Did you know I used to be a billionaire, amassing a massive fortune in a short amount of time, staying up until all hours of the night to do so, and at the same time forging a series of connections with other billionaires that helped us all get even richer? And I did it all from the comfort of my own desk chair.
I used to play YoVille all day every day. Back in 2009 that was my world more than this world was. Indeed, the first thing I did every morning was sign into Facebook so I could open my YoStore or go into a YoAuction House, even though my time was limited. Then it was off to real work, but I would be thinking all day about what was going on in YoVille without me. As soon as I got back home I would log back in and operate my YoVille avatar until deep into the night, way past the time I was supposed to be asleep.
I lived in a haze back then brought about by a massive addiction to a virtual world. And it started innocently enough when I saw a small ad on the side of my Facebook page. Then I began getting requests from friends to help them out in this place called YoVille. I had heard of people getting addicted to FarmVille, but YoVille seemed to hold more promise for me. So I clicked on the link and there was no looking back.
At first I just wandered around the random YoVille town, talking to other people’s avatars and working at the factory to make a little money to live on. After a while I amassed enough to buy some goods and furniture at the store to spruce up my place so I could invite others over. That’s when I should have realized it was only going to be an avalanche from there. Back then I only went on every few hours to work at the factory, to buy a couple of items, and then log off again. Before long, though, I got hooked on the conversations with others I would come across in the streets of the YoCity.
I started visiting their apartments and houses before too long, and they became the friends to me that I didn’t have on the outside world (or what we called “IRL”). I exchanged phone numbers and Facebook information with them, talking to them on the phone while simultaneously moving through YoVille, and we began creating enterprises and finding ways to get richer and better at the game. At one point there were eight of us who were all richer than God. We would visit auctions and win all manner of items by pooling money, then reselling the items for ridiculous amounts of money.
It got to a point where I decided to open up my own store to compete with the YoVille store. I would get my goods from other players, from auctions, or from the store itself, then resell the items at a discount in my own store (that I conveniently called “Sam’s Store”), setting up sales and making even more connections with other residents. It fascinated me the interplay, and I made constant comparisons between the me represented by my YoVille avatar and the real me.
If I could get pale I honestly would have during those six solid months I was a relative slave to the game, eschewing the great outdoors for a world where even someone like me could be king and time spent online equated to massive earnings. I didn’t write at all back then apart from the conversations in virtual apartments, in virtual auction houses, and in my own virtual store. But those connections were intense, pushed along quickly by the easy nature of talking to others with a screen in-between you. Those people became closer to me than my own family at that point, which should have scared me, but it didn’t because back then it seemed quite natural.
By the time I started waking up in the middle of the night with new ideas to maximize store sales I knew I was in too deep (to quote a Genesis lyric) and I knew I was going to have to pull back. So I went cold turkey, just like that, after more than six months of nonstop YoVille obsession. That very morning I simply didn’t go there in the morning, and I didn’t return there after work. I did normal things like read books, like write in my journal, like talk to people I actually knew IRL, and it was a breath of fresh air. Yes, I was still a struggling teacher instead of a YoVille billionaire, but that wasn’t real, and this was. I had to honestly force myself not to go back there, but it was definitely worth the struggle.
I went outside that first night with my folding chair and set up on the lawn with a good book and my sunglasses. It was simple, but it was real. Right then I vowed never to get caught up again with something that was only virtual, and I think if I did go back to YoVille now I would see that my store is now in ruins, that someone else has come in and done a better job than I ever could have, but that’s their obsession now. And I’m free.