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Once a somebody, now a nobody: Starcraft 2 has destroyed my life (olganon.org)
122 points by voidnothings on Aug 24, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 120 comments

As somebody who went through nearly the exact same experience with a different game several years ago, it's really disappointing (and unhelpful) to see so much emphasis put on the game. Starcraft 2 didn't destroy his life, his lack of self-control did. There are millions of people playing Starcraft 2 worldwide who did not do what he did. Taking action to overcome the Starcraft addiction is a good first step, but it won't do him any good if he lapses into addictive behavior in another aspect of his life.

It sounds like the poster is a really motivated guy, and lionhearted is correct in his sibling post here that that can be a strong force for productivity if you can master it. I really hope that Tom manages to do so, because at 21, he's got his whole (non-destroyed) life ahead of him. Losing two years to an addiction is a big deal, but it's something you can overcome and possibly even come out stronger from.

Edit: Since I talked a little bit about my own circumstances in a reply, I might as well go into detail here, particularly since it looks like the actual linked post might be a lie/exaggeration. I played Final Fantasy XI (an MMO, unlike most games in the series) from the fall of 2004 until the fall of 2009, and World of Warcraft from then until January of 2011.

During that time, my life outside of the game basically stopped. I dropped out of college, I moved back in with my parents, I stopped programming and reading, which were my main interests before the MMOs came along. For a few of the years in the middle I didn't work or even really leave the house. Eventually I got pushed out because my parents knew that what I was doing wasn't a healthy lifestyle, but I did just enough to adapt and got a job an an apartment and continued gaming.

What pushed me to quitting wasn't any sudden realization, but just a slow-building frustration with the whole idea of MMORPGs. Eventually it hit critical mass and I quit FFXI, thinking that the problem was just that I needed a better game. A year of WoW convinced me otherwise, and I've been putting my life back together since then. I (obviously) don't mind talking about it now, and I'd be glad to answer questions if anyone has them.

This kind of thing is way older than Starcraft, or electronic games for that matter.

One of my physics professors apparently had a similar experience with bridge. If I remember correctly, his bio said that he was a Life Master at age 21. You apparently have to play one hell of a lot of bridge hands to become a Life Master, and keep in mind that this was before the internet. When I asked him, he reported that basically bridge took over his whole life for several years.

And then he recovered and apparently had a pleasant career and got tenure and everything.

And now I must control my essay-writing addiction and go build some software. ;)

You could make the same argument that a lack of self-control destroys the lives of heroin addicts.

That self-control is based, however, on biological and physiological pathways.

Dopamine receptors, and anomalies with the dopamine system, in particular, can leave people vulnerable to various addictive habits: http://www.people.co.uk/lifestyle/real-life/2010/10/03/ms-tu...

The difference between Starcraft and heroin is that the vast majority of Starcraft users do not become addicts. In fact, only a very, very small portion of users do - heroin has no claims to the same.

This also brings social gaming in as a concern - what is the moral stance on games what have been specifically and deliberately engineered with said biological and psychological pathways in mind, with addiction as an intended outcome as opposed to an accidental and marginal one?

It's morally wrong to trick someone biological and psychological in order for them to play games in order to generate income for a game company. But I think there's a way to balance between making users like the game thus generate income for the company and making users biologically and psychologically rely on the game.

>It's morally wrong to trick someone biological and psychological in order for them to play games in order to generate income for a game company.

Biologically perhaps, psychologically no. This "trick" you speak of is the sense of progression and rewards given that makes a game fun to play.

In the end, is there really any difference between making a game that is fun and a game that is addicting? I really don't think there is even if they went in with the idea of "lets make this game addicting".

I've never once seen a game that is not fun, but is addicting. Although my friends have said Master of Orion 3 fits that description, but I never actually saw them ever play it so I think it was a joke.

There's a great talk about this from some guy at Digital Illusions. He found some definition of what a "game" is and compared that definition with Farmville, it failed on every single bullet. I can't remember the exact details but it contained things like it has to be challenging, a skilled player should easily beat a newbie, not requiring grinding. What's interesting is that the definitions are not designed with the sole purpose of bashing farmville, all of them really make sense and origin from even before computer era.

If somebody knows where to find the talk please post it, my google-fu is weak today. He also compares the iphone to a swiss army knife and the ipad to a "swiss-army-kitchen-utensil" (i.e too bad to be really useful and too big to fit in your pocket). The talk was just a few weeks after the first ipad release. It also contains alot of other talk about the future of gaming for the general masses, facebook games and gaming anything in life(like shopping), etc. If that's enough to trigger anyones memory.

Jesse Schell at DICE. No Google-fu required. I just know that talk inside and out.

Hmm, must have remembered wrong because the talk didnt have the game-definition thing. Anyway, Jesses talk is quite interesting.

The farmville comparision i was refering to is probably this one http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/content/cultivated-p...

at 17 min or so is the swiss army kitchen utensel. I dont watch very many of these types of talks, but really like this one. thanks for mentioning it.


A very small percentage of people who have ever tried heroin are current users. Of course, it's much, much smaller for everyone who's tried to play Starcraft, but the point remains.

There is a clear difference, though. Heroin and other addicting drugs create a physical addiction. If you are addicted to heroin, nicotine, caffeine, etc., your body really does need the drug to function normally, and you will go through physical withdrawal if you can't get the drug.

Activities that people get addicted to (like gambling or videogames) are only psychologically addicting. Yes, of course psychological addiction does have physical effects (dopamine levels in your brain, for instance), but we can still clearly differentiate addictive drugs from addictive activities.

Before anyone talks about addiction everyone needs to understand what they mean by physical and mental. Most people think they do but don't.

To be addicted simply means one will seek out the thing they are addicted to at great cost. They'll neglect all sorts of important things and put the object of their addiction above all else.

To be dependent means ones body needs a substance to function normal. Usually this means keeping withdrawl at bay.

You can be dependent but not addicted.

The only difference between drug addiction and an addiction to, say, playing games is that you are not dependent upon the games. In reality however the cost of both are just about equal. The one difference being that many substances will cost you your health directly while games will cost you your health indirectly. In both cases however the psychology is the same and so is the neurobiology. But because games don't literally replace already existing neurotransmitters you don't get dependence. But what you do get with games, just like substances, is your reward pathway being excited to the point where you begin seeking out the thing that excited that pathway over and over. Nothing else excites that pathway as much and so you then crave that thing.

People look at gaming and drugs and think its a no-brainer that they're so clearly different but they aren't. Addiction is addiction no matter the object of addiction.

You know what the real difference between gaming addiction and drug addiction is? Stigma. What everyone thinks they know about addicts/addiction.

Sounds right. Note: caffeine physical addiction lasts only a day or so. Similar with nicotine. The psychological addiction is far stronger and longer-lasting.

Depends on how much you're used to (http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/press_releases/2004/09_29_04....): Typically, onset of symptoms occurred 12 to 24 hours after stopping caffeine, with peak intensity between one and two days, and for a duration of two to nine days.

Anecdotally, I know someone who was on three pots a day, and he had a miserable month when he quit cold-turkey. Some of that was withdrawal, but some of that was also probably him having to adjust to a wake-sleep cycle without the aid of stimulants.

I think it would also be fair to not entirely blame the heroin. I think in any addiction it is important not to fall into the trap of "<x> is addictive" or "<x> is bad" - you need to make sure you don't fall into similar addictions in the future, which means recognising it isn't just that one thing, but also you.

I think that lack of self-control is a critical part in both heroin addicts and game addicts, but the heroin jump-starts the addictive cycle within your brain directly while the gaming takes a slower and more indirect route.

I'll absolutely agree to differences of degree between addictions. I'll also absolutely agree to differences of susceptibility between people.

At the same time, there's a huge, active, and concerted effort in many areas of commerce to leverage dopamine and related pathways to create habitual consumptive patterns. Games, TV shows, junk food, cigarettes, gambling, narcotics, online activities (HN included), and other factors.

Any time you hear about 'gamification', hearing something described as "crack", or other tricks for sites or apps, you're looking about influencing the dopamine system.

It's something which I'm becoming increasingly convinced is a case where commercial/corporate interests and profit seeking are at odds with greater societal well-being.

But that's just me.

Since you brought heroin up, I found this a really interesting read: http://www.quora.com/How-does-it-feel-to-be-high-on-heroin

Very interesting read.

I've had next to no direct experience with narcotics. I've read some about it, and seen the effects on others (many times tragic). I'm familiar with the Opium Wars and the effects of heroin on China under British rule.

There was a book title some years back which rambled for a long sentence to the effect that the problem with smack was that it was so hard to quit and then once you did the worse thing was that it felt do damned good when you did use it again.

An earlier title pretty much sums it up: "It's so good, don't even try it once".

I was also probably addicted to FFXI (played from the release of CoP til 2009ish), so hey fellow ex-FFXIer. I pulled myself out of it when I realised I wasn't getting any of my PhD done and then went and managed to pull that off with the remaining time I had left. Now I won't play any MMOs because I'm concerned that I might fall back into old habits. I play D3 and other games that I can dip in and out of, but no mass organised stuff like FFXI needed.

The addiction for me was more of the organisation of stuff - I co-ran one of the most successful linkshells (guild) on my server for a while, and was in charge of many raids - I loved it and was good at it. I'd probably make a great middle manager or something, heh. (No thanks.)

Anyway yeah, it's possible to "get out" and still reclaim your life. I have a tenured position at a university now and completed two successful postdocs since I quit. I don't regret having played though - I met some excellent people through FFXI, many of whom are still very close friends today. It's just a matter of having the ability to self assess where you are and the guts to pull yourself out of it if you realise that there's an issue. I know I can do that now, but I also don't want the temptation to fall back in.

It's a small (virtual) world... when I read your username I thought it sounded familiar, and now I'm pretty sure that I've been a jerk to you on IRC before! Congrats on quitting FFXI and finishing your PhD, and greetings from a certain former #BG member with a four letter name starting with z.

/me prepares himself for public humiliation if he's wrong

Yeah, I think you were on multivaders too, right? Heh, small world.

I was addicted to DOTA just like Tom and wasted 1 whole year on it, and almost dropped out of school(thanks to loose quality control in China's higher education system, but I'm not sure it's a good thing).

I got out -- and I'm the first one out -- my little DOTA addicted circle who did it.

What got me out is programming, I learned PHP/Java/Python/Javascript/Android etc... since I quited playing DOTA all day.

I still play DOTA, but very controllable and sometimes didn't play it in months.

>What pushed me to quitting wasn't any sudden realization, but just a slow-building frustration with the whole idea of MMORPGs

Same thing built up with Minecraft for me. What a lost amount of time :/. So fun at the time, but there is only so many Legos I can afford to spend time on.

I stay away from any game with "craft" in the name - knowing that I have a hard time not not playing video games with no end. Then very recently I had my second back surgery. I purchased Minecraft for Xbox 360 as I knew I'd be able to lay in bed and play for hours on end, which is what I'd have to do to recover anyway.

Well, a week and a half later I pretty much mastered it, and purchased the PC version because it had more features.

I've spent A LOT of time playing this game recently. Then I got onto PVP and Faction servers. Playing with others and the thrill it brings to blow up a base with a TNT cannon and steal everyone's shit is very addicting.

I knew I was getting into trouble when I bought the original Xbox version. In a moment of weakness I purchased the PC version and the number of hours I spend playing is not very healthy.

Luckily for me, my wife will kill/leave me before it ever gets really bad, so eventually I'll get pulled away and bored with it. I usually do. I hope. :)

Sounds like an entirely appropriate use of the technology. It also sheds a completely different light on the analogy between addictive games and addictive painkillers. ;)

You're right. Minecraft for Xbox is codeine while the PC version is clearly oxycodone. PvP and Raid servers is like using an IV.

I've always considered WoW and Minecraft to be drugs...and I don't do drugs. Simple as that.

Apt comparison.

How in the world, somebody with that kind of martial arts training, got in the best fitness of his life became addict to alcohol and weed and games? Doesn't martial arts requires tons of disciplines?

He was addicted to martial arts. If you think about it for a second it makes sense. The martial arts thing was the same as the starcraft thing, just a different subject. If you consider that he has an obsessive disorder that presents as addiction, you can put those two things under the same umbrella. Obsession can seem like discipline.

Obsession can seem like discipline.

I've long suspected they're the same thing - or, at least, on a spectrum together. I know that I just don't "feel right" if I work less than I want to, or if I skip out on a workout session I had planned on. And I know that with myself and other people I train jiu-jitsu with, we will train with injuries that rationally we know we should not. When we talk about it amongst ourselves, we say things like "I just can't sit on the couch doing nothing." I suspect this "discipline" to get back to training is similar to obsession and compulsion.

It looks like he was very very good at immersing himself in his training, and he did the exact same thing with Starcraft 2.

Martial arts, like most things in life, optimally require two things: talent and discipline. Rarely though, do you find someone with both. Yet with either one, you can get pretty good at something.

This article has a lot of things which sound fake. Here's one:

I was 6'2'', 168 lbs, 1% body fat

When I was climbing competitively, I once had my bodyfat measured (by DEXA) as just under 3%. For climbing, pretty much any weight (even most muscle) is just dead weight, so climbers are as skinny and lean as any athletes out there, and I only very rarely ran into people as lean as me.

I've known a lot of bodybuilders and wrestlers, and even there, it's rare to see people below 3%, and I've never heard of anyone who's tested below 2% bodyfat. 1%? I won't say that it's impossible, but to be alive and functioning at that level would require you to be a genetic freak on the same level as Lance Armstrong or Michael Phelps.

This was my main problem with the article. While it's well-written, it has many details that (on the face) seem way too contrived.

My friends even looked up to me, as they are monks who train Taoist Wudang Kung Fu in southwestern China. At one point I became a monk by my own right, and I was looked to for even spiritual advice.

So you're such a badass that monks that train others in Kung Fu looked up to you at 18 years old? They also made you a monk and decided you were enlightened enough to give spiritual advice, despite the fact that you have very obviously poor impulse control?

I tried being a drywaller, and a welder twice.

Why didn't you try doing what you spent all that time in southeast Asia learning, and start doing martial arts professionally? You could be a martial arts instructor, stunt man, or any other profession that hires badasses of this caliber.

Also, "being a welder" isn't something you just jump into without previous experience and/or equipment.

This whole thing feels made up for sympathy. Apologies if you're telling the entire truth, Tom.

>>My friends even looked up to me, as they are monks who train Taoist Wudang Kung Fu in southwestern China. At one point I became a monk by my own right, and I was looked to for even spiritual advice.

>So you're such a badass that monks that train others in Kung Fu looked up to you at 18 years old? They also made you a monk and decided you were enlightened enough to give spiritual advice, despite the fact that you have very obviously poor impulse control?

That is not as incredible as it seems. You can see his addictive and competitive personality in the martial arts training. I know people like that in the martial arts world.

Sometimes, in the East, you're promoted beyond your skill and competency in order to encourage you to grow into the role. If his teachers are genuine, they would have recognized his addictive personality to begin with. What's even funnier and sad is that, they would have accepted his shame in going a little crazy. It is surviving and healing from this that will allow him more empathy as his role as a monk in the future.

You're also making a very common mistake that seems to pop up in America, these strange notions about enlightenment and giving spiritual advice.

>Why didn't you try doing what you spent all that time in southeast Asia learning, and start doing martial arts professionally? You could be a martial arts instructor, stunt man, or any other profession that hires badasses of this caliber.

That's the same thing as jumping into the UFC. I feel the same way, and have avoided teaching, let alone doing stunts or getting paid to inflict violence and death. If he were as obsessed about Buddhism in his teenage years as he was to games and martial arts training (likely), then these professions would not have appealed to him.

Anyways, the post is to Gamers Online Anonymous. I'm glad there's such an organization out there. I doubt this guy wrote it gain sympathy from you specifically. Maybe the post is for sympathy, maybe it isn't. It doesn't matter, because the addiction is real.

I'm Chinese, I never heard of monks of Taoism. Those people believe in Taoism philosophy deeply, call themselves Dao Shi. And only some of Dao Shi train Taichi(a slow sport to help find inner peace), not "Wudang Kung Fu".

I'm just stating as far as I know. Maybe there're truly monks who practice "Wudang Kung Fu" and Taoism. But as far as I know, Taoism is about living peacefully and healthily and as long as possible, not about defeating your enemy.

I am Chinese (Tawainese if you want to get picky) and grew up in America. "Wudang Kung Fu" is a fairly popular moniker, even for those who know better. My Northern Shaolin teacher will sometimes work up a rant about it from time to time, but few people outside the martial arts circle really care about it. Many non-martial-artist native Chinese don't really know the specialized jargon and distinctions in the martial arts world.

The arts passed down from Wudangshan is not exclusive to Tai Chi. Tai Chi has origin myths relating to Wudangshan, but I doubt taijiquan was the only thing they practiced. Taijiquan itself cannot be characterized as "a slow sport to help find inner peace". Well, you can, but that is like saying "Wudang Kung Fu".

There are definitely "Taoist monks". They have their own temples and do their own things. They have similar beggar-monk tradition as Buddhist beggar-monk traditions. At several points, Taoist monks cultivated within the same spaces as Buddhist monks. This is not surprising given that all religious wisdom springs from the same source.

One aspect of Tao-"ism" is about living peacefully and healthily and as long as possible ... but that's not really it at all. That's the popular religion. As Joseph Campbell noted, the most popular religion in the world worships the idols of Longevity, Prosperity, and Posterity. Pop Taoism is no exception.

After you shed the outer layer of pop Taoism, at Taoism's core, it shares the same underlying understanding of reality as Buddhism, Shinto, and even the obscure parts of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Its moral expression is uniquely Chinese.

As for "not about defeating your enemy", this goes into something very interesting, the role of violence and spiritual growth. Sun Tzu's Art of War is very much Taoist-flavored. It might be kept at its arm's length, but its far more obscure inspiration, Master of Demon Valley (鬼谷子) is acclaimed as part of the Taoist tradition, despite being heavily encrypted teachings about the shadow side, governance, and right action.

You're right. I'm not really into Taoism, I heard the talking of "about living peacefully and healthily and as long as possible" from a friend, who has been to meditation leading by a famous Daoshi in my area, and also heard real Taoism monks don't practice martial arts at all except Taichi if you count it as a martial art or kungfu.

I've had close friends and family members battle addiction of several kinds. With that in mind, this post sounds very typical of many addicts (drug, games, etc.). Likely several parts are extensively embellished, perhaps outright false.

As others have stated, the issue here is not starcraft or gaming in general, it's addiction. If the core roots of that aren't addressed, he'll likely move from one addiction to another until he fully hits rock bottom and gets the professional help he needs.

Going from Bruce Lee to "The Dude", all while under 25 struck me as fairly implausible too. I suspect this tale is rather well embellished throughout.

I wouldn't doubt the OP exaggerated a lot of details. Logically there aren't that many steps between "training martial arts in Asia", "advanced martial artist", and "Buddhist Monk zen martial artist sensei <insert additional superlatives>". Though I would think that perhaps since the OP exaggerated his "good times", this would prove that he knows and recognizes them, and has something to look forward to, a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak.

That being said, it would also suggest he is a manic-depressive type. The highs are high, the lows are low. This is a very difficult condition to deal with.

At 1% you're literally on death's door. He's either exaggerating or just making this story up from whole cloth. My guess is it's one of those cases of "the older I get the better I was".

Agreed, 1% body fat is extremely dangerous and your body does not have enough fat for it to go about its normal processes. It is certainly not sustainable for any period of time. Professional bodybuilders have trouble getting down to ~3% body-fat for their competitions and they only have to hold that level for a day or 2.

Or measuring it inaccurately. Various estimation methods break down at extreme (high or low) BF%.

I'm also a climber, I've been climbing about 20 hours a week lately, and using a cheap electric current device, I was getting measurements between 6% and 12%, and I have very lean muscle.

I have some friends who are physical trainers, and they were talking about low body fat once, saying it's very difficult to to get down to around 5% and lower than 4% is dangerous.

According to a random body building website thread, 3% is essential body fat... http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=143851451&...

Right. I dont doubt that a reading may have shown 3%, but you simply cannot walk around with bodyfat that low. In competitions bodybuilders will get to sub 6% but they dont maintain that for more than a day or even just a few hours, because it isnt healthy, let alone try to do intense rock climbing. In short, people vastly underestimate their bodyfat percentages

Depending on who you ask and what numbers you believe, the essential bodyfat % for men is somewhere in the 4-5% range. Competitive bodybuilders may well dip below that, but only briefly. I really don't think any male human can walk around at 1% bodyfat on a continual basis, based on what I've been taught about health and nutrition over the years.

I was measured at <2% bodyfat when I wrestled in highschool. They forbid me from cutting weight because of it. At the same time I was a fully functioning, healthy individual. It DOES happen, though rarely.

edit: it was one of those cheap electrical measuring devices. It's very probable that the machine had a high margin of error.

It is possible his 1% body fat was an estimate or used a different technique to measure. I know nothing about it really, but it is possible he was more interested in training than finding a doctor to give him exact stats.

Saying "1% bodyfat" doesn't really mean much, because even the most accurate methods of measuring bodyfat have a not insignificant margin of error. And skin-fold calipers, the most common way (in my experience) of measuring bodyfat, definitely have a significant margin of error.

You might actually read 1% on the skinfold caliper, but that doesn't necessarily mean you literally have only 1% bodyfat.


Yep. The whole shit about martial arts / being a monk is pure bullshit fantasy.

Perhaps it was a typo and he meant 10%? That would be a perfectly healthy athletic body fat percentage and an easy typo to make.

Could be a typo?

Sounds like he has the "rage to master" personality trait... very conducive to hardcore training and mastery in something like martial arts or a craft skill, or a discipline... also conducive to addiction or getting "way too into" hedonistic pursuits.

I've got it too, and have made insane/amazing progress and gotten quite good at some skills, crafts, and disciplines in fast time. I've also burned many hours on something like Civilization IV or playing lots of Chess. It's a mixed bag.

I wrote about it here --


Definitely worth reading if you've got the same personality mix.

Wow, I've never heard of this before, but I knew a friend in college who eventually lost himself to drugs for a bit (dealing it, using it too much). He had gone from passion to passion in 1-2 year cycles. During high school he was seriously into Unix and was incredibly into just hacking on it all day, every day for hours on end. The next year he decided he was over it, and got into really spiritual pursuits (converting to Islam) and wearing traditional garb and was incredibly active in a Mosque. Then, unfortunately, he fell into the aforementioned drugs episode.

Now, however, he's stabilized after going to therapy and has a pretty rad job doing pen testing. Anyhow, thanks for posting this link, I knew there was some sort of thing describing his personality trait :)

"pen testing" is not the act of checking to see if pens work, as google has just informed me, though the story would be hilarious if it was. It's short for penetration testing, which is checking for vulnerabilities in a security system.

I've never heard of the term 'rage to master' but I've been told this behaviour is common in people with Aspergers Syndrome. Intense interests which takes priority in life only to be substituted with something else weeks, months or a couple of years down the line.

Maybe you can shed some more light on the 'rage to master' personality trait you're talking about?

Ellen Winner coined the term in the book "Gifted Children: Myths And Realities" --


I'm not able to find the definitive research paper on it right now which was titled "The Origins and Ends of Giftedness," but here's one on the trait in the visual arts which should give you an idea --


Despite the term being catchy/interesting, most of the literature on it is very academic and somewhat dry. It probably makes for poor curiosity reading, but it's supremely valuable to dig through the academic papers if you have the trait yourself or you're a parent/guardian/teacher of someone who does.

Seeing as I have yet to read up on the matter I can't say that I do or do not have the trait myself. But from the little that I've come to understand I'd say it's highly plausible.

I'll continue to look into it, I find awareness of oneself's personality of highest importance and I always strive to learn more about why I do the things I do.

the definitive research paper on it right now which was titled "The Origins and Ends of Giftedness"

It seems this is it http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

You probably should read the document lionhearted linked to:

> Google the term “rage to master” – click around, read some summaries, and then check out a couple academic papers. It will be very worth your time.

I'm not sure if it's related to Aspergers, but I don't think negativity[0] is warranted. Having an intense interest is good by itself; if it keeps for a few months—there you have a startup. =) The only problem is indeed that you have to master it, and not always do conscious attempts help.

[0] Although I might be mistaken and there wasn't any in your reply.

I'll go ahead and do a little research. My comment might've come out a bit blunt but there was no negativity implied. More of a partly sceptical tone as to where the seemingly hip term came from.

I'd love to discuss the good and the bad with the trait itself but I should probably do some reading first to verify that it's the same trait that I'm referring to.

Never heard this term either previously, but I can relate to a lot of those traits. Thanks for the info.

Thanks for this.

It seems like he was already screwing up his life pretty well before SC2 was released:

"Fast forward to summer '10. By now I had moved out of three apartments with my friends. I lost three jobs. I tried being a drywaller, and a welder twice. In between my friends and I would do odd-jobs that lasted a week at a time then would get paid one large sum, then blow it all on alcohol and marijuana. Living literally off of pickle juice, beer, bread once in a while, redbull, and cigarettes, we found ourselves wasting our days away on the Xbox with nothing else to do but wait for a job. Finally, I had to move back into my mother's house (a big time alcholic, who is seperated 15 years now from my father, a raging, abusive in every way alcholic) and that's where I took the deep plunge into hellish unconciousness.

Waiting eagerly for years for the realease of Starcraft 2 I waited in line 2 hours at 2:00 am for the special release...."

I'm pretty sure the whole thing is a fabrication - the details all sound like what you hear from a bad liar:

  - 1% body fat
  - ran 12 miles and got bored (so he walked home??)
  - 20 one-handed push-ups on either side (but only 100 combined??)
  - became a monk
  - shrank an inch in a year do to inactivity

It's easy enough for a person in very good shape to run 12 miles. Some marathon runners cover >100 miles per week in training (in their case, of course that is their main training activity).

All together, though, those bragging points add up to something implausible.

24 miles in a day is a long day but feasible. I've done 18 miles walking, starting mid-morning and ending early afternoon. Running one way would shorten the time needed (though would also cause faster exhaustion, I presume).

The other sounds less likely...

For someone who runs distance seriously, 24 miles is pretty normal. This is not to say that the OP is on the level -- I'm also skeptical of the martial arts claims, among others. If the kid has a real problem with video games (and with the family life he sketches out, anybody would have some problems), sure, OK. But the whole thing reeks of fabulist nonsense.

I think the silly part is why would you run 12 miles, get bored, and then WALK home? Shouldn't you just run home?

Nah, sometimes you just don't want to run anymore. I've definitely done 10k runs, and just stop and look for a bus home. It's not even that you're too tired to run (though that plays a role). Some people can just keep running as long as they keep in the flow. When you lose it, running quickly becomes boring.

Agreed. The title should be changed to "How self-indulgence and living in the moment without planning for the future left me an unsatisfying life and, surprise! No future."

I can relate to the OP in certain parts – though some bits do sound odd. (Like the mentioned 1% and being a top monk.)

When SC2 was released, I got into it big time as well. I know I have an addictive personality (if given the right method and circumstance), but I didn't know the term 'rage to master' I'll have to look it up.

Anyway, I slept and breath SC2. I knew it was going to get me in trouble, I had no delusions of going Pro, but I just wanted to be good. I hated the feeling of losing to cheese tactics and winnings games, surprisingly, only gave me a mild high. If I won, I wanted to be a legit win. SC2 to me is chess on steroids. I'd kept playing no matter if I won or lost.

I was aware of my personality flaw so I gave myself a goal – Plat #1 on my division and I'm done. So I reached the goal and immediately quit the ladder game. My ability to do this made me doubt if I really had an addictive personality. I find myself going through the same process for other games such as WoW and D3 – aim for the highest (reasonable) goal, 'prove' something to myself and be done.

It's really unfortunate, since I rarely play games for the sake of 'fun' anymore (any online game bring out the competitiveness in me.) Just like the Matrix guy, I don't see them as games anymore, I see them as ways to min/max, look for exploits, efficiency, risks vs rewards, mathematical equations.

"... I don't see them as games anymore, I see them as ways to min/max, look for exploits, efficiency, risks vs rewards, mathematical equations."

I was talking with a fellow gamer, and we both made the same observation about playing video games at an above-casual level. I realized (when playing Skyrim) that I was focusing so hard on being as efficient and successful as possible, that I wasn't really enjoying myself anymore.

I've since been making an effort to play games more casually. I can still be competitive, but if playing games feels like a chore, I'm doing it wrong.

This sounds so fake :/ There are certainly video game addicts out there, it's a serious problem in korea and china, but I think this is a troll and/or pathological liar.

Could be, but the parts about game addiction itself are dead on with my experiences. I effectively lost six years of my life and dropped out of college. While I was playing the game, that seemed like a reasonable loss - it was only after I stopped playing completely that I realized how badly I had fucked up my life.

I should add that I don't live in Korea or China. I'm a guy in my late 20's who lives in rural Wisconsin, and I know several people that I met while playing that particular game that have gone through similar (though usually less severe) experiences. The ones that I've kept in touch in agree that they were addicted as well, and that it's probably a lot more common than anyone would like to admit for players of certain genres of games, particularly MMOs.

I do know what you mean. All that stuff about becoming a monk was curiously non-specific. Still, we should assume good faith here: we stand to gain nothing by making accusations.

I think video games can become extremely addicting to a certain mental/psychological cross-section that is highly represented on Hacker News. While most drugs have a cycle of reward and withdrawal video games have that in very small sustainable bursts but connected to the act of being clever. We like being clever for its own sake but we really enjoy it when we use it to defeat or conquer something, no matter how synthetic and abstract. Do you feel any different zergrushing an unprepared base or finally getting that Clojure script to run correctly? I really don't, and I've had to remind myself over the years to focus my endeavors towards productive learning even if the rewards come a little more slowly and are harder to get.

It's great that he posted this though. He'll be able to come back and read it over and over - and hopefully it will help him begin to take responsibility for his life and what he can do to change it.

Bit of personal insight here, I have anger issues that may border on bi-polar. I've never attempted a diagnosis or treatment, I just try to maintain a cool head. Most of the time I'm rational and level headed. However, there are certain triggers that just make me snap, completely flipping my personality.

On more than one occasion, Starcraft 2 was one of those triggers. It only occurred after long heated anonymous matches that I lost, never during single player or with friends. I shelved Starcraft 2 shortly after a bad outburst where I broke the door of my wooden keyboard tray.

If I had to guess, the intense focus I was putting into Starcraft broke my normal awareness of my emotions. Thus, loosing control when I was defeated.

Going from normal to angry is not "flipping" your personality. It's called bipolar for a reason: there are two poles, equidistant from a center. It's also called manic depression: when you're not depressed you're often high as fuck.

What you described is called "getting really angry and losing your shit." It happens to pretty much everyone.

EDIT: I probably should have written that like less of an asshole. Sorry - I'm not here to deny your problems. The point still stands though.

Perhaps I chose the word bipolar incorrectly, but it's the closest word that describes the situations I've encountered with my anger.

I guess the feeling is hard to describe; "getting really angry and losing your shit." doesn't cover it at all, especially in the situations I can remember. Everybody looses their cool, this is way beyond that for me. The situations where it's come up wouldn't constitute the level of rage I've felt.

There is a continuum between losing your shit, like normal people do, and having a full blown behavioural disorder that destroys your life. We all lie somewhere on it. There's probably another continuum that goes off in the other direction, with jesus hanging out on the end with master joshu or something.

If you need to put a label on yourself, intermittent explosive disorder or something is likely closer than bipolar.


There really is no reason to pathologize your behaviour unless you want to seek treatment though. There's a lot of shite in the DSM.

What symptoms do you get that make you think you're bipolar?

I'm asking because most people diagnose themselves as being either bipolar or ADHD, and it's almost always a bogus diagnostics based on very common personality aspects that everyone has, such as some level of mood swings or tendency to procrastinate...

For me, it's the complete 180 of my personality. Sure, I get angry like anybody else, but it's usually the frustration type of anger. These are usually diffused by simple discussion or critical thinking. That type of anger isn't what I'm referring to.

None of my incidents have been in a work environment, which may be linked to my analytical personality. Situations at work can be controlled and resolved easily.

The fits I'm citing are full on rage, like zero to "put your head through a wall" in 2 seconds flat.

Like I said, and you mentioned, I'm only guessing at a diagnosis. It's likely that my rage is linked to my level of control in a situation.

My personal experience doesn't constitute proof of anything (nor I'm a psychiatrist anyway), but the two bipolar people I'm somewhat close to are very analytical, stable guys. Then they turn around and become something else entirely - one of them has managed to build huge businesses TWICE, only to have a mood swing (usually after a few weeks without meds) and simply walking away, fight everyone, get a divorce and go to jail for beating someone over a trivial discussion. The other simply goes away (literally - leave home for weeks and pretend he's dead)

Then they "wake up" again. Quite disturbing...

I've always said Counter Strike makes me go from 0 to Angry in 9 seconds flat.

I totally understand. Totally. This is a dangerous path taken, but it could happen for everyday things. Having the inner pressure to do things when things dont need to be done only to avoid feeling stale.

I was better than anyone I knew in my job and I kept studying edge cases of my profession that I would never need. Soon my job became too easy. I would spend time studying professioms related to mine only in case I come up with something useful. Make no mistake this was not workaholism since it had nothing to do with my day to day work except in very rare circumstances. I also know that this is personally unproductive since I work as a manager and I can tell mismanagement of resources I mile away. I am very strict unfortunately only on everybody else but me. I read issue queues and follow forums for open source projects for thing I will never use. Same thing goes for stackoverflow for a series of languages. I have studied history books, correlating things on various books and sources and historical archives. Attempting to put everything in an elasticsearch cluster for better fulltext search. To what end, I don't know. My spouse has gotten used to this but my friends seem to have changed during the years. I have no long term goals and many things I learned I won't use. Since my addictions are not fun related they just look like hobbies. The problem is they add up to many hours a day.

I would not call it rage to succeed, I would call it inability to stand still mentally.

> I'm afraid to leave the house to be seen; I don't even want to see my friends anymore. All I want to do is sleep because I'm so ashamed of what I've become it's painful to be awake and have to think about it all.

God, do I know this feeling. I don't know if I would have gotten away from it without friends and family.

This is bizarre, really. You known, while being addicted to something may be a big problem, the OP sounds much more depressed than addicted. Come one, 21 years old and his life is destroyed? how come? He even has money for beer and cigarretes? The guy should take a walk into some hospital to watch people that are screwed up really bad, both physically and mentally.

And I don't mean to be moralist, even if I sound like one. The main problem is that he must get up and decide to change his life, see that he is a perfectly normal young guy. If he can't quit playing by himself, why don't he look for help? A psychologist or even a psychiatrist may be of great help, but they sure wont come to his home from out of nowhere.

You do realize that obsessive/addictive personalities and depression go hand in hand right?

Sure, and I'm also aware that there is cure for this, but you must go for it. If this story is real, I hope that now that he is aware that he is troubled, he will seek professional help.

The poster has what my mother always called an 'addictive' personality. It's both a benevolent and malevolent trait to have. I'm sure most professional athletes or anyone that 'masters' something to any sort of extreme has to have this sort of trait to stay intrinsically motivated.

I am disappointed to see people blaming 'this or that game' for their problems. Personally these types of folks need help and a good safety net of friends and family to point out what's truly happening instead of being surrounded by those with the same issues. Unfortunately it sounds like this guy had none of the former and plenty of the latter.

Definitely a troll, this was the tell (where he refers to the UFC/combat fighting): "those institutions are false and insulting to real martial artists. The people who take place in them worship violent demagogues."


I dunno... I could see the heads of some traditional McDojo type TKD or Karate schools trying to promote thinking like that. I think they realize that most of the world has moved on and recognized MMA / hybrid training as more effective for actual combat, so they might try to reposition themselves by trying to paint MMA as wanton violence.

Heck, some of them might actually believe that their stuff is superior to MMA, based on some woo aspect or other. :-)

Would it be possible to make a nicotine patch for Starcraft 2? How about a less addictive version to wean yourself off it. Maybe, you switch to Starcraft I, and then Warcraft. How about messing up the resolution, or having a slow internet connection with lag? What if you have a computer that cheats for you?

What would it take to make such a thing? Is it possible? Exactly what elements of Starcraft make it addictive? Would it be possible to make a similar but less addictive version?

Should I feel terrible now?

I work in the team, making one of the the best selling fps games.

Then again I don't like playing fps games, I'm just supporting tools code.

I don't like multiplayer games at all, especially mmorpgs ones. I do love hot-seat multiplayer games like Heroes of Might and Magic - it's great fun. People in the same room, taking turns, and in the mean time having laugh and jokes (and smelly clothes, also a bit drunk after 24hr marathons)

For single player - old quest games, and JRPGs took many hours of my life...

No, it is not your responsibility if people have no self control and abuse the game. Just like if you work in McDonalds and someone keeps eating there everyday.

If anything this story has nothing to do with SC2, and all the fact that this guy is a depressed addict. Anything would do, he just chose video games.

I find this story pretty hard to believe. It might, I guess it might be true, but it seems a bit fanciful. For sure, even if only partly, this person clearly has major problems with balancing things. But the Kung Fu master part seems a incredulous to me. In the story, we go straight from being one of the greatest monks the Wu Tang Clan has ever seen to ... doing drywall odd jobs for money to buy weed and beer ... seems like something is missing there. Then there's the bit of moving out into the wilderness, resuming this big regime of training. I just don't know about that.

IANAP (psychologist), but I would say probably this person has a big problem with video games, but more specifically impulses and I would venture to guess possibly a hard time distinguishing reality from fantasy. Probably, the inability to distinguish reality from fantasy is one of the bigger problems here and then addiction. It's good that this person seems to want help, get out of the hole. I think it will definitely take professional help; there's more going on here than just playing Starcraft 2 too much.

Guys this is obviously fake.

Believe it or not, even learning can become addictive. I know a lot of people that have an addiction to learning new technologies, but they never actually build anything. The pleasure of learning new things is what they crave. They learn something, then they go learn something else, then something else. Sometimes they get two or three degrees in unrelated fields. It gives them a false sense of productivity. In the end its like playing Starcraft. It does not lead to any output. Just firing of neurons within their brains.

Accomplishment can also become addictive. That's why they call it workaholism.

Usually these things result from a misfiring in the brain. Some are more impressive to the outside world than others, but none of them really satisfy the person.

Videogames are harder to quit than drugs? What has he been smoking?

I lost a lot of seventh and eighth grades to video games, and the final departure from them entailed smashing Starcraft 1 and Brood War CDs in my driveway, in front of my friends, who were telling me "not to waste the CDs." But I needed to do something cathartic, and in my case smashing the discs helped me go cold-turkey.

I wrote about it a little bit more here: https://jseliger.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/from-the-departmen... .

I guess there is still a chance that playing those games gained you some super powers, similar to Karate Kid washing the cars.

There are also a lot of ways to waste time. Few people seem to make good use of it, so perhaps again it is not really Computer Games that are to blame?

Who didn't lose a lot of time on 7th and 8th grade to something? That age is defined by being a lost time for the most of us.

I think a lot of people were playing sports, or practicing an instrument, or learning how to deal with the opposite sex (or maybe even the same sex), or reading. . . all of them, to me, more viable activities than Starcraft, at least at the level I played.

Videogames can evoke the same physiological responses from your mind and your body as the high of many drugs. Most anything is capable of being an addiction for biological creatures such as ourselves - it's simply in the chemistry of our minds that defines what gets us "high".

Many videogames are designed as Skinner boxes of some form or other. Bejewelled was a big addiction for me that I noticed coming and managed to quit before I got too far in - I have [had] a tendency to get "addicted" to games.

The games provide consistent rewards. From the gamers perspective the only down side is leaving the game - you're suddenly tired, hungry, possibly feel unwell. Of course those are the symptoms of sitting on your ass all day playing video games but one isn't aware of the symptoms until one finishes playing (or later, eg trying to work on a couple of hours sleep). It seems all the emotional, adrenaline rewards are in the game and all negative feelings - pain, hunger, tiredness - are outside the game. Such feelings get amplified by having respect within a game for your position, having friends within a game, etc., if one has none of these things in the real world ...

I find it very easy to get in to drink. If I could afford it then it would be a problem for me too I think. Thankfully I've managed to avoid other drugs (except caffeine).

A friend of mine was just as bad of a game addict when it drove him to drop out of graduate school and become a deadbeat. He's now a successful game designer at Blizzard.

I would bet on contrived.

I find that videogames fill a void more than they create it.

Spending too much time on them seems more like an effect than a cause.

I haven't played StarCraft 2 yet. Wow; is it really that good? Think I might go buy a copy today.

it would be very interesting to know how is he doing now (since a year has passed, as you can see the post linked is from 2011) and why he didn't try to teach martial arts professionally

What league are you in? I hope GM!

I am very thankful that I don't have a too terribly addictive personality. At worst, I'm addicted to "the Internet", but only in the sense that I'd rather be reading Hacker News or programming a side project than hiking or sitting on my ass watching TV.

That having been said, I have a handful of friends or acquaintances that have problems with addiction. Each of them ruined their college experience with a combination of: drinking, pot, alcohol and finally Adderall (to fix their attention, but ultimately fueling alcoholic-ish binges).

It's terribly sad because I'm an excellent student who spent basically three years straight getting high after classes and homework and continued to work on my github projects. Stopped when I moved away for an internship cold turkey and had a headache for a few hours and then was back to normal.

I hope that we can learn how to screen for these things or provide better treatments for people that get addicted to those sorts of psychological releases. Video games are a nice way for me to relax and I've been known to have a four hour binge with a bottle of wine on a Friday night, but I can't imagine literally losing control of my life.

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