I'll sleep when I'm Dead...

I'll sleep when I'm dead... my credo... my motto... my downfall

Friday, July 9, 2010

How Gran Turismo ruined my life - Part 3


And now the conclusion....

My first son was born on July 9th, 2001. It was the proudest moment of my life. My wife and I spent the night in the hospital, all the family patiently waiting for the new arrival. It was truly a joyous occasion, but I couldn't help counting down the clock until I could get my chance. I'd run out for food soon. "Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec" was being released the very next day and I decided I was getting a Playstation 2 and GT3 to help pass the time while taking an extended vacation to enjoy the first few weeks of the birth of my first born son. That and GT3. This was truly going to be a great summer!

Like a moth to the flame, as it always does, the cycle repeated and this time my falling off of the wagon was harder on everyone around me. It was so bad at one point, I resorted to wrapping a rubber band around a PS2 controller to hold the steering stick against the wall on the Speed track. Added a second rubber band to hold the "X" down and set up the Escudo Pikes Peak to run endless laps while I wasn't home. The money kept coming in and the cars were building up, but I was shutting down. Taking a step closer to the bottom of that downward spiral all over again. This time, seeing my pain, a friend stepped in and "borrowed" the game while I was working out of town. I returned home needing a fix only to find an empty amray case and a dusty PS2. Outrage turned to remorse... turned to guilt. How had I let myself fall so far? For a third time no less?

The years flew by and all was right in the world. My addiction was in check, my urges suppressed and my calluses smoothed from inactivity. Then I saw the poster at the department store, "Gran Turismo 4 - The Real Driving Simulator". I ignored it as best I could, relentless as it was. It seemed I couldn't avoid it. Everywhere I turned there was mention of the game. I resorted to bottling up my emotions deep inside and dwelling in my own private nightmare.

Apparently, I succeeded in hiding my dismay and anxiety so well that on Valentine's Day, 2005, my wife surprised me with a gift. A pre-ordered "Gran Turismo 4" and a brand new Driving Force Pro Steering Wheel and Pedal Set complete wiith Lap Block and Table Lock. At first I was afraid. I was petrified. I could smell the fabric softener percolating down the hall from the warm blanket in the dryer. I could hear the pot on the stove whistling with hot water ready to drown the cocoa into a steaming cup of sunshine... What the hell? You only live once, right?

By this time, my wife was pregnant with our second child, another boy. My oldest was now three and very much interested in cars and video games. Although not able to fully enjoy himself, he did admire from the passenger's seat. I spent the next six months trying to distance myself from the game and the accompanying accouterments. I would play with friends and to appease my toddler, but I refrained from experiencing the full rush for myself. Eventually the game stayed on the shelf and the Steering Wheel rested in the cabinet, deep in hibernation.

November rolled around and winter hit. It was the worst winter southern Ohio had seen in years. By the first weekend in December, we were snowed in. A brand new baby boy, a four year old monster on the loose, an exhausted wife and I, the patriarch and protector of the house... stuck behind closed doors for nearly two weeks.

By day three, the PS2 was humming along at breakneck speed. The Driving Force Pro Steering Wheel was receiving textbook damage assessments from a top level consumer. My Nissan GT-R Proto was nearing it's 100,000 mile service and the Blastolene Special was looking spiffy resting in the corner of my garage.

Apparently the birth of my children had finally tamed my tunnel vision. I was determined to make it through the holidays, successfully juggling family, friends, work, sleep and virtual racing in the world of GT. I was able to teach my oldest (the previously mentioned monster on the loose) how to handle a few cars and was even able to coach him through a few victories over his mother. I'd finally conquered the addiction and made it my bitch! The overwhelming feeling of satisfaction was heartwarming to say the least. The game quickly became a family favorite and I was able to enjoy racing GT while spending time with those I loved most.

Over the next two years, "Gran Turismo 4" made weekly appearances, first in the PS2, then later in the PS3. Unfortunately, during a power outage three days before Christmas 2007, the PS3 went down for the count. This was actually our second PS3, the previous system fell casualty to a botched load of "Warhawk" soon after purchase. Replacing the PS3 wasn't the problem. The issue was that the new system was no longer backward compatible. Much to our disappointment, "Gran Turismo" could no longer grace our LCD.

We were only without for a couple of months it seemed. By spring, "Gran Turismo 5 Prologue" had a new permanent resting place snuggled between the plastic casing and optical lens of our PS3. My son (now seven years old) and I were deep into stage two of the Gran Turismo cycle ("obsession" for those keeping track). This time however, there were two of us fighting over TV time. The arguments didn't last long because I was kept in check by watching my son slowly slide over the line into dependency. Parenting instincts kicked in. I'd seen my own addiction and the problems it had caused... I would not allow my son to travel down the same dangerous road. After a family meeting, we were able to establish an appropriate schedule for homework, family time and game play. Life returned to normal... for my son.

It's been over two years and "GT5 Prologue" still spends fair time vying for the attention of both of my boys and their father. We've all been able to maintain our composure and keep the monkey off of our backs. Knowing that the addiction is hereditary, and in essence, a "disease" allows us to make the most of the time we spend in the driver's seat. Right now my PSP lives in my back pocket ready to be busted loose when the bathroom stall door closes or the wife gives me a second of peace while she leaves me in the car with the windows cracked... Every day is a struggle. Every day another small victory. We're taking it one lap at a time…. until November 2nd, 2010 when the gates of hell open up once again and invite me to a lap around the High Speed Ring spiraling into my own personal abyss.

2 comments:

  1. How can someone get addicted to a video game? Sex would be one thing, but a video game is something beyond me.

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  2. This is great... BLESSINGS to you & your Family! This game by far is one of the most addictive & a powerful agent of the devil when in search of idle hands. I'm often led to wonder how much I could have really accomplished in a day after hours pass & then play through the night. I feel your pain. My life is far beyond ruin & PS3 has a firm grip on my pineal gland making facebook its bitch. Prepare yourself, PS4 is COMING!

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