10. The Agony of an Online Game Addiction
By Gao Qiang, China
When I started at college, I noticed the other students were clutching their phones, playing games absolutely everywhere: in the classroom, the dorms, the cafeteria, the library, on the basketball court. They were constantly talking about these games in filthy, violent ways and saying how much fun they had playing them. As a believer, I felt like playing online games wasn’t a positive thing, so I didn’t follow suit. I was gathering and reading God’s words with brothers and sisters a lot and I felt really content.
But later on, I found out lots of other students were playing games called MOBAs and they introduced me to them, too. I started out playing just a little outside of class time, but I gradually got sucked in by the excitement of the fighting. I not only wanted the thrill of hitting and killing other players, but I really went after leveling up. Whenever I had a spare moment, my mind would be filled with thoughts of all those characters and fights. It got to the point that my roommates and I would get so lost in talking about games over our meals that I lost interest in the food. I’d be thinking about my strategy for my next match all the way back to the dorm, and at night we’d all get together and play nonstop until dawn. I was oversleeping a lot, and it became normal for me to be late and nod off in class. Before long, my grades were on a steep decline. As time went on, I began to live entirely within that imaginary world and didn’t want to do anything except play games. In my free time before that, I’d go out and take part in activities or go read in the library, but after getting hooked on those games, I just holed up in the dorm playing them and lost interest in everything else. The game I was playing required in-game purchases, so I just recklessly spent my whole living allowance to build up new characters. Too broke to buy food, I borrowed money from classmates and roommates. Even worse, the way I looked at everything changed, too. I used to think I could learn some useful things at college and get some education, but after becoming so lost in online games, I felt the whole point of being there was just to play. My parents weren’t there to rein in my playing and they sent me an allowance. I didn’t think of basic needs, just playing games, and I figured college would be my only chance to play that much.
Not only that, but I grew apart from God more and more. I couldn’t quiet my heart at all when I read God’s words and my prayers became dull. I wasn’t fully present at any gatherings and sometimes I wouldn’t even go. There was one time I wanted to use some free time to read God’s words, but after just half an hour I grabbed my phone and glanced at it without realizing what I was doing and I was overcome with thoughts of the characters and the fighting in the game. It was like a drug addiction that took me over. I really couldn’t stop myself, and thought, “I’ll just play for a bit. I don’t need to read God’s words right now. I’ll read some in the next gathering, anyway. I’ve already read a bit and playing games is different. If I don’t complete tasks in the game, I don’t get the rewards.” At this, I put God’s words aside and started to play. One time after playing the whole night, I skipped a gathering the next morning. When brothers and sisters asked, I lied, saying there was a school event I had to attend, just evading the issue.
Sometimes when I’d played to the point that I was exhausted, I’d think about how I was neglecting my studies, just wasting all that hard-earned money my parents had gotten with their blood, sweat, and tears. I felt I was really wronging them. I also thought about my coming to God’s house and enjoying God’s love, but not going to gatherings or reading God’s words, just because I was obsessed with gaming. I even lied to brothers and sisters. I felt really guilty about it, and that I owed a huge debt to God. I wanted to read God’s words, but as soon as I saw there was going to be a new match in a game, I just couldn’t stop myself from joining.
One day it occurred to me that because of my online gaming, my studies and church life had both suffered a huge blow. I was so young, so wouldn’t it be a huge waste if I kept playing games like that? I knew I had to give up gaming, that I couldn’t go on that way. But as I was about to tap to confirm to uninstall the game, my hand just stopped. I thought about all the money I’d spent on it, not to mention all that time and energy. I just couldn’t bear to give it up so easily, and I could take it day by day. Struggling with this internal battle, in the end I didn’t uninstall it. I don’t know how many times I resolved to God that I would get rid of it, how many times I was determined to uninstall it, but I failed in the end. It was as if I’d been living in darkness for ages, but when I wanted to go toward the light, I found out I was securely tied in place and couldn’t move at all. I was struggling with this torment and didn’t know what to do. I was praying to God a lot then, asking Him to help me and guide me.
There was a video reading of God’s words that I watched in a gathering. Almighty God says, “Though many young people believe in God, they cannot rid themselves of the bad habits of playing computer games and going to Internet cafes. What kinds of things do computer games tend to involve? They contain a great deal of violence. Gaming—that is the realm of the devil. For most, after playing these games for a long time, they cannot do any real work anymore; they no longer want to go to school, or work, or think of their futures, much less do they give thought to their lives. What things now occupy the thoughts and souls of the majority of young people in the world? Eating, drinking, and playing games. Everything they say and think is inhuman. One cannot even use the words ‘dirty’ or ‘evil’ anymore to describe the things they think about; so many of them are non-human things. If you speak to them of matters to do with normal humanity, or discuss a topic concerning normal humanity, they cannot bear to hear about it; they are neither interested nor willing to listen, and as soon as they hear it, they roll their eyes and take unkindly to it. They do not share a common language or common topics with normal mankind, yet when they are with other people like themselves, they find things to talk about. Most of the topics they discuss center around playing games, eating, drinking, and having a good time. Those who always discuss these topics have their hearts filled with such things. What future prospects do they have? Do they have any future prospects? … When people are constantly playing games and wasting time on the computer, their will disappears and they become decadent; they then lack normal humanity. They become filled with the violence and killing in these games and with the things of the virtual world. The things of normal humanity are stripped away from them by these games, and they are filled and occupied by those games, and their thoughts are occupied by them; these people have become decadent. Unbelievers do not like these people, either, but in the current world of unbelievers, these young people have nowhere to turn; their parents are unable to manage them, their teachers can do nothing with them, and there is nothing any country’s education system can do about this trend other than succumb to it. The devil Satan does these things in order to tempt people and bring them to depravation. Those who live in the virtual world have no interest whatsoever in anything to do with the life of normal humanity; they are just not in the mood to work or study. Their only concern is going to the virtual world, as though they are being enticed by something. Whenever they get bored or are in the midst of doing some proper work, they want to play games instead, and gradually, gaming becomes their whole life. Playing games is like taking a kind of drug: Once someone becomes addicted to it, it becomes hard to get away from it and very difficult to quit. So, whether young or old, once people pick up this bad habit, they have a hard time giving it up. … If gaming were needed for normal humanity—if it were the right path—then why are people unable to quit doing it? How can they be captivated by it to such a degree? One thing this proves is that it is not a good path. Surfing online for this and that, looking at unhealthy things, and playing games—none of these are good paths to take. They are not right paths” (“Believers Must Begin by Seeing Through the World’s Evil Trends” in Records of Christ’s Talks).
God’s words revealed my exact state. I’d become degenerate and depraved from losing myself to online games and my head was filled with all that fighting and killing. It felt like nothing else could possibly compare. That momentary thrill just left me feeling empty and craving more gaming thrills. Doing this over and over became a vicious cycle. Satan was using the violence and evil in games to ensnare my heart. It satiated my desires and controlled my thoughts, leaving me addicted with no way out. I abandoned my studies for gaming, losing any semblance of normal humanity. I didn’t want to attend gatherings or read God’s words, and I even deceived brothers and sisters. I grew farther and farther away from God, too. Only through reading God’s words did I see that gaming is one of Satan’s tactics to hurt and consume people. It wanted me to lose normal humanity and reason, shun and betray God, and lose His salvation. I thought about how so many other young people are hurt by online games, just like me. They go from being open and full of life to antisocial and detached, from well-behaved to self-indulgent and contrary. They used to interact normally with their parents and others, but then they skip school, abandon their homes, and give up their studies for games. To buy gaming equipment, some even learn how to con and kill people, embarking on a life of crime. Some die right at their computers from playing for too long. All this shows that Satan uses online games to hurt and devour countless young people. It’s so sinister and evil! When I thought about all that, I saw how scary gaming really is. It’s an evil path that leads people into oblivion. I resolved that I absolutely had to free myself from the bonds of online games.
Even though I wanted to escape them, I still didn’t have a specific practice to adopt in real life. Then in my devotionals one morning I read something in God’s words “Sometimes, looking to God does not mean asking God to do something using specific words, or asking Him for specific guidance or protection. Rather, it is that when people encounter some issue, they are able to call on Him sincerely. So, what is God doing there when people call on Him? When someone’s heart stirs and they have this thought: ‘Oh God, I can’t do this myself, I don’t know how to do it, and I feel weak and negative…,’ when these thoughts arise in them, does God not know about it? When these thoughts arise in people, are their hearts sincere? When they call on God sincerely in this way, does God assent to help them? Despite the fact that they may not have spoken a word, they show sincerity, and so God assents to help them. When someone encounters an especially thorny difficulty, when they have no one to turn to, and when they feel particularly helpless, they put their only hope in God. What are their prayers like? What is their state of mind? Are they sincere? Is there any adulteration at that time? It is only when you trust God as though He were the last straw that you clutch onto to save your life, hoping that He will help you, that your heart is sincere. Though you may not have said much, your heart has already stirred. That is, you give your sincere heart to God, and God listens. When God listens, He sees your difficulties, and He will enlighten you, guide you, and help you” (“Believers Must Begin by Seeing Through the World’s Evil Trends” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s words gave me a clear path, which was to genuinely pray to God about my difficulties. He would hear me, then enlighten and help me. I prayed to God a lot then, asking Him to guide me to free myself from gaming. I thought about God’s fellowship saying that young people had to be very orderly in their lives, doing things by a schedule, on time, and according to plan. They have to be organized with regular lives, not so free-spirited and indulgent. People who are so free, who do what they want without rules or restrictions get nowhere at all. So just as God’s words said, I drew up a schedule for myself every day to limit my time playing online games. After following this plan for a few days, my life became orderly and every day felt really fulfilling. But my cravings were really intense, so it wasn’t long before I couldn’t control my constant desire to play for longer. I was afraid I’d get hooked again, and sink down into depravity. I quickly came before God and said this prayer: “Oh God, I know the essence and danger of games and I’ve had a taste of the suffering they cause. I don’t want to follow evil, satanic trends anymore. I want to give them up entirely, but my stature is too small. I can’t resist Satan’s temptations and stop online gaming. Oh God! Please guide me.”
I read this passage of God’s words after that: “You must suffer hardship for the truth, you must give yourself to the truth, you must endure humiliation for the truth, and to gain more of the truth you must undergo more suffering. This is what you should do. You must not throw away the truth for the sake of a peaceful family life, and you must not lose your life’s dignity and integrity for the sake of momentary enjoyment. You should pursue all that is beautiful and good, and you should pursue a path in life that is more meaningful. If you lead such a vulgar life, and do not pursue any objectives, do you not waste your life? What can you gain from such a life? You should forsake all enjoyments of the flesh for the sake of one truth, and should not throw away all truths for the sake of a little enjoyment. People like this have no integrity or dignity; there is no meaning to their existence!” (“The Experiences of Peter: His Knowledge of Chastisement and Judgment” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Reading this helped me understand that practicing the truth requires forsaking the flesh and being willing to suffer and pay a price. I couldn’t lose my chance to pursue the truth just because of my addiction or fleeting fleshly pleasures. Games couldn’t bring me life, but just sap my spirit bit by bit until I didn’t have any normal humanity. They brought me nothing but emptiness and pain and would make me waste my life. I really didn’t want to keep living like that. As a created being, my responsibility and mission are to pursue the truth and do my duty well to bear witness to God. Only that’s meaningful. Understanding God’s will renewed my drive to practice the truth. I firmly resolved to leave online gaming behind.
Whenever I wanted to play games after that, I’d rush to come before God in prayer, asking Him to watch over my heart so I could be still before Him. I also read His words, sang hymns and gathered and fellowshiped with brothers and sisters more. I gradually stopped playing online games. I also felt that it’s just a bunch of meaningless fighting and killing, that it’s really boring, and I genuinely lost my desire to play online games. My life became more orderly and my grades got a lot better. I was attending gatherings and reading God’s words like I should again, and even doing a duty in the church.
A couple of my roommates later told me, “Hey man, we haven’t seen you in the game for a while. How about we have a match soon?” Hearing this tugged at me a bit, and I thought, “I haven’t played in so long. Maybe just one more time?” But then I remembered God’s words: “You must be awake and waiting at all times, and you must pray before Me more. You must recognize the various plots and cunning schemes of Satan, recognize the spirits, know people, and be able to discern all kinds of people, events, and things” (“Chapter 17” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Thanks to God’s enlightenment, I realized that Satan’s cunning schemes were behind my roommates asking me to play a match. Satan wanted me to get addicted to games again, to shun God and betray Him, to return to Satan’s camp so it could hurt me. I couldn’t fall for it again. I prayed to God in my heart, “God, I don’t want to follow Satan’s evil trends anymore. I want to practice the truth and forsake the flesh.” I then said to them firmly, “No thanks, I’ve had my fill.” Saying that left me with a real sense of freedom. Being free of online games today is entirely thanks to the guidance of God’s words. I’m truly grateful to God for saving me.