Hey, so I think this is a really useful thread and topic to discuss for a place like TF, even though many may dispute the idea of a 'gaming addiction'. I've written this myself, taking important quotes and other such things from websites that are knowledgable on this and they have been linked. The inspiration or cause for this post came from a thread recently in which someone stated 'not all addiction is negative' and that has set my mind spinning for the last two days. If you think this is all a bit too serious or over the top, I urge you to read anyway, humour me.
Before moving into this, I just want to throw in a bit of context. This is a community formed around a game, and it's likely that most people here are or have been addicted to gaming at one stage or another. I think it's important that there is an awareness of the effect excessive gaming has and I don't speak as a white knight here, as I game far too much as well - but awareness hopefully breeds better behaviour. I should also mention that I don't do psychology or sociology or anything of that sort, so if I sound like a complete amateur noob please go make a thread that beats this!
Definition of Addiction
Addiction is a bit of a buzz-word related with drugs, alcohol and sex; they're what we hear most about in relation to being addicted. It is a loaded word, and I use it throughout this post so please try to temporarily rip away any connotations you relate it with. What really isn't spoken as much about, although it is becoming more discussed in mainstream media, is that addictions can span a gulf of different topics - this thread will be about gaming in particular.
It is important to mention that addiction isn't just about consumption or physical activity, it is also behavioural. I would personally go so far as to say behavioural addiction is the most prevalent and also is the cause of many 'physical' addictions as well, although I have no evidence to back this up. People can be addicted to all sorts of things behaviourally, from watching tv and surfing the web to other... more compulsive and perhaps destructive behaviours.
However, it is not to say that the 'lesser' addictions such as being addicted to the internet or your phone aren't destructive; they're just more subtle. I refer to these addictions as 'invisible addictions', because unlike many more noticable addictions such as drug use or alcohol consumption, being addicted to screens in general is a globally accepted and encouraged addiction (almost no one can do work anymore without using a computer, for example) and therefore aren't noticed as much, if at all. Perhaps a better term for these 'invisible' addictions is 'corrosive' rather than 'destructive' because it allows someone to etch out a behavioural pattern from which it is very hard to break free, unlike the 'destructive' ones which drills itself in pretty quickly.
Symptoms of a 'Gaming Addiction'
Here is a summary of the sort of symptoms to tell if you have a gaming addiction. Of course, everyone is usually initially in denial (as with most addictions), but humour yourself and just go ahead and be open, entertain the idea that you might be addicted - I know that when I read them I did a few double takes myself. There is always an overwhelming sense with these things that you can stop easily, "Yeah, I'm not addicted because I know I could stop whenever I wanted to, or if I needed to, I just don't want to stop." and that's not a good excuse in my books at least. Anyway, on with the show:
- You feel really happy when you're online or when you're playing games, but as soon as you have to stop, you get angry or upset.
- You think about going online or playing when you are supposed to be focusing on other things, like doing school work or having dinner with your family.
- You spend more time with your keyboard or controller than physically hanging out with your friends.
- Your friends or parents ask what you spend all your time doing, and you lie about it or laugh it off, but inside you know they may have a point.
- You get up in the middle of the night to check your e-mail or your Facebook comments because you're having a hard time sleeping.
And another, this time from WebMD:
Spending a lot of time gaming doesn't necessarily qualify as an addiction. "Eighty percent of the world can play games safely," Bakker says. "The question is: Can you always control your gaming activity?"
According to the Center for On-Line Addiction, warning signs for video game addiction include:
- Playing for increasing amounts of time
- Thinking about gaming during other activities
- Gaming to escape from real-life problems, anxiety, or depression
- Lying to friends and family to conceal gaming
- Feeling irritable when trying to cut down on gaming
There is an extensive archive of information on the internet about symptoms for all kinds of things, so I'm not going to list any more than those two, but the website it is from has a wealth of information on the subject, much of which I will include in this thread. What I will do, however, is expand a bit on both the information above and the information on that website itself as well as a few tidbits I've learnt from other research.
I might get a bit anecdotal here, I don't know yet. There is a range of severity in gaming addiction, some people may spend 5+ hours on WoW, hardcore levelling all day every day whereas others might just play one or two hours of games and then just stay on the internet and watch their time slip away that way as well - you can hybridise these things, you see! It should also be pointed out, as in one of the quotes above, that just because someone games a lot doesn't neccesarily mean they're completely addicted, but there are scales of addiction, I think.
Personally, at this current moment in time I end up spending a couple of hours on Minecraft when I get home, playing with a friend, and then I lol about on the internet for the remaining 5ish hours that I am awake. That might just sound normal, or not even addicted, but it has quite a lot of symptoms of addiction to Gaming and the internet and I also found it has many of the downsides as well. I found my time slips away very quickly, at the end of every evening I sit here at my screen and think "I just wasted a whole 7 hours, how the Hamsters rock, Squirrels suck!?" or I think half-way through the evening, "I would get off, but there is nothing else to do". See, the problems with these addictions is that they can be as subtle as that and we are the best people at fooling ourselves, if I can be fooled by myself to waste my time every single evening of the week I am surprised that I haven't fooled myself into winning the lottery yet (it will happen one day, I'm sure). What I am trying to get across is that it is an extremely hard and difficult thing to even acknowledge, let alone address or act on it. It's all too easy to ignore it and then slip (back) into a worse addiction.
You might be in a similar situation to mine, or a milder one or even a more severe one. I just ask that you consider the idea of being addicted before just swiping it out as 'nope, definitely not me. I have a strong will' because I thought I had a strong will, and I do, but you know what beats a strong will? Yourself.
Is a 'Gaming Addiction' a negative thing?
Is it possible for it to be negative? I mean, being addicted to fun... what's so bad about that? And to that I say, is it really all fun and games? When something becomes a staple in your life or such an over-used part of the mechanisms of day to day life, it gradually loses its intended purpose, or rather your intended use of the game. Obviously this isn't a be all and end all rule, but I'll give an example:
So, you log into WoW everyday and play for 8-9 hours straight easily - are you entertained and having fun for most of that time? I'm going to bet no. You're likely to be power-levelling an alt and maybe not enjoying it, spamming rep or PvP points or constantly running dungeons just for a drop so you can get the next rung on the ladder. That next bit of gear is to be able to do the next raid which is then obsolete and you repeat this process again and again in a never-ending vicious circle, are you enjoying this or are you getting caught up in the run of things, almost like a day job? Do you have to keep on playing every day for 8 hours just to keep up with your guild? Now, I'd gather lots will argue 'But I do enjoy speaking to my guildies while playing' or, 'I love owning people, or getting higher DPS'. I can't answer specific arguments people put forth to me about their gaming habits, but maybe if you just be 100% straight with yourself, play your average week and keep strict notice of what you're actually doing, is it fun? Is it just a distraction? Are you just dependant on it and when you really, honestly, think about it... is it just not fun anymore?
There are other negatives to being addicted to gaming, of course. To name a few: You might find yourself going to bed very late every single day, falling behind on work, thinking about the game all the time, feeling irritable, corroding relationships with friends and family, not keeping in touch or going out with friends because it's a raid night, missing out on key social development if you're a teenager - if you're not very good socially in real life then gaming all the time may be the reason. There are also hygene issues from time to time, skipping a shower because of a raid for example, among other such as back aches, carpal tunnel, irregular eating etc.
This might all seem superflous and ridiculous, but if you look at it with an open-mind it really hits home much more.
Why people get addicted to video games
Lots of people get addicted to video games for many different reasons, but it mostly stems from real life context, really. Escapism is why people play games in the first place, it's always nice to escape from the boring bus journey with a bit of Angry Birds or while sitting at lunch to play some Temple Run. Why do people want to escape from their lives? Lots of perfectly valid reasons are to be listed here, but we're looking at why people really get addicted:
- Constant stress, be it from college work, family issues or other stuff can really drive someone just to get home and shut off and go back to their little cocoon in a game for hours on end.
- Social ineptitude, this causes people to want to be someone else and escape their personality; you may not have friends at school but you have the power to command an entire guild of people on MMOs or to lead a party, be relied upon, be an important part of something - it sounds nice, doesn't it? The drawback of this is that you end up focusing all your time developing this 'imaginary' world, that it's easy to leave real life by the wayside and end up falling worse and worse in all areas of your life that you wish to improve upon.
- Accomplishment, this word probably seems a little out of place for reasons someone would get addicted, but let me explain how I mean it. When you play a game, or an MMO to be more specific, you grow in level, you find new items, new skills, gain titles, get pets, flashy armour, become known by other gamers - all this contributes to a sense of progress and accomplishment. This is because of a likely lack of accomplishment in waking life, why would you even try at school if you don't get gratification all the time, whereas on an MMO you can hardly fail, you keep on achieving and levelling up and using new items, being awesome and owning other players. The downside to this again is that you completely lose any will to even try to develop your academic life too much further. The reasoning being, why work at that when I can do this and it's easier and more fun? This mindset is wrong.
How to stop a 'Gaming Addiction'
Lots of ways, actually, and they're not all too difficult if you're really objective about things. Yes, stopping is extremely difficult, but the idea of stopping is the seed you need to plant and you need to grab onto and you need to hold until it grows. Here's some things to think about:
- What do you want to achieve in life? Do you want to be a level 90 Pandaren Monk that a bunch of other people on the same game can become, or do you want to actually work really hard towards something you want to do for the rest of your life? Work out where you want to be and work out how you're going to get there, if an MMO gets in the way of that, cut it down or cut it out. So many people have passed away too early in life and never got to even experience half the things we'll all hopefully get to experience, reach out and grab every moment don't sit there and fall into a rut.
- Why are you playing this MMO so much? This one speaks for itself, be honest to yourself. Stop kidding yourself if you play 5 hours+ every single day and take a really long think about this one.
This one is from WebMD again, and I think it is worth reading:
Treatment for video game addiction is similar to detox for other addictions, with one important difference. Computers have become an important part of everyday life, as well as many jobs, so compulsive gamers can't just look the other way when they see a PC.
"It's like a food addiction," Young explains. "You have to learn to live with food." Because video game addicts can't avoid computers, they have to learn to use them responsibly.
Bakker says that means no gaming. As for limiting game time to an hour a day, he compares that to "an alcoholic saying he's only going to drink beer."
Bakker says the toughest part of treating video game addicts is that "it's a little bit more difficult to show somebody they're in trouble. Nobody's ever been put in jail for being under the influence of [a game]."
The key, he says, is to show gamers they are powerless over their addiction, and then teach them "real-life excitement as opposed to online excitement."
I think that halting an addiction to games isn't about stopping suddenly and completely, but it's about re-evaluating what you want to do in life, what you get out of playing games and how much time you really will allow yourself to spend. I'm not going to regulate you, if you're an adult no one else will regulate you, it's a job for you.
Two great resources I used:
As a closing few words, I hope this thread doesn't seem too condescending or high-horse-ey, because most of the time when I refer to 'you' as the audience, I am speaking to myself also. Lots of people will probably troll at me for making this and likely think I'm making the issue much bigger than it is or that I am criminalising gaming a lot and to that I say, Hamsters rock, Squirrels suck! you (I don't really, please don't hurt me). Nope, to that I say, if you've read this whole thread and the two websites I've linked then I know other way to communicate my points and we'll just have to agree to disagree. Lots of people will also likely react defensively to this, as this is sort of calling out a very personal thing in many of us and I doubt anyone messing up in your personal feelings is nice for anyone. I'm expecting either 'Tl;dr too confusing' posts or really heated responses.
P.S. Read the FAQ, I've made a few more new points in there.
I think I might be addicted to games, or at least I play a heck of a lot, but you only refer to it as a bad thing and I think addictions can be good. Why don't you mention this?
I don't mention gaming addictions being good, because that would feel as if I were saying "Being an alcoholic is bad, although the upsides are that Red Wine has anti-oxidents in it". Yes, that is an extreme example, but it also illustrates my point perfectly. The fact is that being addicted to playing a certain game or a few games for excessive amounts of time is bad for you and is very damaging for all the reasons stated above and in the websites I've linked. I do want to mention though, that playing games can have upsides: feeling happier, more relaxed, making friends with people all over the world, feeling creative and learning misc. skills like better grammar or new words, but you don't need to be addicted to these upsides - why not reap the rewards without the penalties that addiction brings?
You're over-reacting, some people just like playing games okay? I hate you, Euph.
If after reading all this, you still think video game addiction is made up, insignificant or perhaps irrelevant to you then I can do no more to communicate my points. Hopefully you'll crack it one day.
Aren't you just being a hypocrite? You spend about a bajillion and one hours on TF every day, you probably go on Reddit all the time and lol about on Minecraft and Youtube?
This is a very valid question. I want to stress that I'm not preaching as if I am a saint; I'm trying to present my findings as another addict, so to speak. I spend waay too much time on the computer (because my work requires it, and this just seeps into social time) as does the rest of the computer-engorging world. I spend too much time refreshing the 'View New Content' page on here and I spend too much time just sitting around in some Minecraft world. This thread is almost a way of me breaking free from this, I really enjoy writing articles and I want to start writing more. I guess this is more of a quasi-article than an veritable one, but I've still enjoyed doing it. Once you realise you're doing something and your really, really enjoy it, it's the most effective way to start being productive and stop wasting your time - if that thing is WoW and you really revere it, maybe you're born to be a programmer? I don't know all the answers!
Do you have any -real- examples of gaming addictions?
Well, I've mentioned a couple of real-scenarios in this post and there are also never-ending things that come up on Google. However, to answer this I'll give you a real example from someone from the community in this very thread:
It is really easy to slip from hobby to addiction because because it happens slowly. It builds little by little. "Well, I stayed up 15 minutes later then I should have last night, and I woke up fine, so... I can do it again. I'll catch up on sleep this weekend." And before you know it your up 1,2,3 hours past when you should have gone to bed. Or you blow off things you planned to do, or even have to be doing, to keep up with forums or to play just a little longer.
I have been guilty of this and I would wager a bet that most here have as well. I have full realization of my addiction to this and have taught myself to catch it and control it. It is something I currently deal with and will continue to deal with, especially when Titan is released. I find setting a timer is very effective. If I plan to play for an hour and a half and CAN'T turn off the game when the timer goes off, then I know I'm slipping and slap myself back into shape. My family has helped with this as well. I won't play ANY games or even check out TF for more the 5 minutes (this is why I pop in and out of chat so often) until my kids are in bed, even on the weekends. You NEED to keep your piorities in check, draw lines in the sand. Along with my family getting priority #1, I also won't start gaming until I get the other things I planned to do first (House work, bills, working out, etc). If I don't, they won't get done. I know this can take a lot of will power, I have failed a few times myself. But I know that when I put games before these other things, I am slipping.
Thanks for the read, please don't hate me, world.