For Jared Tourse who got saved at 17, substituting the video game Call of Duty for pot-smoking was a no-brainer way to fill his down time and NOT backslide into drugs.
But what started innocuously enough – even appearing to be a healthy hobby – turned sinister a few years later when he got kicked out of college for poor grades in Cal Poly Pomona’s engineering program.
“That was a wakeup call,” Jared says. “I was throwing away the maturity and responsibility part of life. I was a boy. I liked being a boy even though I was in my 20s.”
For Jared, as for many American young men, video-gaming became an addiction, uncannily similar to drugs. He played obsessively from 9:00 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. while his life floated downriver without achieving anything notable.
He was still a junkie, a video game junkie.
Today, Jared has kicked the habit. He is married, has four kids and pastors a church in Victorville, California. How he exorcized the bewitchment of video games from his life is a story that starts with a pair of lovely brown eyes.
When Karina walked into the church, Jared was mesmerized. He waited for nine months before asking her on a date. As they got to know each other, it became obvious that Karina was his soulmate.
Jared gave her a promise ring and, after months, started looking for an engagement ring.
Somehow, Karina got wind of it – and she gave him an ultimatum: “I’m not going to marry someone who sits on their butt and plays video games all day,” she told him. “If you’re serious about this, you need to sell your Xbox.”
Her words were piercing, confrontative but also lovingly truthful.
Ever since Call of Duty distracted him from the call to engineering, Jared was binge-playing.
He worked a “bum job” delivering Chinese food from 4:00 to 9:00 p.m. He munched free egg rolls and sipped Chinese tea between deliveries. His tips covered his energy drinks, a bag of Doritos and the Xbox live card for each night’s activity.
“I was content,” he says. “I was saved and serving God in some capacity, but I floated in life. When I got off work, that’s when my day started. I played video games at night every day until I heard my mom wake up and go to work at 5:30 a.m.
“I was respected on Call of Duty,” he adds.
He was close to earning the coveted Golden Dragunov in-game sniper rifle that Call of Duty awards to gamers for 150 headshots.
“When you’re in the video game world, you feel you’re becoming something,” he says. “You feel like you’re getting better. It feeds that desire to be the best that men have. But it’s in an unproductive way. Because when you step away from that, you still have the bum job and do the things of God only half-hearted because you’re really just wanting to feed your flesh.”
The first wake-up call was getting kicked out of college: “Jared, you’re an idiot,” he told himself at the time. “Instead of studying for finals, you stayed up late playing Call of Duty.”
But instead of reforming his ways, he now turned himself headlong over to video games. He had nothing to live for, so he went all-in on Call of Duty.
Then he met Karina. This was his second wake-up call. As stinging as her rebuke might have seemed, she was right. She wanted to marry a grown-up man, not a boy in a man’s body who had put off maturing.
So Jared sold his Xbox. He promised his girl to return to college, which he did, graduating with a math degree and getting a teaching credential. Today, he teaches at a charter school in San Bernardino County’s “High Desert” area.
In 2012, he married. In 2015, he got his bachelor’s degree. In 2020, he was ordained a pastor and launched a start-up church in Victorville, California.
“The real-life challenge of becoming a man, becoming a husband and providing for a family, I had to cross that bridge,” he says.
As with any addiction, the temptation to fall back into the habit and game away 12 hours is always there. But shouldering the responsibilities of manhood helps him resist the temptation to buy a new Xbox.
“I accepted the burden of manhood, of being responsible, being a husband, being a man of God, being a father, that kills it,’ Jared says. “The root of it is selfishness. You want to be somebody in your own eyes and have others look up to that in the gaming world. Self-sacrificing fights that. I have to change diapers, I have to go to work, being actually productive in things that matter.”
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About this writer: Michael Ashcraft is a financial professional in California.