Note: This is the first of a four-part series. Click here for Part 2—the lessons learned, here for Part 3—how I solved my addiction, and here for Part 4—how you can quit games for good.
Weeks, months, and years of my life.
But thankfully, I got something out of those years.
In 2010, I played Starcraft 2 professionally, and I have great memories from the experience.
Today, and throughout this four-part series, my aim is to share that story, and what I’ve learned from being addicted to video games for so long.
Here’s but a taste of what’s to come…
- The mindset I acquired from playing professionally
- Video games: the good and the bad
- Why quitting was difficult
- Why I had to leave it all behind
Shall we begin?
It’s a me, Mario!
1997, The Nintendo Entertainment System.
I was seven years old and was hooked from the start. Being able to control the fate of Mario had me captivated
Nothing in my day was more exciting than gaming.
Yet, as thrilling as playing Mario on the NES was…I was about to jump into…
An Alternate Universe
In 1999, my parent’s bought a Macintosh computer, and I found myself venturing into new territory—the universe of online gaming.
I still vividly remember storming the shores in Warcraft 2. It was intoxicating.
And that was only single player.
When I went online, and played against real people, all while sitting at home in my chair?—words can’t describe how mesmerizing this was. Especially for a shy kid like me.
Just like that I could hop online and play with anyone.
Hitting the Next Level
After playing Warcraft 2 for a year I quickly became a Blizzard fanatic. When the next installment came out, Warcraft 3, I was amped to play it.
But unfortunately our ’99 Macintosh was not up for the challenge.
Then something amazing happened: I built my first computer.
This changed everything for two reasons. The first, of course, being able to play Warcraft 3. And second, it meant I had a computer all to myself.
Over the next five years, from 2003-2008, I would average 3-4 hours of gaming, every day.
Little did I know, this time spent would play a role further down the road.
Warning, Warning, Warning
Things took a turn in 2008. Hackers had infiltrated Warcraft 3 and the game was quickly losing its appeal.
That’s when a buddy persuaded me to try a little-known game called World of Warcraft.
At first, I was opposed to playing. Who on earth would pay a monthly subscription just to play a game?
Nonetheless I tried the 30-day free trial. Big mistake.
Two years passed by. And they were some of the funnest. yet most destructive years of my life.
Everything in my life revolved around WoW. Typing /playtime called up months of in-game time spent, all in World of Warcraft.
It was a whirlwind of fun, and I was enchanted.
Pair that, with the fact I was paying monthly, and it only made me even thirstier to extract every last drop of value.
Symptoms of An Addict
Meanwhile, as I was having the time of my life inside WoW…
…my life outside had gone to shambles.
My best friend, who I’d known since 13, had long since moved on. My grades in college reflected my effort—no effort. And I had yet to even kiss a girl.
All because of WoW.
It wasn’t until late 2009 that I realized the mess I was in.
I was 19 years old and had…
- Terrible social skills
- No real-life friends
- No idea what to do with my future
That’s when I knew WoW had to make its exit, or else my life was screwed.
I quit games cold turkey and never looked back.
Or so I thought.
You’d think the message had gotten through: Video games had wrecked my life.
Then 2010 rolled around, and with it, Starcraft 2.
How could I miss out on the anticipated sequel to the ever-popular Starcraft 1?
Being a Blizzard fanboy—resistance was futile.
And what’s more, from my previous history with real-time strategy games—Warcraft 2 & 3—Starcraft 2 was right up my alley.
Six months in, and I was consistently beating the best players in the game.
At that point, I knew I was on to something.
The tipping point—for me becoming a professional gamer—came around the time Blizzard released an exclusive division called Grandmaster.
Each region included the top 200 players.
In my region, during the first season, I scored a top-five spot out of the best 200 players in North America.
Reaching the Pinnacle
With Starcraft 2 came the rise of e-Sports. Tournaments were popping up everywhere, online and off.
I had already proven I could compete with the best.
And that’s when my time came—I got invited to play professionally and join a team called It’s Gosu.
Joining a team skyrocketed my motivation to win and prove myself.
Over the following months I practiced hard and excelled.
And that’s when my team started flying me around the country to compete in tournaments.
But…results took a while to accrue. Going from my playing in my room, to playing in a live tournament setting, was jarring.
Thus my first few tournament results were dismal. It wasn’t until my third tournament I felt comfortable, and able to perform to the best of my ability.
Near the end of 2011, I played in a tournament in New York City, Intel Extreme Masters, with a prize pool of $10k.
At this event I beat a top-3 player in the world—a South Korean named DongRaeGu—and finished 4th place in the tournament, winning $1200, netting my best tournament result to date.
Even after a not-too-shabby performance, and beating a renowned player, I knew continuing on as a pro gamer wasn’t viable.
Unless you were a top-10 player in the world, consistently, gaming didn’t provide much of an income.
So, while pro gaming was fun, and I had the time of my life—giving it up to finish school was my only feasible option.
That ended my career as a professional gamer.
In part two, I’ll share the major lessons I learned—good and bad—from my time spent gaming.