As a recovering drug addict and alcoholic with over two years of sobriety, I have a very real and coherent understanding of what addiction means to me. I went through the whole process: ignorance, then denial, then finally acceptance. It was only once I surrendered and gave up to the reality of my disease that I was then able to truly understand it and do the work that was necessary for me to recover.
Why I Love Video Games
But I also have a very real, shall we say, “enthusiasm” for video games. Just to qualify: I have played video games my entire life. My first experience was with an original Nintendo system when I was 5 back in 1991 and since then I have been an avid gamer. Whether on a console, handheld device or a computer, I have played and experienced the gamut of what the video game industry has to offer.
I consider myself an avid consumer and advocate of them as well. For me, video games are the 21st century’s way of storytelling; storytelling in a very real and visceral way. Allowing players to make their own decisions, collaborate with friends online, and experience stories and characters like never before. There is a reason there are people out there like me. Video games are fun.
Crossing the Line
But when does that fun become too much? I have also been so into video games at times that they controlled aspects of my life. Especially while I was using drugs, I would spend the better part of some days, for weeks on end, consumed by getting that next level, attaining that one item, making sure I had the top score that no one could beat. My own personal experience with this kind of obsession came from playing World of Warcraft.
World of Warcraft, or “WoW”, is a massively multiplayer online role playing game, where millions of players online all around the world band together to defeat enemies on an epic scale. With constant updates year-round, there is virtually no “end” to the game. I played WoW off and on for the better part of 7 years. I was not always playing it consistently during this time, but enough that it was clearly a huge part of my life.
The Downward Spiral
It began with losing time. Hours would pass and I wouldn’t even blink. The game became my priority over everything. Eating, sleeping and personal hygiene were taking a back seat. If something upset me in the video game, I would become curt and short with people in my real life. I would lie to people saying I was doing one thing when really, I was at home playing. Even while I was not playing, I was thinking about playing. It consumed me to the point where quite literally, everything I did revolved around being able to play. By the time I finally quit playing WoW in 2011, I took the opportunity to recount how much time I spent playing the game on each of my characters. The result baffled me.
When Fun isn’t Fun Anymore
I had spent 427 days of playtime within the fictional universe. Over one year of my life in the previous 7 had been spent doing something that was, ultimately, not productive at all. The realization shocked me. I don’t remember feeling proud or accomplished. Simply, I was stunned. During that whole time playing I never once had stopped to consider what I was doing, or not doing, for that matter. Sure, people had told me to quit, do something else, asked to hang out, but I always shrugged it off because I had something ‘better to do.’
Looking back with what I know about myself now, I was a full-blown video game addict. All the signs and symptoms were there. Video games were merely more ‘acceptable’ than drugs, so no one really thought what I was doing was even that bad. Video games were a hobby, an interest, something I was excited about. How could they be bad? But I was engaging in the same type of behavior that was typical of my alcoholism.
Video Game Addiction is Real
Today, I still play video games. In fact, I probably still play them more than most of my friends. But I am armed with a few straight facts about myself where I am able to recognize when it is becoming a little too much. I understand the importance of moderation, balance and living a healthy lifestyle. I do things now that I never used to, like actually get up and go to the gym for an hour a few days a week. I can assure you I wouldn’t have been caught dead doing that during those 7 years.
To emphasize what I am trying to say, I do believe video game addiction to be a real thing. That is my own opinion that I arrived at through personal experience. Knowing what I know about my attitude and behaviors around real drug and alcohol addiction, it would be hard for me to sit here and tell you that the two are completely different things. Addiction, as a disease, manifests itself in many forms.