The Legend of Adreius Niluez (aka "Addiction Is More Than Just Drugs, Muh Dudes")

My younger brother wrote a great essay about his addiction to MMORPG's that I felt belonged in this archive. Addiction is more than just drugs, as the title says…

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I don't know how many people will see this or if they'll even care. I need to do this for myself. I'm tired of feeling terrible about my addiction to MMOs. They are soul-sucking monsters that have made my life a living hell. It's not all doom and gloom though. I learned an incredibly important skill that I'm now using to better my life in many positive ways. I learned how to learn.

Now by learn, I don't mean rote memorization I mean real mastery (Edit: Apparently Buddhists call this Nirvana. Who woulda thunk it). Rote memorization is the type of learning most people are familiar with. It's used in school to teach basic facts about our world. I learned how to find information, analyze it critically to determine its validity, and integrate what I learned to the core of my being. This is a truly comprehensive method of learning that can be used to master literally anything. The issue is the amount of time that needs to be spent on it. This is how I developed that skill.

I have been an avid gamer for a very long time. I spent my whole life locked to a computer screen. I primarily played a genre of video games called MMORPGs. Many people are familiar with World of Warcraft, or WoW, because of the episode on South Park. However, there are many, many other games that were much better. WoW was only the most popular.

The genre is thought to have begun with a game called Meridian in 1996. However, it wasn't until 1997’s Ultima Online that the genre started to get attention. This was an online isometric massive sandbox RPG where you could go anywhere and do anything. The primary draw was its Player vs Player, PvP mechanics. This world was an expansive experience with little in the way of rules. People banded together into guilds to bring order to the chaos. This created the feeling of being in a completely different world. It was exciting and new. However, it wasn't until 1999’s Everquest that the true potential of the genre was found.

Everquest was the first MMO to have more than 1 million active players. Every server was a micro-society that each had individual rules and cultures. Players would even pick sides in a classic good vs evil dichotomy. They would fight each other for access to the best areas for leveling up and getting loot. I was introduced to this game in 2000 when my older brother's friend Nick Buckley showed me his Everquest character. I became so enamored with the game that I begged my mom to let me get it. Finally, in 2001 she capitulated. This would begin an intense addiction that dominated the next 15 years of my life.

In the beginning, I wasn't very good. I was 10 years old learning how to survive in one of the harshest environments possible. See in Everquest you would fight monsters with a group of 6 people to get experience to level up and fight stronger monsters. Often times it would take weeks to get a single level up. Though if you died you would lose a bit of that experience down to a minimum of level 15. You also had to run a gambit to get back to your corpse. If you weren't careful you could lose everything. You had only a few hours to find and retrieve your items before your corpse would disappear.

Because I was so young I never got too far. I would play a character until level 27 or so when the game started to slow down significantly and then make a new character. Every time you leveled up the game played a very loud high pitched bell ring. I got addicted to this like it was cocaine. Every little step was a huge achievement.

Every time I leveled up I got an adrenaline rush that made me feel alive and amazing. It wasn't until I was 12 when I finally got my shit together and decided to pick a single character to run with. I had stuck with this character for 6 or 7 months. Throughout this time I had leveled this character, a froglok or humanoid frog cleric, to level 40 when the max level was 60. My job was to keep people alive and support them with defensive boosts. I was eventually invited on something called a raid.

A raid is where a large group of players went to an area like a giant undead mansion and fought their way to a boss that dropped a lot of very good and valuable items. The raid area we picked was the lowest level raid to get players introduced to the large scale dungeon explorations. However, that did not mean it was easy. Because of my class, I was very valuable even at a low level. This made me vulnerable to absolutely everything though. If I was even looked at by something I died. And I had made the worst mistake I could have possibly made. I set my resurrection point inside one of the hardest rooms in the dungeon.

Needless to say, I died. A lot. I had gotten stuck in a death loop. I would respawn and then die before my computer could load the game. I could only type a single word. I went from level 40 all the way down to level 15. I was shattered. I didn't give up though. I had eventually leveled up to 40 again before I got tired of the endless grind. This is when I heard about a game called Final Fantasy 11, FFXI for short. I loved the aesthetic and world so much. It was a gritty harsh environment where literally everything was out to get you. It was so unforgiving that it forced players to run a gambit through very high-level areas as a right of passage. It was like a “you must be this tall to enter" sign plastered in front of a roller coaster. If you succeeded you reached the mega-city called Jeuno.

This was essentially the center of the world. All players would gather here because you could access everything. There were airships to each city, chocobos everywhere, and the auction house had everything. You had access to all the wonders and splendors of the world. If you could work for it. Remember how I said FFXI was unforgiving? It was at this point that you were forced to go everywhere in groups. Often times players would spend hours waiting for an invite to a party then fight their way to a safe spot called a camp. These spots were given on a first come, first serve basis and openings were very limited. If you weren't up to par with everyone else you would get passed over. If you weren't the exact right class you would be spending hours waiting to get that precious invite.

I played a very underrated class called Thief. This class was absolutely necessary to have around but was notoriously hard to play. They earned the reputation of being sub-par because very bad players would play the class poorly and get everyone killed. This made people very unhappy. Eventually, the default assumption was that all thieves were bad so no one ever brought them along at low levels. I was one of the exceptions. I got so good at the class that I could find a group to level up with instantly. People would come to me for groups and we would spend hours together getting many level ups.

I remember what proved to people that I was good. When you level up your first character you had to break a soft level cap every 5 levels starting at 50. At level 70 you had to fight Maat, the legendary grandmaster, alone. Every class had different challenges to complete to win. For thief, you had to successfully steal a scroll from him. However, the success rate was less than 30% and you only got a single try. You had to find the item that let you challenge him again which also took a while. The alternative was to fight him until he said enough. This single act was one of the hardest things to do in the entire game.

People would talk about the players that did this like they were a class above everyone else. Many would wait until they were maximum level to even attempt. Few would succeed. Many would simply give up on it. I was stubborn though. I was unwilling to level up another class to 70 just to be able to level my thief up to 75. I was also too stubborn to leave it to random chance. It seemed very unfair to me. I had decided to solo Maat as a level 70 thief. Everyone I knew said that I should give it up and just steal from him. I just couldn't accept that so I spent the next 3 or 4 months of my time dedicated to figuring out how to beat him. I would find any and all information about the fight from anywhere I could. I searched for specific items, leveled up my skills high enough, planned my strategy, and finally took the dive.

I attempted to fight him 7 times in the span of about 2 or 3 weeks as I had to earn the resources to fight him in between each attempt. It took a lot of patience and a lot of persistence to get through. Every time I would fail I would get frustrated. However, each time I failed I got closer and closer to success. I could taste victory inching closer and closer until I finally succeeded. On the 7th try, I had won.

Everyone I knew was floored. One of my friends was a retired endgame player that had beaten every boss in the game. He had even beaten Absolute Virtue. This boss was so hard that people fought in shifts for two days before he was finally killed. Very few people who played even saw the boss. Less had even killed it. This guy was the best of the best. Because I had done it he decided to attempt this on his thief. However, he decided to do it at 75 like most had suggested. It took him 30 tries before he succeeded. I had done it at a lower level in 7.

I became wildly popular. Everyone wanted me. I became so well known on the server that I had an open invitation to all the top guilds on my server. I was set. I was one of the best thieves in the game. This was my first taste of the competitive endgame scene of MMOs.

Eventually, however, the game started to change and I no longer felt the magic I once did. I stopped playing and drifted from game to game listlessly chasing that feeling of success over and over until I was desensitized.

First I played WoW. I picked another hard but valuable class, Druid. Initially, no one believed that I was a good player. See, my brother played on the same server. I don't know if it was intentional or not but because of his influence, I had a really hard time breaking into the endgame scene. I would regularly perform at the maximum possible for my equipment level and still be passed over. The guild that finally gave me a chance realized how big of an asset I was and refused to let me advance my gear. This was the first time I got screwed over.

I spent two months wasting away in a backwater guild that was one of the worst guilds in the game. I couldn't move up because I didn't have the items I needed. They kept me trapped. Eventually, I got so frustrated that I left. When the next expansion came out I got in on the ground floor.

I was there at the beginning and got into a decent guild raiding with my brother. This guild fucked me over in the worst possible way. I wanted to play a different specialization but we had no agility users so all of that gear just defaulted to me. They promised me that I would be allowed to switch but never followed through. I eventually just decided to stick with it and dedicate myself to this class. Again like thief, this was the hardest class in the game to play. If you could master it you would always be at the top of the charts and master it I did.

I was doing so much DPS that I carried the guild. I was regularly at the top of the charts and all the healers said I also took the least amount of damage in the raid. This was incredibly important in a raid as this helped the healers keep everyone alive. This would all end though. The company that created the game decided to gut the class that I played completely and made them the worst class in the game. Overnight I became useless.

I was so infuriated by this that I left WoW and never looked back. I stopped playing MMOs briefly until Star Wars: The Old Republic came out. I played this game for two months and got server first for all the raids out at the time. I then moved to a game called TERA Online. This game was focused on PvP, and because I had spent so much time fighting computers I decided to give fighting people a try.

I joined a small guild during the open beta test for the game. However, the leader was terrible. He thought he was God's gift to the gaming world but could never actually back his words up. Unwilling to get screwed over again I began slowly planting the seeds in my fellow guild members that he was incompetent. This culminated in a takeover. We formed a democratic council of 5 people and voted on changes in the way the guild was structured. However, as soon as the foundation had been built I left.

My mother had decided that enough was enough and refused to let me play the game. I was no longer a part of my creation. In my absence, however, the guild thrived. We became the most powerful guild on the server. However, the people had changed. They began being absolute dictators and refused to let anyone else enjoy the game.

When I returned to find this terrible situation I decided that since I had built it, I needed to break it. I openly fought with the guild at every chance I got. Eventually, I had convinced enough of the server to band together to fight them that they died. After they collapsed there was a massive power vacuum and the game became interesting again. My job was done. Everyone was having fun again. At the time I didn't realize how much impact I had on the environment of the entire server.

I was so deep into depression by this point that nothing satisfied me anymore. I was so consumed by the emptiness of my existence that I wandered around from game to game hobby to hobby and tv show to tv show. I was trying to fill a void that could not be filled. I tried to kill myself two times and spent two years trying to convince my mom that I was very mentally ill. She refused to pay for outpatient treatment not realizing that inpatient treatment was terrible. During this time Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn, FFXIV, came out.

Long before this game was ever released I had decided that I would be the best at it. I would become number 1. I got in very early and decided to build a group from the ground up. I found someone also interested in doing the same thing. We eventually got a group of 6 other people together who all agreed that everyone needed to work together to bring something important to the table. This was the beginning of The Order of Dew.

The Order of Dew is by far the happiest memory I have in my life. Everyone was so cool, supportive, and laid back. We were the first of everything important on the server. We started as a crafting guild and created the economic monster of the server. We got all the best gear before everyone else. This early economic success put us so far ahead of everyone else that we could just cruise at a relatively casual pace (3 hours a day 3 days a week) and still managed to keep up with everyone. Dew was one of the first 50 guilds in the world to beat a boss everyone thought was impossible. I wasn't able to be there for our success though. I got into a car accident that left me unable to leave the house out of fear.

My mom made me get a job to support myself. My anxiety made it very difficult to even apply for a single job. Eventually, I got a job working at a gas station near my house and I left the guild to work. I was there for 3 months before I got fired. I would get so scared that I was a failure that I'd become physically sick. It finally took a written letter from the psychiatrist I had been seeing to convince her that my problem was so bad that I could not work. She still wasn't having any of it. She figured that I needed to be locked up in the psych ward so she didn't need to take care of me. She gave me an ultimatum: check yourself into the psych ward or live on the street.

Luckily, an acquaintance had offered me a place to stay for a few nights. This was how I met my roommate Chad. He brought me in and basically taught me how to survive. After about 8 months of absence from FFXIV, I had convinced Chad to join me on it. This was the beginning of a year-long process where I took the game so seriously that I perfected everything. This was equivalent the Maat fight on speed. In my absence, Dew had fallen apart though. They got tired of playing the game and running on the treadmill that I was just finally getting on.

I formed another raid group. I spent 4 months putting a team together out of all the best players on the server that I could find. These were the people stuck in the situations that I found myself in on WoW. Amazing players handicapped by bad leaders. We created a self-sufficient environment where everyone contributed to improving the play of everyone else in the group.

Our first challenges were the hardest fights in the game at the time. We came out with a massive explosion. We went from relatively unknown players to the big leagues on the server overnight. We had beaten an incredibly difficult fight in under 2 hours from our first attempt. This was unheard of. Everyone had their eye on us and they expected us to do very well.

I believe this made the old guard on the server feel threatened. These assholes decided to try everything possible to keep us from progressing. They used their influence to smear our names. They barred us from the farm run groups. They fought with me and called the group trash every chance they got. We still managed to be self-sufficient enough to succeed anyway.

The group was not meant to be though. The tireless taunting and derogatory comments finally got to me and I cracked. I couldn't deal with the pressure I put on myself to create an environment where my raid members would be respected for all the talent they had. Without any notice, I ran to another group on a different server.

This used to be single-handedly my biggest regret. I had failed. I transferred servers to the most attractive guild I could find to hide from my shame. Outwardly I understood how people would see me. I was the bad guy. What I did would look like I just used the guild I formed to get into a better one. If I were watching it all from the outside I would think the same thing. My ex-raid group hated me and refused to talk to me. I hated myself deeply because of this.

Wallowing in my pit of self-hatred I became a shell of a human. I said anything I could to make people like me. Even if it meant violating my own moral code. The group I had joined ended up getting world top 20 on the hardest raid dungeon to ever exist in an MMO. It took thousands of attempts over 3 months for a single group to finally beat the dungeon. The asshole that called my group bad had ended up leaving his group for something “better" on the same server I had transferred to.

I ended up proving him wrong about me at least. I wish I could have done it with my old group but I burned a bridge that I really regret burning. You can never take back your mistakes, though, and you have to live with them. The new group I joined had taken a two-week break after our success and during this time I found a new group of friends that I really enjoyed playing with.

I became friends with one of them and we got very close. She had revealed that she was raped and abused by her ex-husband. She had recently gotten away and was finally able to take care of her children in peace. During this two week span, the group had recruited the top streamer for the game to replace a retiring member. He was my idol so I spent a lot of the time being super excited to play with him. At some point though, the raid leader in my group got the wrong idea and decided to call her a slut just for being friendly with me. She tried to keep this secret from me because she was afraid I would leave the group.

She was right. When I found out from another member of my raid group that it had happened I lost it. I projected my own moral disgust onto the raid leader. I went to him and told him that what he had done was unacceptable. His excuse was that he didn't want a good thing to end. I went to the group organizer that managed the members and she told me to deal with it. When we finally started raiding again on stream the raid leader started showing off. He started blaming me for us failing to beat easy bosses that we never had issues with before.

I finally was fed up with it and angrily called out the healers for being trash tier that night. What I didn't realize was that the other healer thought I was talking about her. However, it wasn't her job to keep me alive at that point. I had been doing everything I possibly could to survive and the raid leader simply ignored his job. Keep me alive. I didn't make it clear that I was talking about him though. I was terrified that if I called him out directly on stream it would start shit. I regretted not being clearer and hated myself for it. After we finally succeeded at the fight he messaged me in the background and told me to shut the fuck up. I was done. I left the raid in front of 500 people.

No one in the chat on the stream knew what was going on. Even the streamer was confused. He thought I left because of him. I tried to assure him that wasn't the case but at this point, I was so emotionally unstable I couldn't communicate that properly. Eventually, he began to side with the raid leader. I came to find out from an ex-member of the group who left just before I joined that he had done that many times before. I was just another in a long line of people he screwed over royally.

He had the streamer and his audience convinced that I was the worst player ever and that I was carried through everything by him. He sucked up to the streamer and wooed him with compliments. He lied through his teeth about it too. See, a month prior to this I was trying out new things with my class that I had learned from the streamer. He stated explicitly that the streamer was a trash tier player and that I should only listen to him. In the aftermath of everything, the woman left the server. I scared her away intentionally.

Eventually, I joined another promising group. These guys were even better than the group I left. The leader had been raiding competitively for a decade and never got less than world top 10. I learned so much from him. He let me experiment as much as I wanted as long as he knew what was going to happen. He also helped me improve my leadership skills by making me the raid leader.

By doing all of this he taught me the importance of my role. I learned how to flawlessly direct a fight and truly lead our group to success. Unfortunately, we only had 7 main team members out of 8. That meant we had to carry a deadweight member that was literally only there to give us a full party buff. We still managed to clear the raid. Even by this point we still managed to get world top 50.

That's right. In the same raid cycle, I got two world top placings in a game that had 1 million active players. If there were ever a proof of success that was it. I managed to pull off DPS numbers that were so high that they weren't beaten until the next raid cycle. The rest of the group was just as successful. Every single player was literally the best at their classes. This very nearly attracted the healer from the group that got world 1st on this tier. The only problem was our raid schedule was too tough for him to meet as he was from Britain and we were scheduled around Pacific time. When this recruitment deal fell through I lost interest.

I couldn't do it anymore. I was done. I threw in the towel. I spent so long believing I had to prove myself to everyone else that it very nearly killed me. I had used up everything I had. I did what I had done with the group I had formed 8 months prior. I ran. This was the end of a group that would have ruled the game. They wouldn't be able to find a replacement for me and the last slot they were trying to fill at the same time. Needless to say, they disappeared.

I hated myself even more for this. So much wasted potential. I had ruined things for not one but two incredibly promising groups. This was the last time I ever took an MMO seriously. This was the end of a 15-year long abusive relationship with video games. It had taken everything I had and spit me out as an empty emotional husk of a person.

I spent the next year doing absolutely nothing. I sat in my room and decided that I didn't want to live. Eventually, I had become so out of touch with reality that I dissociated and started planning on how to kill myself. I would listen to the trains pass by and count how many would come by during the day to find a pattern. The plan was to just walk there and wait.

I still wanted to live though. I decided to check myself into a hospital. My mom took me up to the nearby hospital so that I could check myself in. However, they had no rooms at the associated mental health unit so they sent me to a much more expensive ward. Because I wasn't in the right state of mind they had asked my mother for permission to send me. She gave it to them.

I spent the next 10 days at a very nice ward. I met so many people and finally found new meaning in my life. I would use everything I had learned to do to change the world. I believed I had found the secret formula for success. To some extent I had. It was deceptively simple though. All it took for me was persistence. With enough persistence and research and a never give up attitude I could get everything I wanted.

A year and a half later here I am writing this story. In this time research became fun, exploring ideas and figuring out how things work became a passion I could translate into true meaning. I shared my knowledge with a young man who had the same hopes and dreams that I did, be the best. In him, I saw a kid who was about to follow the same path as me and I decided that I would give him the support and the encouragement that I didn't get. His life went from anxiety filled and hard to full and enriched. He went from a boy to a man. He is working hard using the knowledge that I and many other mentors after me have given him. He recently got a sales position that he is absolutely killing. I am so proud of him and his success gives me the drive to continue my success.

I have gone from an emotional wreck where I had absolutely no faith in my own abilities to having actual confidence in myself. I started this semester with the goal of getting an 88% in all of my classes. I am on track to get exactly 88% in all 3 of my classes. I am working on issues that I ignored for many years. I am finally at the place I always dreamed of being. Except, this is just the beginning. I do not know where I will end up but I am excited to see where I go. I am no longer ashamed of being a human.

Patrick BarlettaComment