Signs You May Have a Gaming Addiction
Matthew Hayes (Dispatches)
Hello. My name is Matthew, and I have a problem. Well, not really, but I’ve definitely struggled with video game addiction in the past - most recently with Destiny. Most non-gamers probably look at us and think we have addiction issues, and that’s one thing, but if your gaming buddies tell you that you have a problem you definitely need to consider unplugging for a while. In case you’re in too deep to realize that your game is taking over your life, I’ve isolated three telltale red flags that should give you cause for concern. I call them the phantom presence, the obligation anxiety, and the objective hydra. Consider these as I outline them briefly, and make sure that your hobby isn’t turning into something more sinister.
The phantom presence:
You’re probably addicted to your game if you find yourself attempting in some way to engage in it even when you’re not playing. A game’s phantom presence manifests itself in many ways: listening to the OST when you’re driving to work, talking to your clan mates more than you talk to your friends, watching broadcasts and let’s plays in your spare time, daydreaming about a new piece of gear… these are a few of the most common examples. I frequently found that when my wife and I had our down time - enjoying a beer or chatting before bed - I’d have a Destiny wiki pulled up on my phone, checking the most effective areas to farm a certain material or seeing what Xur was selling for the weekend. If your gaming habit has pushed across bridges into parts of your life that should remain separate, you might need to reconsider your priorities and make some adjustments.
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The obligation anxiety:
Years ago there was an online, text-based RPG called Legends of Cosrin that I was totally addicted to. The game world was brimming with players of all classes and races going about their guilds’ duties and enjoying the thrills and escape that one can only experience in a world-class role-playing environment. Because players took their characters so seriously, guilds became very dynamic, influential social hubs, each with its own history that took time to learn and goals that took commitment to achieve. I remember on school days I would feel anxious and irritable; it irked me to know that guild meetings were taking place without me. On weekends that I’d spend with my friends I’d worry that my superiors in Cosrin, people who spent a lot of real time investing in a story in which my character took part, would wonder where I was and whether I was truly committed. This obligation anxiety is very common among MMORPG players, and it can be psychologically destructive. Make sure your obligations lie in the real world.
The objective hydra:
This foul beast usually rears its heads in MMOs, but can also be found in more linear games in the form of achievements or trophies. The idea is simple: the game gives you an initial quest or objective that requires some serious time and effort. A key is dangled on the end of a stick while you journey and raid, until finally the thing is yours. After a week of hardcore gaming you have the key, and the next objective has been unlocked: travel to the 3 doors of blah, blah, and blah located in the region of wherever-the-hell and use your key to unlock the something. I fell into this snare playing Destiny.
I battled in the crucible nonstop until I reached the third rank; all I wanted was this PvP scout rifle. I would see it on the backs of other players and jealousy would flare up. I just had to have the thing. Well, finally I had the rank and the legendary marks needed to purchase the rifle and when I did, I had a moment of fleeting gratification before I dove back into the crucible to unlock all of the weapon’s upgrades. Fast forward a few days and there I was, with my fully upgraded scout rifle, grinding for strange coins so I could start buying some exotic armor to complete my PvP build. Spoiler alert: you’ll never have your perfect build, and there will always be more to do. If you’re doing battle with the objective hydra, do yourself a favor and just walk away. It will always win in the end.
Yes, gaming addiction can be a nasty thing. I remember spending one Saturday playing World of Warcraft for 17 hours straight; no food, no drink, no bathroom breaks. I wasn’t even raiding! Share some of your lowest points of addiction in the comments and make me feel better about myself.
Note for readers – Psychguides
As with gambling addiction, video game addiction is a clinical impulse control disorder. According to psychiatrist Michael Brody, MD, the criteria for video game addiction is the same as that for addiction to a substance. In both cases, the person requires more of the source as time goes on and becomes irritable and despondent when they cannot access it. In fact, video game addicts can even experience withdrawal symptoms.
Another clue that a person is addicted to video games, according to researchers at Kansas State University, is that they may play video games to alter their mood.
Therapies for Video Game Addicts
Research on treatment for video game addiction is ongoing, but few clinical trials have been conducted in relation to the problem. Experts agree that the same treatments used for sufferers of other addictions appear to work for video game addicts. As a result, they generally recommend counseling and psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, 12-step programs and medication, either individually or in combination with other treatment methods.
One-on-one counseling and family counseling are both effective in treating a gaming addict. Psychotherapists attempt to help the addict understand how gaming is related to their school or job, emotions and moods, and sense of life goals and rewards.
Where 12-step programs are concerned, the primary resource available is Online Gamers Anonymous, a non-profit organization founded in 2002.