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...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

How I Became a Toon

I decided to start this blog for 2 reasons. The first was the purely selfish reason of giving me something to do online that wasn't playing my game. I am hoping it will be my substitute, my digital methadone. The second was that in my days of searching the internet for non-EQ related accounts of online gaming addiction I found that there was precious little out there. It seems reasonable to assume that any and all MMORPG games can be addictive, or obsession inducing, if you will. They all operate basically the same way. Maybe EQ is the most pernicious but that doesn't make the others harmless.

Let me tell you then about my own experience becoming obsessed with an online game, or "How I Became a Toon...."

About 2 years ago, we bought a new house. That meant many changes. A new neighborhood. A new school for the kids. A bigger mortgage meant a part time job for me (which, thanks to my husband getting promoted I've since quit.) I left my old snug house in a state of complete renewal, everything finally finished. Repainted, refitted - 2 new bathrooms - and re-landscaped. The new house was twice the size and so impersonal. I felt lost. Then I injured my back and couldn't run, my one healthy obsession. I felt lethargic and even more lost. I was vulnerable.

As you may have guessed I have an addictive personality. I was a huge console game fan starting with the first NES. I loved RPG games like Zelda, Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy, Quest of the Avatar. I played hours and hours of Civilization on computer. As I got older however, I lost interest in console games (except for Halo, and I never liked the live version, thankfully) and computer games. I tried Age of Empires but never really got into it. Myst - eh, whatever. Knowing my addictive nature I scrupulously avoided online games like Everquest and Asheron's Call and the rest.

About the same time we moved, my friend recommended a game for my kids called Toontown. I got them a subscription, watched them play it, and thought it was cute but booooring. My kids began asking me to help them with their toon characters after they were in bed. One night, to expedite the bedtime process, I promised I would. I played for a bit and discovered that I really liked the game. So more often than not, I'd get online after the kids were in bed and "help" them. At first I was really mortified that I liked the game so much. I thought I must be a real sicko and the only grownup playing this kids' game. Then it dawned on me as I was playing at midnight, PST, "look at all these people online, how could they all be kids from Hawaii or wherever..." It had also occurred to me that lots of these kids were extremely proficient with "speedchat" the canned chat phrases that Disney provides as the primary form of communication for toons.

I searched the internet for forums about the game. Lo and behold, I found one with thousands of members, many of whom were adults just like me! There were plenty of posts from people who said that they had gotten hooked exactly the same way as I did. There were also plenty of posts from people who talked about how addictive the game is, in that joking sort of way typical to online gamers - "Toontown = digital crack," "join us, resistance is futile," and so on. I thought they were funny. Relieved that I wasn't the only adult on Toontown I happily created my own character, started visiting the forum often and exchanged codes so I could chat freely with other adults in the game. I settled comfortably into my alternate life as a toon.