FROM READERS: Columbia man to take back 506 days of video gaming with bicycle trip

Sunday, February 3, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST

Michael Marberry is taking his life back after five years of non-stop gaming. You can follow his blog about the process of doing so here.

My name is Michael, and I am 20 years old. I live in Columbia, and have been here for almost eight years. A few years ago, I was introduced to the online game “World of Warcraft." I immediately became enthralled by it, and spent a total of 506 days playing. Not hours, but literal days. In the interim I was unable to function outside of that world. My life literally centered around that game. I was unable to keep a very good paying job as a result of that addiction, and was ultimately fired. I could not tear myself away from my obsession to that game to find gainful employment elsewhere. I sold a lot of my belongings to pay for my monthly subscription, as well as money that was gifted to me for birthdays and holidays. 

Relationships with my family members suffered as I sequestered myself away in my room for days on end. My circle of friends consisted only of other members of my online ‘guild.’ I would go to sleep having set an alarm to wake up at certain times for the ever-important raids. If I left the house for any reason I had a constant fear of not being able to return home in time to be online for a game. This is not to say that I did not make time for other things. I celebrated holidays with my family, I went to dinners, for walks…but that game had a very strong hold on my life. 

A few weeks ago, something caused me to take pause in regard to my circumstances. I looked back over my gaming account and saw that I had logged 506 days playing the game, and the pain of realizing how much time I had lost and how much of myself I had sacrificed led me to the only possible solution. I had to stop. Immediately. I closed my W.O.W. account, and even sold my computer. I knew that if I didn’t take drastic measures that I would easily fall victim to the same patterns. 

I thought long and hard about my life. I realized that 506 days is a very long time. I had been doing anything but actually living. I decided in that moment that I needed to do something big. Something that would be such a contrast to the life I had been living up until this point. I decided to go on a sort of pilgrimage: a journey that would allow me to become more mindful about my life and an opportunity for me to learn who I am and what I am all about.

Some friends of mine invited me on an “epic road trip” to San Clemente, CA in June. I knew I wanted to go, but I knew I needed to become more than I had allowed myself to be while on the way. It was then that I decided that I would meet my friends in San Clemente in June, after I made my way there step by step. Literally.

I made a blog about my intentions. I posted the blog on my Facebook page. It wasn’t long before a friend of mine from Nashville, TN contacted me. This was a friend I had made on W.O.W a few years ago. He has since stopped playing the game as well. He offered to take the journey with me if I would consider doing it on bicycle. I agreed. I am using the few hundred dollars I have from selling my computer to try to find a decent bike to ride on my journey. I have been doing odd jobs for family members to raise money for other supplies and essentials. I am determined.

In May my friend and I will depart from Missouri on bicycle, taking the Southern route to San Clemente, CA. I will meet my friends there in June to spend a few days on the beach. During the trip I intend to rough it for the most part. Luxury will not be an option on my budget. I will have a tent, cooking supplies and other necessary items. I joined in hopes of meeting some like-minded people who are willing to let me have a warm shower when I can get one. I don’t want this trip to be easy, I want to feel it. I have received a couple of Walmart gift cards from people in the mail so that I can buy some food and supplies along the way. I don’t know who sent them, likely someone that I know personally. I just want to thank those people for their support. It means a lot to me.

It took me a long time to realize that I was an addict. Addicted to a game. Addicted to no form of reality.

I am looking forward to the things I will see and the people I will meet along the way. I have missed out on a lot, but I plan to take back my 506 days.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising Editor Joy Mayer.

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