How Video Games Changed My Life
// Submitted @ 8:51 AM on 08.26.2009
I have never, ever been a particularly good student, at least not as far as grades go. In my freshman year of high school, I failed my trigonometry/precalculus course and had to retake it the next year. Mind you, in my school trigonometry/precalculus is generally taken by sophomores or juniors, so I didn't really feel too bad about that. Later, in my senior year, I struggled with my English class. My teacher was obsessed with assigning us long-term projects, which I've never been good at. I actually flunked last year because of that class, and this Monday I'm starting my second senior year via cyber school. The day I found out that I would not be graduating with all the people I had come to know over the past four years was easily the worst day of my life so far. It was definitely worse than when I found out my parents were separating, or when I found out my mom was a lesbian, or when my beloved great-grandfather died.
Let me get one thing straight: I'm no idiot, by any means. I was taking a math course two years ahead of the rest of my classmates. I took extra science courses, practically acing my AP Physics class, despite the fact I was the youngest person in that class. I have always been in the gifted classes. When I was in seventh grade, I took the SAT (before they added the stupid writing portion) and got a combined score of 1160. I got ninth place in the Patriot News regional Spelling Bee in eighth grade. In the summer between seventh and eighth grade I took a college level course on ancient Greek language via Johns Hopkins University's CTY program. The last time I got an IQ test, my score was 146. When I was in elementary school, I wanted to grow up to become a nuclear physicist. I was always the guy everybody asked to help them with their homework and whose test scores nobody was interested in knowing. My most recent SAT score was 2180: 780 math, 700 reading, 700 writing.
But I have ADHD, and have always had problems with remembering to do homework and focusing on long-term projects. I also have problems writing essays because they tend to lose logical structure about halfway through. I quickly forget what I set out to prove or say. My thoughts flow rapidly between random ideas with no logical pattern. I have taken medication for it for years, but it never seems to help with my main problems. I still don't have my driver's license because for over a year I was afraid that I would not be able to focus well enough to drive.
There are precious few things that allow me to think coherently. The first of these that I discovered was reading books. I loved to read because it was really the only time the cacophony inside my head would stop and let me focus on something. I actually got so involved with books that I would completely forget the world around me. When I got older, I noticed video games had the same effect, and just last year I found that computer programming does the same thing. Television and movies never quite cut it with me. They never seemed to be able to challenge my brain the way reading or playing video games did.
My brother, Ross, is about a year and a half my junior and has also been diagnosed with ADHD. However, he seems to exhibit none of the same symptoms as me. He's loud, obnoxious, hyperactive, and an idiot. He's never had quite as much trouble in school as I have. My thoughts need to pass through some heavy filters before they leave my mouth; he blurts out whatever he is thinking, and often says stupid, inane things simply to hear the sound of his voice. He tends to giggle uncontrollably and annoyingly at things that are only slightly funny. In short, I was much more mature than him at his age. He sucks at video games, but still demands to play them all the time, and when I tell him that I want to play a single player game he hangs around and tries to intentionally aggravate me into letting him play. The worst part about when he is around is that I can never focus on the game I'm playing very well because he's trying to be silly by walking weird and making irritating clicking noises with his mouth.
I have always been a bit of a loner, an outcast. I never really minded that I didn't have many friends in school because, to be honest, I didn't like many people at my school. Everybody was always telling me how smart I was when I would solve a problem for them, and I'd think in my head that they were idiots for not being able to see the solution. I know that they aren't actually idiots, they're just average, but humans tend to gauge others by comparing them to themselves, and I still have trouble breaking that habit. I always felt that my life was empty, though, until I got my Xbox 360 and discovered the wonders of console gaming. Now I have some goals in life. They're not good ones, but at least they exist.
Finally, I come to both the best and worst effect that video games has had on me: causing me to hyperfocus on them. I love video games because I can forget the world around me when I play them, and can think rationally and in an organized manner. I have something to think about when I'm at school. Last year, my parents told me they were getting a divorce, and I kind of retreated into my games. The problem was that, between gaming and my parents' divorce, I really couldn't focus on school projects or homework, and so my grades kept going down and down until I got the phone call that said I wouldn't be graduating.
This year I really fucking hope I do better with cyber school.