The following are signs that point toward possible gaming addiction. Keep in mind that individually these may not tell the whole story, but taken together, they can paint a picture.
- Do you play compulsively?
- Do you play for long periods of time (often longer than you had planned)?
- Once online, do you have difficulty stopping?
- Do you play as often as you can?
- Do you sneak or violate family rules in order to play, even when facing punishment or loss of privileges for doing so?
- When you are not playing, do you obsess about the game, plotting and planning your next opportunity to play?
- Do you sacrifice real-world things for your online world?
- Is your gaming negatively affecting your relationships with family members or other non-gamer friends?
- If you are a parent, does it cause you to neglect your children’s needs?
- If you are a child, does it cause you to distance yourself from your parents and siblings?
- Do you consider other online gamers (even those whom you’ve never met in real life) to be among your best friends?
- Is your school or work suffering because of the time and energy you spend gaming?
- Are you having a difficult time deciding to serve a mission because of the extended break from the game that will naturally result?
- Do you neglect personal hygiene?
- Have your sleep patterns changed since you became involved with online gaming?
- Do you stay up extremely late or get up in the middle of the night to play?
The cost of gaming addiction is real. Here are several true stories from individuals who came to realize that they or a loved one had a problem with compulsive gaming.
No one had ever heard of someone getting addicted to X-box Live. They all told me it was a phase and that I should try to limit my son’s game playing. They didn’t understand that I couldn’t. He had lost touch with reality. My son lost interest in everything else. He didn’t want to eat, sleep, or go to school; the game was the only thing that mattered to him.7
My husband (in his late 30s) seems to be depressed when he is away from his online game. I don’t know if his situation is severe enough to be called an addiction but he was transformed into a very different person. He doesn’t seem comfortable in real life social gathering anymore. If I somehow get him to meet with friends and/or family, he seems out of place. In addition to his social skills slowly deteriorating, his personal appearance is also being neglected. I can hardly get him to shave or get a hair cut. Am I dealing with this alone? If this is an addiction, how do I help him face his problem? Is there help out there?8
I think I am addicted. I’ve got to the stage where I feel that without gaming, I have nothing interactive to do. On weekdays I game for about five to seven hours a day and on the weekends I will spend 15 hours a day gaming online. I once spent 48 hours in one go at a game. It’s crazy, I know. I was at university then and full of energy. Sometimes I get no sleep. Ever since I started playing my physical condition has deteriorated. I get a lot of colds as I don’t really exercise. But playing games online means that other people are playing live with you. You work as a team and it gives you a unique sense of responsibility. It’s a little society.9
Stories like these are not uncommon. Hearing stories from other suffers may help us recognize trends within ourselves or loved ones.
As I pointed out at the beginning of this chapter, playing games is part of human nature. In moderation, games can provide relaxation and wind-down time that leave us better able to cope with the challenges of life. I’ve also pointed out that it is a minority of gamers who get into serious trouble with compulsive gaming. If you read the August 2009 article I wrote for the Ensign,10 you’ll note that I never said we should avoid games. The same is not true for alcohol or pornography. There’s a fairly clear line there. But determining appropriate levels of gaming requires that you make a judgment call for yourself and your children. If you’re at least aware of the potential dangers, you’ll be better off than if you were completely oblivious.