If you know me, then you probably know this story. In fact, maybe you know this story anyways.
It starts innocently enough, the way any high school story does: Girl meets Boy. Girl and Boy become friends. And then things get weird.
Girl shows up at Boy’s door. Boy’s mom invites Girl into house. Boy’s mom tells Girl, ‘We need to talk’. Girl freaks out, because well, parents freak her out. Through tears, Boy’s mom explains that Boy has been struggling with a World of Warcraft (WoW) addiction for the last four years of his life and asks girl if, pretty please, will she attend boy’s intervention. Wait — what?
I actually almost laughed at Dillon’s mom when she first told me about her son’s addiction (come on, like really, WoW!) but then I realized she was being completely serious. The more she explained, the more it made sense too.
Apparently Dillon started playing WoW in the ninth grade, and the addiction had been slowly worsening ever since — senior year had not been an exception.
Senior spring, Dillon’s GPA plummeted, as well as his personal hygiene. He didn’t sleep anymore, which caused him to get in a car crash — totaling a new BMW. At school, he played WoW on his iPhone under the desk instead of paying attention. He had even gone as far as to steal his parent’s credit card to reactivate his subscription after they had deactivated it. When his parents took away his computer, Dillon stopped communicating with them via any channel but sticky notes.
Dillon’s mom explained that as soon as school ended, Dillon had left home to go live with his grandparents, missing out on all of our graduation events, because his grandparents did not believe his gaming was a problem.
“He didn’t even apply for college,” Dillon’s mom said, as she filled a glass of water for me on that summer afternoon, “His father and I had to fill out his application for the University of Idaho, and even then, we are afraid that they will revoke his acceptance considering he almost failed every single one of his second semester classes.”
Now maybe this wouldn’t be so shocking for many second semester high school seniors, but Dillon had the held the class valedictorian spot as long as I had known him. He was that kid who on top of getting perfect grades, also was a member of the Varsity soccer team, the basketball team, the debate team and like five other school clubs. He was incredibly outspoken, and had a goofy, distinctive laugh that could be heard coming out of any given classroom throughout the school day.
In fact, like I said, I was in such disbelief that he was addicted to anything, let alone WoW, that I almost laughed in the poor woman’s face. This, I believed, was something out of a Southpark episode, and not something that happened to real people in real life. Which is why, at first, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with the intervention.
Put on the spot, the only response that I could offer Dillion’s mom was a mumbled “I’ll think about it” before promptly doing what any other pre-Hopkins kid would have done with this strange, new information — going home to conduct extensive internet research on the subject.
A quick Google-search yields extensive results for the phrase “WoW addiction.” Though among these exist a fair number of spoofs, there is almost an equally substantial amount of more serious information concerning the subject — it’s actually an interesting subject, and I would highly recommend further research if you are curious.
Though at the end of the day, it was not statistics or news stories or even the tearful words of Dillon’s mother that convinced me to participate in Dillon’s intervention. Rather, it was my own interactions with Dillon himself that forced me to see the extent of his problem.
Shortly after his mother’s confession, I drove out to Dillon’s grandparents house to see him. He opened the door — and I saw that since school had ended, something strange had happened to Dillon. His hair was overgrown, his eyes were blood-shot and his pale skin seemed unfitting for the warm June weather.
I remember us sitting outside on an old pair of swings in his grandparents’ yard.
“Don’t you feel bad about your parents?” I asked him.
““I don’t care about people,” he said.
“That’s such a lie,” I said.
“People are just a game,” he said, “I can make anyone say anything I want if I try.”
He must have sensed how completely appalling I found his comment because he added, “You’re harder than most though — that’s why I keep you around.”
To this day, that conversation still bothers me. His addiction, it seemed, had distorted his sense of reality.
A few weeks later, I would write about that conversation in a “love letter” to Dillon. When you have an intervention, you write a “Love Letter” to the person, to explain to them why you care about them and how much it means to you for them to get better. The idea is that the letter acts like a sort of script and prevents people from getting too angry or raising their voices. You are supposed to stop talking once your letter is done.
Out of respect for Dillon’s family and even Dillon himself, I will spare you the gory details of the intervention. Suffice to say, two hours after the set time of the intervention — Dillon’s packed bag, as well as one of the flip-flops that he had been wearing earlier that day, remained. Dillon did not.
I, along with the rest of those in attendance, read my “love letter” into a video camera, hoping that someday Dillon would see it — as far as I am aware, he still has not.
Despite the interventionalist’s insistence that we cut off all communication with Dillon after the intervention, I did make several attempts to contact him before leaving for college, only to be told, rather adamantly, by his grandparents that Dillon wished to never see me again.
By a strange twist of fate, I happened to know Dillon’s college roommates. I often catch up with them on breaks, and usually I will ask how Dillon is — is he still gaming? The response has never surprised me — he’s doing great, getting straight A’s and, yeah, he’s still gaming.
I don’t exactly think about Dillon a lot anymore, but a week and a half ago marked his 21st birthday and, briefly, I wished, that someday, he will be able to experience something real.