The other day, I told a boldfaced lie to my friend. I said that I don’t play a lot of video games.

What I meant was that, compared to professional gamers who do this for a career, or someone who’s unemployed and explores every nook and cranny of Fallout 4 to stave off the boredom, I play a very conservative amount. But those examples are extreme. The truth is, I play video games almost 2 hours a day on average. It is for me what TV is for most people: a way to unwind, to be both engaged and relaxed.

Actually, it’s more like a book. I’d rather talk to and regale others with my experiences versus sharing them in the moment. A good single player story is just my kind of thing (until the great Overwatch descended from on high). It’s a way of being ultimately engaged in a story, because I’m in control of it, even if I am on some sort of invisible rail system guiding me through the game’s pre-scripted events. The adventure still feels like it’s happening to me, because a book doesn’t ask you questions to make sure you understand before you move on. A game, on the other hand, asks you to engage, act and conquer in order to keep moving.

And conquer I do, over and over again. I take pride in certain gaming moments. I still brag about my Dark Souls/Bloodborne prowess, though only to the select few who care (it’s very select). And I’ve gotten good. Like really good at games. But unfortunately, I have become the worst kind of good.

On a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is someone who never plays games, 5 is playing the average amount, and 10 is a gaming master and obsessive player, I rank about a 7.5, maybe 8 on some games. It’s a pretty respectable skill level, but in fact it’s the worst because it leaves you stranded in a valley. Heck, that valley is why I can’t stand multiplayer games. I’m too good, unfairly so, to play average players, and not nearly good enough to hang with the big dogs. So I have to choose to either mercilessly whale on friends who I have taken forever to convince to play with me, only to spoil it, OR I can just get whaled on and take pride in every time I’m not beat THAT bad.

I also think there’s something telling about my ability and willingness to face off against a computer and its rules and my ability to learn them, versus my unwillingness to learn and adapt to human opponents.

My point, though long winded, is that I hate being in the valley because it’s where I feel like I’ve made a home for myself in both gaming and my general skill set. I would definitely say I’m an above average writer, and I’m becoming an above average artist. And yet I still struggle to claw my way out of that valley and feel like a spectacular 9 or 10. I’m still at that point where normal people say I should be a professional, and professionals say I’m not quite there yet. It’s agonizing. I’m looking for some way, some path to bring my number up.

But who knows – maybe the key is to stop playing 2 hours of video games a night.