A memoir I wrote about addiction: The Sting For over a month, I was addicted beyond comprehension. By the end of that period of time, my eyes were completely red, I was overcome with headaches, and my hands shook with the jitters. It was bad, really bad. The experience is still ingrained into my mind, forever branded onto the soft, fleshy gray matter of my early years as an individual. Honestly, it’s wildly embarrassing to even write about such a topic, so it’s with great reluctance that I write this: essentially, I was addicted to a video game. The precursor of my addiction was innocent. It started when I first received the game as part of my birthday celebration. The game’s case was placed almost reluctantly into my fervent, outstretched hands, as if my parents possessed the foresight to know what would eventually transpire. My eyes lit up when I saw the case; it was in my grubby hands now. I looked it over, inspecting it carefully. The cover art was vibrant with pictures and characters from the game, the plastic was unscratched and factory new, and the yellow, boldly printed words, “LEGO Universe,” filled me with unbridled excitement. It’s disheartening to think about, but when I was about nine years old, this game was my only outlet for creativity and exploration. The fear-mongering over going outdoors during my early childhood didn’t exactly fill me with confidence, and instead it turned every stranger into a pedophile with a dazzling smile, bushy moustache, and a pearly white van. Even stepping foot outdoors was accompanied with wary glances and furtive movements. I had to find some way to be engaged and to express my creativity. Ironically, the company used the phrase, “Save imagination” in its marketing. I thought that this now forlorn video game was the only outlet available to me, and I accepted it with pleasure. The new concept of a game in my life intoxicated me for a quite a long time, even after its initial arrival. It attached itself to my daily routine like a parasite, devouring my time, leaving only wispy tendrils in its wake. Its first day in my life was memorable. My siblings shared some of my excitement, but not nearly to the degree which I possessed. I remember them watching me as I pored over the instructions like a pious clergyman studying the Bible. The first time I booted it up on my mom’s laptop, they were with me, watching with mild interest. I inserted the CD, which was also plastered with the logo and game characters similar to the case. The opening screen flashed, which probably casted a pale blue light onto my face, creating a phantasmal display for my siblings to witness. The experience was entirely new to me. My fingers were clumsy, not used to the quick movements that were becoming of an “experienced gamer.” Over time, my siblings began to be disinterested, and had better, more worthy things to do than watching their youngest brother burn his brain cells. I became alone. To be fair, I’m sure the developers didn’t create the game with the malicious intent of making kids become addicted to a polished, family-friendly game. Nevertheless, it was my downfall. The game they crafted lured me into its whimsical world, and I became trapped, unable to get out and experience the real one. An iron cage, disguised with vibrant colors and fun gimmicks, popped into existence and lowered itself over me, but I was too busy being enamored and captivated by its innocent appearance to notice its true effect on me. Surprisingly, I broke out of the cage for a period of time, and at one point I lost total interest. I spent more time away from the flashing lights and jet black keys of the machine that imprisoned me. I dismissed all notions of predators with white vans and bushy moustaches, took a daring leap of faith, and found myself outside, enjoying the blue sky, the green grass, and the hot, humid persona of summer. I also remember the glorious feeling when I saw my family for the first time without the familiar, blurry haze of sore red eyes that were glued to a screen for long periods of time. My addiction ended abruptly, but its end was not without weeping and gnashing of teeth. The downfall began when the company announced that it wasn’t getting enough sales, probably because kids were becoming attracted to different well-disguised cages. The meaning was obvious: the game had to be taken off life support. The news reached me quickly as it was all over the parts of the internet that I traveled. My eyes grew wide when I saw the bold, black headline, “LEGO Universe to close in 2012.” My world was going to collapse, but I played normally for a period of time. It was only until the final month before its closure that what I needed to do was suddenly brought into sharp focus. It earned me nothing but ringing headaches, shaking hands, and stinging, red eyes. I played the game progressively longer each day throughout the final month. I began small, and only two hours of the game occupied my day. The time I spent started to increase until finally my eyes were glued to the screen for what must’ve been eight whole hours a day. The final week until the developers pulled the plug was the nadir of my entire existence as a human being. Each day, I crawled under the long, wooden table in the dining room of my house, plugged my mom’s computer into the wall socket, and booted up the game. My face lost all of its color and warmth when the bright, vibrant lights of the screen touched it, giving me a ghostly pallor. The long, brown legs of the leather chairs around me formed an effective cage, and the table’s slight overhang blocked vision of the outside world. The entire captivation of my mind itself was complete, and I barely even noticed. I drank deeply from the gilded and bejeweled cup of ignorance and bliss, but I knew none the better. I could never forget the night in which the game that I loved so fiercely shut its inviting gates, only to become an old and decrepit memory. I wanted to play until the game shut down at midnight, so I planned to set up in the living room of my house, using the small tent that my mom gave me for my birthday as means to provide myself with some sort of shelter from everything and everyone else. The long length of the computer’s power cord enabled me to play the game from the inside of the tent, which shielded the light from suspicious eyes, but I knew I didn’t have to worry too much about my family’s disapproval. It was already normal for me to camp out in the living room as I did it all the time, and for some reason my parents were perfectly fine with my plan to play this god-forsaken game until midnight, which was the latest I’ve ever stayed awake until that point. I remember almost being happy that day, as if I knew deep in my heart that the bondage which the game placed me in would soon be lifted, and I would be free to continue on with my life. I was saddened, but nonetheless prepared to say my last goodbyes. As for the day itself, it passed normally; the table and chair greeted me as per usual. The afternoon eventually gave way to the evening, which quickly slinked away and was replaced with the night’s dark, foreboding face. It was time to carry out my plan. I quickly set up camp; hands and bed sheets flew as I created a suitable environment for me to play the game until its final breath. The inside of the plastic tent was like a cocoon, and warmth enveloped me as I experienced the game’s death throes. The mods and developers put on one last show, spawning dinosaurs, mammoths, and rideable horses. They gifted everyone sleek jetpacks, a rarity in the virtual world. My eyes filled with tears as I clicked and dragged it onto my equipment slot. I thought it would be cool to fly straight up into the never-ending firmament and gaze into the sunset’s abyss. Others followed my example; it was a haunting sight. At that point in time, they were experiencing the same moment that I was. We were all faces behind a screen, all staring in unison into the sunset in the game we all loved. No matter how cynical or critical of the game I could be, that single moment gives me deep nostalgia and almost sadness, for it serves as a bleak reminder that everyone will eventually leave all things behind, and only faint memories will follow us into oblivion. I released the spacebar, sending my character crashing down to earth. Only five minutes remained in the game’s life. The tone in the virtual atmosphere was somber, but people wisely tried to suck the marrow out of the game whose death was rapidly approaching. They summoned their pets, cast spells, and screamed curses in creative ways to escape the built-in, kid-safe chat box. I could easily tell the adults from the children. The latter were complaining about awful developers, whining about all their soon to be lost progress, and crying about the game’s death. These types were few in number, and were quickly met with either harsh words or comforting ones. The former group became nostalgic, detailing past adventures and exploits to groups of people that were hungry for their stories. None of them seemed sad. Though common to me now, this reaction and attitude towards loss was rare and foreign to me then. A fairly huge part of the community’s lives at the time was about to be abruptly ended, but the more mature and experienced members greeted it with happiness and nostalgia, not sadness or despair. I decided to follow their example. One final time I looked around at the world filled with characters whose owners were behind screens, and whose faces were being illuminated by the indifferent blue tinted light, just like I was. The clock struck twelve, the vibrant screen was replaced with bleak whiteness, and a message appeared in the center. It began with “Sorry.” I clicked out, reopened the game, then stared blankly at the empty, white screen. Indeed, the game that held my nearly unwavering attention for so long was now dead and gone. I close the laptop, stunned, then shook my head and smiled. With drooping and tired eyes, I laid down and went to bed. My mental captivity was over, but just for now.