This topic got me thinking last night. My situation with computer gaming is rare, but did lead to a lot of issues in the marriage. So here’s my story:
I’ve always been a gamer. After getting married, the online gaming scene started to explode. I’d been a casual player (a few nights a week), and I was very, very good. I started into the clan scene to play with other players and get a bit more competitive. Eventually, this got me noticed by a top rated gaming clan and recruited. This substantially changed my gaming habits.
For the record, being on a "professional" team was like being on a real semi-pro sports team. Practice every night starting at 6:00pm and ending at midnight. Match nights were twice to three times a week, and you scrimmed other teams two times a night. And you were expected to play outside practice to hone individual skills (yes, like map spots, pixel aiming, and techniques). You were expected to review the match video and figure out how to improve for the next match on your own time. Then as a team, we’d adjust the strategy and practice. And I was just a bench warmer. Because of my family commitments, I had difficulty with their schedule, so I lost my spot on the lineup and was only brought in as a "specialist" on certain maps... in WoW terms, that's like being the extra healer for certain boss fights, then replaced when that fight is over.
I made sacrifices with gaming for my family. I refused to get on before 8:30 (after the kids were in bed and my chores done), and demanded Fridays and Saturdays for date nights. Due to that, I warmed the bench (I had the skill, but lacked the commitment): It also meant that I wasn't involved in the LANs, didn't get the new computers, wasn't flown to Europe and Asia for competitions, never saw any of the money winnings (over $100k per year), I wasn’t interviewed by 60minutes, I wasn’t invited to the direct-tv broadcast, and I seldom was mentioned or shown in the web cast matches. I could of been a star, but rode the bench instead so I could spend time with my wife and family. But I never got any respect from my wife at home.
My wife never grasped that she was married to a semi-pro “athlete” heavily involved in the “sport” that just happened to get discovered after we got married. To her, I was a geek, a nerd, a boy who needed to grow up, and some “other” choice names thrown at me. She never watched a match. She never met the other players. She never really understood what it was I was doing. She’d demean me in front of family and friends. Once, during a national championship league match, she even went out of her way to mess me up by covering the screen, unplugging the mouse, etc.. So, there’s several thousand viewers watching me play horribly and my teammates having to listen to us yelling and she’s got no clue; my team replaced me at the end of the round. It’s not like I got to play that much as part of the team and she wrecked it. That was a $5k match plus a new HP Blackbird she threw for me. It was severely embarrassing, but she just didn’t care. There wasn’t an ounce of respect and zero support. Worse, is even though I tried to get her to understand, she wouldn’t listen. What I was doing, she didn’t see as anything more than just playing video games... it’s like messing up a game of solitaire to her. “It’s just a game!”
I resent her for not showing any support, but blame myself for choosing gaming instead of just being a normal husband/father. It was hard on the marriage, particularly because she hated the concept of me doing this. It was extremely cool to be involved that deep in the competitive gaming and watching it evolve from minor online leagues to fully sponsored events where big corporate money was being invested in teams and players. I’m not sorry and still wish she would of understood and been a lot more supportive. It was an exciting time, but hardly something you could make a living off of. Even now, I’m not sure my choices would of been any different other than to try a lot harder to get her to see how this gaming evolved from just entertainment, to a real competitive event. She never, and still doesn’t recognize this as a sport. She made me feel really conflicted about it.
So here I am, one of the top players in the world, who’s well known within that gaming genre by thousands of hopeful players, who’s not even allowed to share any of this with the person I love the most. The team is earning enough that we have to form a corporation and file taxes, magazines are writing about us, we have fans, we’re wined and dined by the computer industry, yet at home I’m being made fun of. So it’s both a massive ego boost, and something I’m made to feel ashamed of.
Even though I’ve retired, she still blames that period for everything wrong with us: It is all my fault, it was an “addiction”, it was an “obsession”, I neglected her, I wasn’t supportive, I was a bad father, etc. For me, It’s something I was proud of, I treasure it more than I do my car racing trophies (another hobby I had to quit), I still try and keep in contact with the guys I played with, I treasure the memories, but there’s still a part of me that’s torn and ashamed of this time. So how am I supposed to view this period of my life? Is it a personal treasure most never experience, or is it something I should hide in the closet and be embarrassed about?