In today’s modern home a personal computer (PC) is the central hub for much of our communication and entertainment. As more and more day to day activity becomes linked to the PC most households own at least one of them. But a PC is not only a tool for communication and learning, it can also be used to play video games, and many of them can be accessed for free through the internet.
Gaming addiction is becoming a serious problem in the younger generations. We are seeing a huge rise in the amount of teens and young adults that are addicted to video games, more so PC than gaming consoles (i.e. Xbox, Playstation, etc.). This largely has to do with how accessible PCs are compared to consoles which are relatively more expensive. Games like World of Warcraft and League of Legends attract millions from around the world on a daily basis, offering them adventure and excitement that they might not otherwise feel they can get. The community base of these games is huge, connecting people from every corner of the globe. But there are many players that become more concerned with in-game interactions than what is going on in their everyday life.
Gaming addiction is characterized by the following:
- Preoccupation with the game (thinking about the game even when not playing or planning when you can get back to playing sooner)
- Withdrawal symptoms like irritability or mood swings when unable to play or attempting to cut down
- The need to play for more time or play more exciting games to get the same amount of excitement
- Feeling like you need to cut back but you are unable to
- Spending less (or no time) doing things other than gaming
- Continuing playing despite lack of sleep, being late to work/school, spending more money than you should, and neglecting other responsibilities
- Lying to friends and family about just how much you play
- Losing important opportunities in relationships and career because you would rather game
- Using gaming as an escape from negative feelings
Gaming addiction has been getting increased attention from professionals as more and more people are being drawn in. In the last 10 years, significant advances have been made in just how much we know about gaming addiction. It has come to light just how serious this problem is, especially in adolescents and young adults. It is estimated that between the ages of 12-18, many children are getting up to 7 hours a day of “screen time”.
This means that the majority of time that these children are not asleep or at school, they are on their computer. Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft are huge part of this problem. These games require time commitments to learn and participate in, drawing people in with new tasks and rewards. There are extremely tragic cases of addiction to these games, causing deaths after marathon gaming sessions and causing the addicted to act out in ways that they might not have normally. There are too many cases where a young person’s life is destroyed because of their gaming addiction.
Too much of something tends to be a dangerous thing. If an alcoholic drinks too much at once, they can suffer from alcohol poisoning. If a drug addict uses too much, they can overdose. No matter what you do, if you place too much stress on your body you will injure it, and if go too far you can die. So it should come as no surprise that playing games too much can have serious consequences.
Deaths related to game addiction have mostly occurred after/during a marathon gaming session. These sessions last more than just hours, they can last for days. Many players go without food, sleep, or movement other than their hands and fingers during these sessions, and continuously putting their bodies through these sessions has serious repercussions on their health. Commonly we sleep disorders, malnutrition, and a complete lack of physical activity in those that are addicted to video games. Just as alcohol or drugs can destroy a person’s body, not fulfilling your body’s basic needs can as well. Let’s take a look at a few of the deaths that are related to gaming addiction.
- Wang Gang of China collapsed and died after obsessively playing Dungeon Fighter in an internet café. Wang had been living in the internet café for months, having dropped out of college and cut his family out of his life. It was said that Wang would take very few breaks, consisting of a few hours of sleep each time. Due to his gaming habits, Wang became extremely thin and malnourished, possibility contributing to his death.
- League of Legends claimed the life of Chen Rong-yu, a gamer that spent a continuous 23 hours playing. It was concluded that his heart attack was caused by a combination of lack of movement, fatigue, and cold weather.
- A 40 hour session of Diablo III is what claimed the life of Chuang, and 18 year old Taiwanese man. Chuang was left to play in a private internet café room for 40 hours, without food or drink on hand. He was woken by a staff member that found him resting in the morning of his last day. Chuang collapsed, dying shortly after arriving at the hospital. It is suspected that he died of a blood clot.
In addition to the health problems, we also see a large impact on the social interactions in the lives of those affected by gaming addiction. Those with gaming addictions tend to withdraw into the gaming community, choosing to develop their online relationships and ignore their real life relationships. It is fair to say that they are still participating in some form of social interaction, but at what cost? Isolation seems to be the key factor in the development of this addiction, despite their interactions with other players online. The fact of the matter is that many people play with others that they have never met face to face, and they may never meet them face to face. This is a resulting in a breakdown of what we might consider to be a more traditional friendship. The issue with this is that spending extended periods of time in front of the computer is not healthy, no matter how old or young you are. If you don’t have any outside relationships to participate in, you are more likely to spend that extra time in front of your computer.
As with any addiction, recovery needs to be the choice of the addicted. Scare tactics aren’t often enough to help them realize what a big impact their gaming is having on their lives. So what can you do to support your loved one through their addiction?
First and foremost, let them know that you are there when they need you. Keeping lines of communication open between you and your loved one is so important. It may be the real world connection that they need to pull them outside of the game.
Secondly, ask them to take a serious look about the impact their addiction is having on their life. Be honest with them about how you feel and let them know that you care about their well-being.
Finally, support them in seeking help. Be encouraging and hopeful, especially when it is hardest for them to feel that way themselves. It is much easier for a person to relapse if they feel that they do not have a strong support system. Make sure you know the signs to look for when they may be at risk of relapse, and let them know that you will be there throughout the struggle.
Gaming addiction has the power to take the life out of the person that you love, but it doesn’t have to. Recovery is a choice, as is falling further into addiction. Hope, love, faith, and encouragement are central to a successful recovery, and they are something that you can provide to your loved one. It is also important to know the nature of the addiction that they are dealing with. Education around gaming addiction will give you a better picture of just how serious this problem can be, and it will lead you to the tools that may help your loved one in their recovery.