Tooned Out

Suburban mommy talks about kicking her online gaming habit.

Location: Redmond, Washington, United States

Just another face in line at the grocery store...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Online Friends - Update #2

A long time ago, I wrote about how my online friend had come from Texas to my hometown in the Pacific Northwest to visit me. It was a bit weird, meeting someone in real life that I had met through a children's online game, but she turned out to be just as great in real life as she was in Toontown. Caution: we were both mom's, sensible people, and had 'known' each other quite a while. Shortly after she returned home, she discovered she had cancer, and fought a courageous, but ultimately losing battle against that implacable disease.

While she was here visiting, I made a point of taking her to some beautiful places around here, one beach on the Olympic Penninsula in particular. During one of our telephone conversations while she was in treatment, she asked me to promise to help her husband find that spot and spread some of her ashes there, when the time came. Of course I said that wasn't going to be necessary, and that she and her whole family were going to come see me when she got better instead.

Well, last spring I got a call from her husband letting me know that she had lost her final battle, and we talked about when a good time would be for him and their boys to come out and fulfill her last request. This past summer, I met up with her husband and two sons, and we drove out to the beach and spread her ashes there. I was very happy to do this for her and for them, and I was absolutely struck by both the sadness and the oddness of the situation. It was incredible to me that something as banal as an online game had led to this poignant moment, and that something as simple as an off the cuff remark like "if you ever want to come out this way, I'd love to show you around" could lead to taking someone somewhere that made such an impression on them they'd want to spend eternity there.

Update '08

Still Toontown free as of today. I'm not at all tempted to go back. Zero impulse. I will say that I still have definite compulsive tendencies, like when I started "helping" my son with the new Zelda game for the Wii and then proceeded to blow around 100 hours of my precious time. At least that game has an end (although I never did do all the side quests...) I guess you just never grow out of this stuff.

I occasionally spend a great deal too much time on line. Lately it's Facebook, which I used to laugh at until I learned how to put photos up for my relatives to see and then joined a group or two - well it's all downhill from there. I can exercise control most of the time, however. In any event, I have been terrible about moderating comments, and I will try to figure out a way to get better at it. If anyone out there is trying to quit online gaming, please know that you absolutely can. If I can do it, anyone can.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Dream On!

I don't update this blog nearly enough, even when inspiration strikes. Today I just happened to check my Statcounter account and that reminded me of an idea I'd had several weeks ago and wanted to write about. I'm pretty beat just now after a busy (and long!) weekend so I don't know if I can do it justice, but best not to put it off any longer. So here it is in a nutshell:

I think that people who game obsessively are missing something. I don't mean that they're a few cards short of a deck, or a couple doughnuts short of a dozen, but rather that there's something lacking in their life, whether they realize it or not. When I started gaming, I had a very full life. I had a husband, children, a house, lots of stuff and loads of responsibility. What I didn't have was a self, an identity. Before Toontown, I lived for my husband, my kids, my house and they were how I defined myself. With Toontown, my identity became a little brightly colored collection of pixels who had a cool name and was way cute and way tough. And had lots of friends. And never got tired. And always had a clean house. And when she got her butt kicked all she had to do was hang out in the playground collecting stars or whatever until she was good as new, ready to take on the toon world again.

Fact is, I couldn't have quit playing and gone back to the same life I had before Toontown. In a weird way, I was more in my fantasy world and once I quit I had to be more in the real world. Toontown kept me in a holding pattern at a time when my real life was overwhelming and overwhelmingly boring at the same time. It kept me limping along, but it was a crutch I used for far too long. It helped me not think about things, but while I was not thinking about things I wasn't dreaming either and I wasn't growing as a real person in real life. I had to quit playing to start dreaming and growing again. Now that I'm not incessantly thinking about the toon me I have time to think about the "me" me. Who that character is, what she likes to do and what she is capable of. It's much harder than playing a toon character, but in the end it's sure to be much more rewarding.

Now instead of my real life suffering because of my fantasy life, my poor little toon is sadly neglected. She may never grow up because I am rarely interested in visiting her. Ah well, better her than me!

Monday, May 15, 2006


Wow, it's been ages!

I think I mentioned last time that I had bought my daughter an account and had even started a new toon. Well, we still have the account and I still have a toon - a different one now because my daughter deleted the first one. I'm getting back into the game (albeit in a more realistic way) but I have an excuse...

I have a friend (who I actually met in Toontown), in fact, the same one who came to visit me in October. Shortly after she returned home, she was diagnosed with cancer and had major surgery. She is still battling this horrible disease, which has weakened her body but not her spirit. On her good days, she likes to play Toontown. While she has a ton of friends on her big toons, I made a toon so we could quietly play together on one of the toons she doesn't use much. When she's not feeling up to playing, I play my toon for an hour or so to build it up because even her little toon is much stronger than mine!

So that's my excuse, a good one maybe, but still an excuse. I do find that Toontown is different for me now, luckily. When I first started playing again, I did go a little ways down the old path of obsession/addiction, but I caught myself in time. I worked hard at keeping it in perspective, and I managed it. I still really like to play, but I'm not obsessed. I don't think about the game much when I'm not playing, and if I miss a day or so, I'm not cranky and chomping at the bit to get back to it. It really is just a game for me now.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Happy Holidays

As 2005 runs through it's last few days, I realize that my gaming phase has wound itself out and is at an end. I no longer feel like I must game. I can pick up my game and put it down at will. I can play for a bit of fun and relaxation, or not play if I have better things to do, which is most of the time. My self-esteem is no longer involved in anything that happens in my game or online, but rather it is firmly rooted in real life where it belongs.

I'm quite sure that what made the difference for me was getting out of the house and starting a new job. My job is menial and low skilled but luckily I work for a company whose values include treating their employees with respect and actively promoting self-esteem. My cynical side wants to discount outright a "corporate value" of promoting employee self-esteem, but I have to admit seeing it in action and in all fairness I have to admit that it works, even on me. I'm also sure that I would have reaped the same benefit from seeking out volunteer activities for an equal amount of hours each week, or returning to university to further my education.

I no longer compulsively check the OLGA website. I don't post much there anymore. I no longer feel like it's up to me to save the world from gaming addiction. My obsession with the problem of gaming addiction is fading, just as my addiction itself has faded. It's wonderful to know that even if I don't respond to all of those who cry out for help at OLGA, others will. There will always be someone there to help; that's just the kind of place it is. I've taken my turn; others will follow.

I started this blog to let people know that any MMORPG can be addicting. My addition was for Toontown, and I wanted to let people know that even though it's a game ostensibly made for kids, adults play it and adults get addicted to it. If you are an adult who is addicted, feel free to email me at I will always write back, though it may take me a day or two.

To get over my addiction, I had to quit outright. I didn't even think about picking up my game again for several months, and then only after I had made significant changes in my life and done a considerable amount of work on my inner self. I don't play any other online games. The only 'offline' game I play is Dance Dance Revolution. I play with my kids and it's great exercise, as well as a fun way to spend time together. I wouldn't advise anyone to return to gaming until they've done all the work necessary to understand what led them down the path to gaming addiction.

My slide into gaming addiction was caused by depression, anxiety, and resulting low self esteem. I wasn't aware of the extent that I was suffering from these problems until I quit gaming. Only after I left the game was I able to deal effectively with these issues. Online games are compelling and can be all-consuming. They squeeze out so much of real life that there's often not enough time or mental energy left to deal with real life problems. This leads to a downward spiral, and the only way back up is to leave the game, take a good look around, and fix what's broken in your real life.

The New Year is often a time for people to take stock and think about changes they'd like to make in their lives. If you are a gamer whose gaming is out of control, perhaps it's time to take your life back. Best wishes to all of you who've taken the time to read my ramblings.