What force in our known world can reduce a once healthy man or woman to an underweight, pale shadow of his former self? What reduces a person to living in his mothers’ basement cut off from the real world? It is no drug. It is video game addiction. As ridiculous as that sounds, video game addiction is a real danger. It is an addiction that caused a good friend of mine with a solid high school career to drop out of college and cast away his chance at a better future. I believe that we should take a step back and evaluate the nation’s video game usage.
Video game addiction is relatively new, given the fact that the game industry is still only 30 years old. But make no mistake; it is dangerous. We tend to overlook video games as an addiction because it does not fit in with society’s regular conceived notion of addiction. For example, we tend to think of addicts as people who abuse substances such as cocaine or alcohol. Society needs to be aware that addictions can encompass many pleasures, and it affects a surprising number of people. According to the BBC, about 12 percent of online gamers polled reported some addictive behavior.
People have wasted away their lives playing video games, and there have been several cases where parents have neglected their children due to excessive gaming. In November 2005, Gregg J. Kleinmark left his two 10-month-old sons in a bathtub for 30 minutes while he exited the room to play on his Gameboy Advance. Both of his sons drowned. A woman from New Mexico, Rebecca Colleen Christie, was convicted of child abandonment and second degree murder when her three-year-old daughter died from malnutrition and dehydration while she played World of Warcraft.
People become addicted for many reasons. My curiosity with the subject led me to conduct an interview with Dr. Kim Wasserman, the addictions specialist for West Chester University’s Counseling Center. She stated that video game addiction is indeed real, and is an issue that needs to be addressed. According to Dr. Wasserman, people can use video games as an escape from the real world pressures, such as tension from social anxiety and the fear of not fitting in. When I had mentioned this to Dr. Wasserman she explained this can be a source of discomfort and shame. Rather than getting out there and facing an unfamiliar world, people who are addicted would rather stay inside and engage in a virtual world that is readily familiar. When part of an online gaming society, people develop connections and relationships with other players in games rather than take the emotional risks to build real ones. In games, they can build characters that reflect what they desire deep down, something that is harder to attain in real life. As a result their addiction progresses and addicts end up spending hours upon hours glued to their games rather than going to class, going to their jobs, or spending time with their real friends.
As with any addiction, the first step to recovery is admitting a problem exists. But as mentioned before, this can be difficult since we do not normally associate video games with addictions. Please do not misunderstand; video games can be a manageable part of someone’s lifestyle. The problem rests with defining what is too much, and then getting someone to realize he or she is in trouble.
Dr. Wasserman provided me with a list of questions that individuals can ask themselves or their friends to determine if gaming has become a problem in their life: 1) Do you think about gaming often? 2) Do you use games as a way to avoid other problems? 3) Did you lose, or are you jeopardizing a job, relationship, or a career? 4) Do you feel irritable without gaming? 5) Do you lie to your family and friends about how much you play? Answering yes to any of these questions may mean that you have an addiction, or the underpinnings thereof, that need to be addressed. On that note, it is important to keep in mind that treatment and recovery is an ongoing process, not a single event. Results cannot be rushed, Dr. Wasserman made sure to stress.
What I hope to convey is that video game addiction is real and it can potentially damage lives if left unacknowledged I implore anyone reading this to think of anyone who may be addicted and get help for those individuals. The Counseling Center here at West Chester University can help. The center can be reached at 610-436-2301. The center also has walk in hours from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. The center is located in 241 Lawrence and does not charge for appointments or counseling. I still have trouble fully grasping that my friend dropped out of college after a promising high school career. So please, if you think someone needs help then give them a hand, and keep them out of their mother’s basement.
Adam Farence is a second-year student majoring in history. He can be reached at AF764146@wcupa.edu.