How Quitting League of Legends Changed Me
So this isn’t a story about how bad video games are, it’s a story about how depending on your personality, you need to find the right games for you. I originally started playing League of Legends (LoL) at the tail end of its first season all the way back in 2010. I was just transitioning from high school to college, and game-wise was moving from Halo 3 and Starcraft 2 over to the newly minted MOBA that had taken the market by storm. My friends had all begun playing it, and it seemed like something that would be a ton of fun to do with them. I was awful. I spent the first season just learning the ropes, and honestly, it wasn’t easy, but it was fun. I found new friends, joined the E-Sports club at my college, and generally enjoyed most every match I played. It was a video game, and it felt like a video game.
Fast forward six seasons. We are now heading into season 7 and I have been playing the game for 7 years. Whereat the end of season one I placed into Bronze (the lowest league at the time), I was now in high diamond (top 1% of players) and the game had morphed from something to do in my spare time into something I took great pride in and attached significant value to. I had gradually increased my playing time from around an hour a day, to 4–6 hours daily. It began to impact my college studies, social life, and general disposition. I was elated on days when I was winning and miserable on days that I was losing. I began to distance myself from anyone that saw my time invested as a waste, and instead found solace in friends who dedicated similar amounts of time to the game. This went on for the better part of 4 years when I eventually graduated from college.
After college I found myself floundering for a job. I had taken a meaningless major that offered me almost no real job prospects after school. I did it so I could spend less time studying and more time playing video games. In retrospect, this was a very poor decision, one I was lucky to avoid paying too high a price for due partially to luck and partially to a good support network. My Father got me a slightly above entry-level position at the company he worked for. Eventually, I settled into a comfortable job and went back to doing what I had grown so accustomed to, playing League. Soon enough I found myself wanting to spend more time playing games and less time working, so I started to do just that. I would call in sick when I was feeling the itch to play, I would go home after work and immediately queue up for a game. Over time I began calling out sick, showing up late, and otherwise being the exact opposite of a model employee.
Lucky for me, I was working in a place with strong family ties and they let my less than stellar performance slide for a bit, long enough to get myself back on track somewhat. A new season had just launched and I didn’t enjoy some of the changes, which curbed my urge to play temporarily. The issue was now that I was so stressed about playing the game that it was taking a physical toll. I began to have breakouts from the constant stress, I started to put on weight, and my diet went completely down the tubes. I couldn’t see it but I had also become irritable and angry at both people in my life, and people online. I received a chat restriction for let’s just call it….non-compliant language in-game. Soon I got my first temporary suspension for losing it in the post-game lobby of an, especially frustrating game. It was during those 14 days that I took some time to really think about what I was doing with the game, and in turn, what it was doing to my life.
At the end of the 14 days I logged back on just long enough to change the email associated with the account, remove my payment information, and give the account to a friend. I wasn’t the person I wanted to be when I was playing league, and after almost 8 years, it was time to move on. I found myself getting back into running, my social life improved, and my face cleared up. I wasn’t constantly stressed, and although some of the friends I made through league disappeared I reconnected with other long lost friends, one of whom would eventually become my wife. I look back on this time in my life with a mixture of awe and disgust. It’s hard to imagine being that hooked into the progression system of a video game, one where the end never justified the means for me, but I enjoyed my time with it. Even with all the crazy impacts, the game had on my life I never look back and feel bad about spending the time playing the game. I think video games are great. I still play them for an hour before going to bed, and it’s one hour I look forward to each and every day. They offer an escape from the world that can be overwhelming or scary. A world filled with hate, replaced by a virtual world filled with the promise of something better. Just remember, that those escapes can can morph into prisons, and that’s hard to see from behind the bars.