In 2018, the World Health Organization classified gaming disorder as a disease. The American Psychiatric Association recognizes gaming addiction as a condition in need of further research before considering it a formal disorder. However, both of these organizations agree on the symptoms of gaming disorder which include “prioritizing gaming over other interests and activities,” “continuing gaming despite its negative consequences” and “inability to reduce playing, unsuccessful attempts to quit gaming.”
My love of gaming started young. My brother and I grew up around games and played just about everything. As I grew older, my main focus became immersing myself in the stories that games would tell. This caused me to become disinterested in being social. I had maybe one reliable friend throughout my high school experience and often would prefer to stay at home and play World of Warcraft than spend time with others. Across the many characters on my account, I have amassed well over 200 days worth of play time. This is on the low end of the spectrum. Others have put over 1,000 days into the game.
When I wasn’t playing World of Warcraft, I was thinking about playing it. Most of my thoughts and actions revolved around researching and planning for when I would play next. When I enrolled in college, I knew that I needed to stop.
It was hard at first. I would uninstall the game, just to seek it out and install it again later. It ate up my time, my focus and my energy. Eventually, I was able to begin moderating how much time I spent playing. I set alarms and would only play until a certain time at night. It wasn’t until a close friend sat me down and talked to me about my problem that I actually stopped playing. I would still have relapses, but I was finally in control again.
I know I’m not alone in this issue though. Anita Brown, an instructor in the Department of Mass Communication, spoke to me about her experience with this issue.
“Chris, my husband, games every day, for several hours each day,” Brown said. “While it has gotten better over the years, I do feel that my husband is addicted to gaming. He games daily, generally has some sort of game open on his computer, talks about gaming related things a significant amount, and gets irritable, sometimes angry, when he can’t game for an extended period of time.”
She went on to talk about their relationship and the strain her husband’s habits put on her in the early stages and the resolution they found.
“There were several times, before we were married, that threats of the relationship ending were given,” Anita said. “I would say that an equivalent step to that is just realizing your priorities and focusing on them. For us, our priority became our daughter, and we had to step back from other things that drew our attention away from that.”
According to the Pew Research Center, 49 percent of adults and 88 percent of American youth play video games. Unfortunately, the risk of gaming addiction is likely to increase.
“That game [Fortnite] shouldn’t be allowed,” Prince Harry said. “Where is the benefit of having it in your household? It’s created to addict, an addiction to keep you in front of a computer for as long as possible. It’s so irresponsible.”
I would have to agree with him.Some studies have even shown that the dopamine release in your brain while gaming is similar to that of those who use drugs. However, I still game, and so will many others.
The biggest thing is to moderate how much you play. Spend time away from gaming and pursue other interests. Don’t let gaming have an effect on your work or school performance, or come between you and your loved ones.
If you are a parent, set limits on how much your kids play video games. The only way that video games can take control of your life is if you let them. If you or someone you know might be facing this problem, talk to someone and get help. Acknowledging the problem is the first step to fixing it.