bother me. I know, I know. Why am I even here? This was just not right. I wasn’t an obsessive gamer to begin with, but having lost the passion for something that used to be such a huge part of who I am, well that just burned me up a little bit inside.
When I finished my undergrad, I didn’t even know where my controller was. It was buried deep under a pile of papers and text books. The battery had run flat, and I’m sure it was longing for the caress of my hands. This needed to change. It was a bit of a false start though, as I’d decided to take a post-grad degree and, as well as this, I had somehow stumbled into a part time job. I had even less time on my hands now than I did before, but that changed nothing. I was determined that gaming should return to my life and little by little I managed to restore a Uni/work/gaming balance.
One year and six months on, I am slowly working my way back to games. I have a gaming base ‘to do’ list as long as my arm, a pile of games that I have bought that can now be described as ‘lofty’, and a lot of the big releases have whooshed by un-played, but my passion for games now burns stronger than ever. While I may not find myself gaming into the early hours anymore (I do have work in the morning, you know!) I get my hits when and where I can, whether it’s playing Pokemon while waiting for my boyfriend to finish work, or Minecraft on my phone when I’m having trouble sleeping; or when I get a evening to myself where I can get lost on Pandora and shoot. Recently I booked an unpaid day’s holiday off work for a big release, and I felt no shame when explaining the necessity of it to my boss. I can’t wait until the next bank holiday, or as I now know them, “game-a-thons”.
I may not have thrown myself into gaming in the way that I promised myself I would, but I have to make grown-up choices now. I need money to buy games, and to get money I have to work. More often than not it means that I’m well behind everyone else with releases, but hey – they’re cheaper by the time I get to them. And the added bonus is that it makes my time with a controller all the more sweeter.
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