Not drugs, not alcohol, not even gambling - CastleVille. Before you assume I am making light of addiction, I assure you nothing could be further from the truth.
I have long known I have an addictive personality. I can't even remember when I wasn't aware of my tendency to get hooked on things. Somehow, by the grace of God, I have always known. So I never - yes NEVER smoked the first cigarette. If I had, I would probably still be a three-pack-a-day smoker. Never tried drugs for the same reason. I have a glass of champagne probably 3 times a year. I only take $20 into a casino - must leave all other forms of payment in the car. Really. No Joke. Mind you, although these issues are usually tied to morality, my aversion stems from a desire for self-preservation.
Never thought a silly FaceBook game would be the thing to get me. Why can't I be addicted to something like exercise, or cleaning maybe? These would at least make me healthier and my home more presentable!
It started innocently enough - I was helping a friend. She was searching for eggs on FaceBook. Some ap way back in the day where you went to other people's walls in search of the elusive eggs that were the right color or had the right design. If I joined, she would have somewhere else to look. Then I started looking.
A client and I were chatting one day. She played Mafia Wars. Now I had resisted Mafia Wars for quite some time. My sister and her friends played and needed more people in their Mafia to make it stronger and allow them to accrue more loot. Something broke me - this lady needed just one more Mafia Member to reach the next level! I had to help her! My other Mafia friends were thrilled! This is where the addiction first reared its ugly head. I counted the minutes until I my 'energy' stores would refill.
I prided myself on the fact that I never spent real money on these games like some other people. THAT would be an addiction. What I was doing wasn't really as bad as what they were doing.
Soon I added FarmTown. I got my friends involved. You needed the friends as 'neighbors' so you could work their farm and get points and they could work yours. We would laugh and say we had carrots to harvest in 5 hours and needed to get home before they withered.
Cafe World - So much fun! Cooking virtual dishes - fulfilling challenges.
I got a co-worker hooked on CityVille because I just needed one more neighbor. CityVille was my turn to the dark side. I needed more neighbors! My non-addictive personality friends had lost their enthusiasm for the games. What to do? I couldn't build my city as fast as I wanted to! There were so many other people out there playing, but I didn't know them. I certainly didn't want them to have access to my FaceBook. Then I remembered another friend who has a FaceBook account JUST for playing games!! That's it!
I created an alter-ego. I dumped the other games JUST to concentrate on CityVille. (I had actually dumped Mafia Wars much earlier because the "challenges", even though fictional were truly evil.) I stalked the walls of people who played, found their friends and invited them to be my friend and neighbor. Pretty soon I had 50 FB friends I had NEVER MET and they were all helping me with my game! The best part was I could play BOTH my regular account and the bogus account. I could give points and prizes back and forth according to what I needed at any given time. COOL!
Along came FrontierVille. I got in at the VERY beginning! What a BOON! More friends! I discovered the Zynga Forums. There are hints and tricks out there!!! I was the first to finish the challenges among my friends!
At some point I realized just how ridiculous it was. What on earth was I doing? How much time had I stolen from my family and goals I have for my life? I quit. Cold turkey. I blocked the games from my main account and didn't go back to the alter-ego.
Then one of my gaming friends posted a request for CastleVille. It popped up on my wall because it was new and therefor not blocked yet. "What the heck" I thought. I could play while fielding phone calls or listening to a book on tape - yeah - I would just do a little bit. I didn't even play my regular account, because I didn't want anyone to see it on my wall. I told everyone when I quit what a waste of time those games are. I couldn't let them see me playing them. I would hide the screen when others came around so they wouldn't know what I was doing. I couldn't wait for them to leave so I could get back to collecting milk bottles or arrows or castle gates.
I stalked more walls, added more friends, searched the prize postings so I could collect enough prizes to fulfill the next challenge. I would rationalize. I could be watching TV. I need down time. Just 15 minutes. Just 30 minutes. Just an hour. Just one more challenge. Morning found me wondering at what point in the day I could get to my game to see what people had done in my kingdom and if I had gotten enough dragon scales to make the next potion.
There is no telling the number of hours that I have frittered away. I could have been sending encouraging notes to people that needed them. I could have crafted more of the Christmas ornaments I love to make. I could have been reading the stack of books on my bedside table. My plans, dreams and goals could be much further along if I had applied my time.
Everyone needs an escape, but when the escape gets YOU, that's too much.
I quit. Again. Deactivated the alternate account.
I have made a list of the things I would be proud to do with my time and will keep it handy. The next time I am tempted, I hope my list will help. If, however, you find me buried in glass-beaded ornaments, someone please stage an intervention!