Game Therapy: Dragon Age II, More to Unpack from Part 2

I feel like I need to reiterate that in Game Therapy posts, I’m processing my reactions to content included in the game and the insights I can glean from the world I build around the game. It’s usually been easier for me to be honest about my struggles when I don’t even perceive them as mine, but as my avatar’s. I live vicariously through my protagonists, but I always need to insert some of myself back into them. It usually isn’t deliberate, and I think that I’m able to be more honest because it’s subconscious.

That’s what makes it valuable to examine my characters. That’s also what makes it difficult.

4. Responsibility Comes First and 5. Pushing Past Exhaustion:

I don’t want to write this. What can I say? Yes, I will push myself into an emotional meatgrinder if I think it will keep someone I love from feeling even a pinch? Yes. I have done that, still do that, will probably keep doing that. Why?

Because I don’t matter.

How can I still be stuck on this?! I have been wrestling this same monster forever! I thought I had made some progress along the way. Why do I still shudder inside when I even think about this issue?! WHY?!?  😩

😔 It’s just so depressing to feel like I’m not making any progress. I feel like that guy who was sentenced to push a boulder up a mountain for all eternity… Let me look up his name. Sisyphus. My Greek mythology is rusty these days; sorry. Broad strokes: Sisyphus pushes a boulder up the mountain, but it rolls right down the other side. He isn’t allowed to stop until the boulder rests atop the mountain, which is impossible, so Sisyphus travels to the Boulder and begins again. The same thing happens again and it will continue to happen for eternity. He will never ever succeed.

That’s how I feel. 

Like I will just keep sacrificing my happiness and wellbeing for the sake of others (4). Like I will just keep running myself ragged in an attempt to meet people’s expectations of me (5). Like I will never ever be comfortable enough with who I am to just stop. To rest and maybe even enjoy who I am.

I really want to make it one day. To balance the boulder at the top- maybe even to build it some sort of pedestal to hold it in place- and to be done fighting every day. Or even to just ignore the mandate all together and see if I can choose my own path without the universe unraveling.

One day.


Act 5- The Meltdown

Three days ago, we were fighting a war, and I decided to spend some gems on a battle. Gems are the premium currency- the ones that you spend money to purchase or earn for free by watching ads. For weeks, I have been watching ads to earn gems, and I usually spend them on upgrading my base or opening chests to get gear. Sometimes, I spend them on guild events, if I feel like it.

I was fine with that.

But then, I looked in guild chat, and saw that one of our members had asked me to spend gems on the fight and thanked me for doing so. And I was pissed. Because this guild member tried to get us to kick half of the guild, felt very entitled to promotions, is very elitist and arrogant, brags about his real life, and has been kicked from the guild once already for his behavior. (He got back in because our leader wanted to give him another chance, and she has since returned his promotion.)

No one has a right to insist that someone else spends money on an app. Ever.

No one has a right to demand that someone else sacrifice so that he might have better rewards. Ever.

Selfish little child. (I also know the user’s age, which is one of those things that shouldn’t be shared online.) So I know that he is young enough to be egocentric and too young for me to listen to, even were he in any type of authority over me. Still, it’s mostly the attitude that determines my lack of respect.

I was upset and hurt. I lashed out in guild chat- told him he has no right to boss me around and that I can choose what to spend my time and money on. I logged off. I deleted Line. I cried with my husband. I went to sleep.

Act 4- Violation

Remember my rules? Along the way, my list had changed a bit, according to my level of involvement. Here’s an updated version:

  1. Don’t spend money on the game.
  2. Don’t join a guild.
  3. Don’t install Line.
  4. Don’t take the game to bed with you.
  5. Don’t play while your husband is home– spend time with him.

As you can see, I downloaded Line. The guild master wanted us to add the app, and since I was 2nd in command and Guild Champion by now, I added it against my will in order to uphold the guild rules. Text messages and sticker spam bothered me so frequently that I had to keep my phone on silent, which meant that I missed messages and calls from friends and family as well.

I had started bringing my phone to bed with me, to play before I fell asleep or when I awoke in the middle of the night. I knew it was unhealthy, but I rationalized it fairly well. I didn’t play in bed every night, and using all my energy could provide a sense of closure at the end of my day.

Once we started to get serious about events, I couldn’t avoid playing during my husband’s off hours any longer. But fighting 4 battles doesn’t take more than a few minutes, so I could participate in raids and wars easily without upsetting our rhythm much. And there is down time in a marriage, so I only played during these moments, not during time we were spending together, so I only partially broke this one.

I did things that I did not want to do, because I felt they were beneficial to the guild as a whole. I violated my principles and myself to strengthen the guild, but I have low self esteem, so I don’t really take that kind of thing very seriously.

Small things happened during this time, rule changes and players being kicked spontaneously for little reason at all, and I grew uncomfortable, but I could bear it… At least for a while.

Act 2- Blurring the Lines

As I mentioned, a guild invite arrived one day, and I had sworn not to join a guild. I could have deleted it, but I didn’t. It’s like having your heart broken and swearing never to let anyone close again; you are protected from the pain, but you also miss out on the joy too. Overall, it can be an immature response.

So I did some research. The top tier guilds all used a chat app to communicate- it’s called Line and it’s available here. The app allows free texts and calls, and it really increases the permeation of KnD into a player’s real life. Battle updates during business meetings,  raid reminders while running errands. No room left for down time once it’s installed.

So I added a rule for myself: I will not install Line. I want to maintain work and life balance.

The guild that invited me was a poorly organized, noob guild. No requirements for members, line wasn’t necessary, and they had no chance of making it to the top tiers. It looked safe; it really did.

  1. Don’t spend real money.
  2. Don’t join a guild.
  3. Don’t install Line.

I joined them. I chose to try again. I started connecting to the guild, doing my part, working for the team. Some of the guild rules bothered me- mandatory gold donations, for example- but I thought that things would be fine, or that maybe I could leave later if things didn’t work out. I crossed a line, and I justified it.

But then, the guild master stopped logging in every day, and he wasn’t participating in guild wars or raids, just taking rewards. It grew uncomfortable, and I was pretty ready to leave.

One day shortly thereafter, I got the chance.

Act 1- Infatuation

Ten weeks ago, I found a new mobile RPG, Knights and Dragons. (Dragons are very popular in these games, I suppose.) Here is the  Facebook page for the game, if you’re curious.

Again, I liked the art style, and it looked casual, interesting, and fun. I started playing, but because of my time with LoD, I made two promises to myself: I will not spend money on this game, and I will not join a guild. I wasn’t going to be hurt like that again.

Things were pretty great- I enjoyed playing solo, even if some challenges, like Ghede, my first epic boss (pictured above), were too strong for me. It was good to grow and learn, and I adapted well. I searched for a friend code list and added some people. I explored and found new monsters.

I played frequently to get the most from the game. I leveled up. I did quests. I found new armors. I grew stronger. I enjoyed playing. Things were going well.

And then the invite came.

Fast Loyalty

One of the things that I have done routinely is commit to things very quickly, whether it’s a boyfriend, a job, a college major, or, in this case, a guild in an online game. I like being on a team, contributing to something bigger than myself, and giving my all to things and people. I’m an “all in” type of person, and I always have been.

Normally, this is fine… Well, wait. Actually, most of the time, it doesn’t really work out well for me in the long run. Friendships aren’t always as deep as you think they’ll be, boyfriends/girlfriends don’t have to love you like you love them, employers don’t need to care about the work you do, and team members don’t often play the game just like you do. It’s been pretty rare for me to find friends who form genuine, deep relationships; this marriage is my first relationship where both of us can really be hurt or comforted reciprocally; I’ve never had a guild that I could really support fully.

Wow. I… I started this entry with the belief that things normally went well for me when I trusted others. It’s a little hard to know what to say now.

I guess that I’ll just present the issue as a story, bring in the players as they appear, and walk you through the journey piece by piece. That will give you the chance to catch up and it might help me to get the pieces sorted out.

Sharing the Spotlight, Part 1

My husband is actively pursuing opportunities and training that will equip him to develop new skills and strengthen his existing abilities. This is admirable. And I don’t like it.

Why? Didn’t I just say that it was good? Why would I dislike something like that? Those are valid questions and legitimate signs of underlying issues.

*sigh* It’s pretty simple, at the core, but very difficult to deal with. Remember the success that I had as a child? I did very well in school, and because it was the predominant ranked activity of my youth, academics became an analogy for performance in other areas of my life: everyone has some degree of ability in the area, it is beneficial and necessary to rank individuals according to their ability levels, ability = performance, and so on. This may seem innocuous, but assumptions like that become dangerous quickly. I’ll unpack a few of these assumptions while I try to come to terms with the underlying issues that make me uncomfortable with my husband’s success.

1. Everyone has some degree of ability in the area.
This assumption comes from the mandates placed on students within educational systems- everyone has the ability to learn to read or to do basic arithmetic, for example. We teach these skills to everyone, because everyone is capable of learning them if they simply try hard enough. It was this kind of logic that won me attention during events like spelling bees, but this logic also justified coaches and gym teachers in telling me that I was capable of running a 4 minute mile or consistently hitting a softball (neither of which I have ever achieved).

Pushing everyone into a rigid mold in the hopes of making us “well-rounded” does not guarantee results. My body type is well suited for strength-based activities: I loved the weight room and routinely leg-pressed 550 lbs. (As an aside, 730 was my max, but it was an unsafe weight. 550 lbs allowed me to do 2-3 sets of 15 reps per day.) I am not made for speed or coordination, and I have repeatedly preformed below average in both types of activity. No matter how hard I tried, I could not line up my bat with a ball or throw a basketball into a hoop. No matter how much I improved, my running speed plateaued and refused to climb any further. I could not reach the standards being set for me.

So what does that have to do with the issue at hand? Well, regardless of whether I do or not, I feel like I should have some real competence in the areas that my husband is developing in. I should be good at them, and I should keep up with him, and I should be the best at everything ever. Because that will make me valuable.

Stupid, huh?