Becoming an MMO Player (and an Adult) in My Thirties

There always seems to be one series that I miss at the beginning of the anime season but which I’ll binge near the end after hearing good word of mouth about it. This past season, that anime was Recovery of an MMO Junkie. It was funny and sweet and of course, MAMIKO NOTO. But most of all, I just really spoke to me, both in my gaming experience and in my growing ones.

As I like to mention, I’m not a gamer. Not at all. My kids love games. My dad loves games. My wife loves games. I’d rather do a hundred other things than game, though. That said, I did once get sucked into playing an MMO called Evony. For about a month, I was addicted, not so much by the quality of the game (not good), but because of the people in my guild. There were so many kind people who helped me out, including the clan mother who I remain Facebook friends with ’til this day. I was very much the newbie, like Koiwai, slowing everyone down, and like Morioka, too, finding comfort in the kindness of my guild members.

But MMO Junkie isn’t a show about MMO’s; it’s really about what it means to become an adult. That’s maybe a surprising idea to put forward since Morioka is 30 years old and Sakurai isn’t much younger, but it’s true—they’re learning what it means to be adults when they’re ten years into adulthood. And I totally relate.

Here’s the problem as I see it: for many of us, when we’re 23 or 26 or 29, we’re expected to be expert adults. After all, we’ve been adults for ten years, for many of us, by this time. We graduated high school, made it through college (and maybe grad school), and have been working for several years (or longer if we didn’t attend university). We’ve probably had multiple relationships and might even be married. We should have this adult thing down pat.

But the truth is, many of us are struggling with learning how to adult years after we’re told we’ve become one. Morioka isn’t alone in wanting to quit her job and become a NEET—let’s admit it, that’s the dream for many of us. And like her, not only are we struggling with some of the things we’ve always had trouble with, we’re also having to deal with all the responsibilities that adulthood throws at us. It’s not easy.

Yes, it’s okay to feel this way even if you’re not a teenager anymore.

In fact, I frequently tell college students that preparing for their twenties is like bracing yourself for an automobile accident. Thrown out of your bubble into the real world, given enough money to be dangerous (but not enough to live easy), and expected to march along and live a well-ordered life, the twenties are a stressful, scary, fun, and terrible time. And I think maybe we should, as a society, see them that way—that age is not as much about establishing yourself as an adult, but just fumbling into adulthood with all the mistakes that entails and with an acceptance that you don’t have all the answers, nor are you expected to.

When I turned 18, I didn’t feel like an adult at all. I refused to consider myself one—I had more freedom and more responsibility, sure, but I kept thinking about my own father. I just couldn’t see myself as anything like him, even as a younger version of him that I’d never known. I was still living like a child. Even when I married, I felt the same—it was so awkward spending time with people with kids and mortgages and 401(k)’s. I just wasn’t there yet.

Do you know when I felt I became an adult? It was when I was 27. That was the year I had my first child, and finally, there was something in my life that I had responsibility for and yet had no control over. I failed so many times as a parent, so so so many times, and in my desperation I saw that I needed to finally grow up. And though growing up isn’t necessarily as simple as just doing what needs to be done (if anything, I sometimes feel that I fail more than ever), my mindset changed, my heart changed, and I took an important step forward.

Trying to move past struggle is part of becoming an adult.

In MMO Junkie, our romantic leads are doing the same. Sakurai is the good kid adult, the one that seems perfect and is genuinely kind, but who struggles to form authentic connections. His “growing up” has to do with taking the step forward and both admitting to himself that he needs these real-life relationships and being brave and trying to make lasting connections. Morioka’s “growing up” is about overcoming fear in a variety of ways, including with learning that some people are worthy of your trust, that they’re not all just mean managers and co-workers doing whatever needs to be done to get ahead.

I may not be a gamer like Morioka or Sakurai, but I was just the same as them anyway. I was a twenty-something “playing” at being an adult. I wish I could have told myself then what I know now—becoming an adult isn’t something that happens the day of your 18th birthday. It takes time and effort and pain and life—and that’s okay, because all these things are part of the journey that teaches you what it means to be a grown-up and how you’ll be able to make it as one, fried motherboard, Perma D, MHIL, and all.

You can stream Recovery of an MMO Junkie on Crunchyroll.

10 thoughts on “Becoming an MMO Player (and an Adult) in My Thirties

  1. This is a perspective that doesn’t get shown much, especially in anime, but not exclusive to. I don’t understand, and I can’t – I’m still living the life at 16, which for me now is plenty enough. And now I’m thinking what will I think of myself when I’m 18, or when I’m in college or medical school where I’ll see myself. I’m one to try to haste maturity, but this post made me realize I don’t think I certainly can, and certainly I know I won’t actually understand until it hits me like a car accident. I rarely read this blog despite having it bookmarked and all, yet when I do, I always find something to learn and love.

    Thank you for this post and all you guys do.

    1. Thank you for reading and for your kind words, and also for your humility. I think you hit on a good point—no matter how intelligent we are or what level of maturity we’re at, there are some things that can’t be gained by our own power. We have to experience before we grow in some of the most complicated and important aspects of life. And that’s a-ok. 🙂

  2. Thank you for writing this. Your summation of your feelings of Net-juu was what I was thinking, but struggled to put into coherent words.

    1. Thank you! It took me some time to figure out how to write this as well…this series has a lot to say, but it’s a little difficult, maybe, to explain just what that is!

  3. This feeling never really goes away in some areas of your life – but you learn to accept that there are things you are actually maybe good (or great) at and those are things that people can and will respect you for in a work environment, so you’re the “grown up” for those things. You gain experience and habit at things – from good examples and bad ones – and learn that adult stuff too.

    You will always be the “grown up” for your kids and long may that continue! Though the day the hospital hands you your first child and sends you out the door is a major WTF moment, now I’ve been married 24 years, my daughter is at University and my son is a little younger and it all falls into place, somehow. You do what your parents did – or vow never to do that, or maybe a blend of those two experiences, because nobody is perfect, and you won’t be either.

    My mum, bless her, is now getting dementia and can no longer be the “grown up” for me (my dad passed away last year). Luckily I have my brother and sisters to share that grown up responsibility with but accepting that one is REALLY hard.

    So, no, you won’t ever feel fully “grown up” in the sense of losing your wonder and fun (well I hope you never do!) but when it comes to being the person who takes responsibility, or accepts it when it arrives, well, that comes to us all. And that’s what being “grown up” is really all about.

    1. Thank you for sharing—I have much to look forward to (and to be challenged by) as I continue to learn what it means to be an adult!

    1. “MMO” means “massively multiplayer online game.” It’s a game that supports a ton of players all playing at once. A lot of the online games these days would fit into this category. The characters in this anime are playing an RPG that’s of this style (MMORPG).

  4. You hit the nail on the head, and identified one of the reasons this series was so sweet. There’s a bit of awkwardness between the lead characters that is born out of needing to mature a bit more, and they stumble along together towards becoming more fully true adults. Sometimes I look back on my past and wonder at what point the world was passed from our parents’ generation to our own, and it’s amazing to think there wasn’t a better set of checks to make sure we were ready! (If you want an interesting and relatively short read, check out Dorothy Sayers’ “The Lost Tools of Learning”, in which she argues that we *could* be ready to be adults much earlier in life with a proper education.

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