When I first arrived at Stony Brook University, it was my full intention to celebrate my long-desired freedom from a stifling, traditional Korean household and stereotypically strict parents. I mean, I wanted to learn things, too. After a few months of frat parties and attending the classes that I liked, I ended up at my friend’s off-campus house that was basically a pot-smoking den inhabited by six nerdy white guys and one equally nerdy white girl—all staring intently at their bright, shiny monitors, frantically smashing buttons and shouting commands into their gaming headsets. Yes, gaming headsets.
Here’s where I was first introduced to the inescapable virtual World…–of Warcraft.
I bought the discs, installed the game on my desktop, and never left my dorm room after that. I’m serious. My tiny, fobby Korean roommate would go to bed at 11pm (I’d already been playing for 5 hours at that point), wake up at 7am for class and I’d still be slouched over my keyboard with bloodshot eyes and greasy strands of hair matted to my also greasy forehead. I once played for 17 hours straight, only getting up to use the bathroom which was directly across the hall from my room. Never had I felt such urgency to get back to something—I don’t think I’d ever even felt that strong of a pull to another human being. This new, pixelated land (of Azeroth) was the only place I wanted to be. My friend who lived two doors down would come into my room, sit on my bed and watch me play for approximately 2 minutes, and then leave without saying a word. Sometimes she’d bring me a Jamaican beef patty with cheese. These were pretty much my primary food source for an embarrassingly long period of time.
This routine of intense playing, without sleeping or eating or going to class lasted for three or four months. My close group of friends soon disappeared—I’d get the occasional text saying, Let’s go to the KPL party tonight! Which, of course, I never responded to. I was busy. Running around Stormwind with my pet wolf named Bob, and refilling my supply of arrows for the next raid on Serpentshrine Cavern. (You probably have no idea what I’m talking about.) I’d long since joined a guild and made new friends who I talked to on a daily basis over Ventrilo (Voice over IP software). Soon, I’d forgotten what real human interaction was like or why I’d needed it to begin with.
Needless to say, my grades dropped—quickly. I received an email shamefully informing me that I was on academic probation, and if I didn’t raise my GPA, I’d be expelled. Immediately, my overachieving Asian-ness kicked into high gear and I started to panic. I finally logged off of WoW and brushed my teeth. I needed a plan.
My other roommate was always high, either on weed or tripping on ecstasy. One night, I woke up at 3am to find her crushing tiny blue Ritalin pills on my desk with a credit card and then snorting the powder through a rolled-up dollar bill. The next morning I asked her to sell me some of those blue pills—I needed something to focus my game-obsessed brain.
I didn’t snort the Ritalin though. There’s just something frightening about inhaling substances up my nostrils. After about 30 minutes, my heart was racing and I had this frantic urge to run around campus, maybe even run to class. I wrote a paper for my English class and read a few chapters in whatever textbook but the Ritalin wore off way too quickly. So I advanced to 15mg, extended-release Adderall capsules—the ones with the little pink beads in them, which I would empty out onto a piece of tissue, and then parachute with a glass of water. The next 3 hours were devoted to cleaning, drinking lots of coffee, chain-smoking lots of cigarettes and outlining thesis papers. I’d take another Adderall and be awake for the next 2 days.
This was another bad routine. Eventually, I ended up taking Adderall and then sitting down to play WoW—never had I leveled so quickly or efficiently. If I’d done this from the start, it would have taken me three days to hit level 70, rather than three months. THINK OF ALL THE EPIC LOOT I COULD HAVE HAD SOONER.
Anyway, my GPA wasn’t improving because I was still choosing WoW over class, so I decided to leave Stony Brook before they kicked me out. I moved back home to disappointed parents and after another 6 months of feeding my addiction to WoW, coupled with zero face-to-face interaction with real, live people, I finally realized how horribly disgusting I felt. It wasn’t that I had gained a hundred pounds, but my entire body felt sluggish, my brain failed to process information at a normal pace, my eyeballs ached. The only thing left to do was to uninstall the game that had wholly absorbed my life for almost two years, reapply for school and find a part-time job. I actually did accomplish both of these things. And I can proudly say, I’ve left Azeroth for good.